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In December 2022, I wrote about the UK’s 2021 census that revealed we haven’t had such a high number of non-Christians since the Dark Ages.

My post included this tweet:

Since then, the news in Britain seems to be worsening by the day.

Scotland has realised it has a behavioural problem in the classroom. The Times‘s ‘End of school punishments blamed for pupil disorder’ reveals that all hell is breaking loose (emphases mine):

Teachers and parents have become increasingly alarmed by a decline in classroom behaviour since the end of the pandemic — and a method imported from the justice system is being blamed.

Restorative practice, involving “constructive conversations” with unruly youngsters in an attempt to make them understand what they have done wrong, is taking the place of more traditional sanctions such as detentions or withdrawal from activities.

But members of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) have unanimously backed a motion that warns the approach is time-consuming and if mishandled can result in “severe damage to teachers’ classroom authority”.

Apparently, teachers are not properly trained in class discipline and even less in ‘restorative practice’. It is amazing that detentions are out of fashion. The article continues:

Seamus Searson, general secretary of the SSTA, said restorative practice seemed to be “flavour of the month” when it came to managing challenging behaviour in schools …

He warned pupils were taken out of class supposedly to have restorative conversations but would then be returned to lessons without the discussion genuinely taking place

“The youngsters in class, they see things black and white, it is either right or it is wrong. There is no half-way. They expect that if a child misbehaves something happens. If they think for one second that so-and-so can get away with that, [then they think] why can’t I do it?”

This is an issue upon which all political parties north of the border agree: something must be done.

These are a few of the things going on.

First, the school bully:

One parent recalled how her six-year-old boy had come home from school and told her: “You will not believe what they have done. The teachers have taken the nastiest, most horrible boy in the class and have put him in charge of looking after the new pupil who started today.”

The manoeuvre had somewhat backfired when the young delinquent began teaching his classmate how to hurl items at other kids.

Teachers thought that by shepherding the new boy, the bully would learn empathy, but the article said that no discussion about that took place.

Secondly, the reward for bad behaviour:

Other parents have described unruly children being rewarded with trips to a local café. A deputy head said one pupil with extreme problems “came into school with fast food”.

The senior teacher explained: “He had been taken out for the day. He went in and rubbed it in the face of every single child around him. It alienated him from other people in the school, it alienated the child from his peers. His teacher was saying: ‘What is going on?’”

I’m not sure what ‘it’ in the second sentence of the previous paragraph means. On first reading, I thought ‘it’ might mean the fast food from the local café. It would not surprise me.

Thirdly, the threat at home:

[A mother, Ms] Green describes her son being involved in a playground tussle started by another boy. They were called inside for a restorative conversation and her son was asked to understand why the boy was having a bad day. “No one asked why my son was upset,” she said.

Two days after the “restorative chat”, she says the aggressor appeared at her house and said to her son “when you are not in school I am going to jump you and kill you”.

The article says that restorative practices are being rolled out in other British nations, which is a pathetic development:

They have crossed to education from the justice system after projects found it could reduce the chance of reoffending if criminals were put in touch with their victims.

Violent incidents are rising in primary (!) schools:

Figures uncovered by the Scottish Liberal Democrats earlier this month show 10,852 incidents of violence were recorded in primary schools in 2021-22 compared with 10,772 in 2018-19. For the secondary sector they have increased from 2951 from 2728.

Good grief. That wouldn’t have happened in my day.

This is another thing that wouldn’t have happened when I was at school:

Refusal to work, mobile phone misuse, disrespect and wandering around are the most common issues reported. Three quarters said they had experienced verbal aggression.

We never thought of ‘wandering around’.

Not surprisingly, students often give the following excuse as the reason for misbehaving:

“because I can!”


“That child will not be short on telling people: ‘nothing happened to me, I have just been put in another room’.”

Furthermore, children will band together to confront a teacher:

Stuart Hunter, president of the SSTA, said he had seen restorative conversations carried out badly. In one situation, he said, two pupils raised a complaint about work they had been set. When the teacher was called into an office for the restorative discussion, she found the girls had friends with them for support. The implication, he says, was the teacher was in the wrong.

Nothing much happens to wrongdoers at all. I didn’t bookmark it, but I recently read that the UK is a criminal’s paradise because the police are so soft.

In fact, whether real or staged, misbehaviour is rewarded. Take the case of Bacari-Bronze O’Garro, 18 and father of one, better known as Mizzy. Within the matter of a month, the Londoner has even been on television being interviewed about his exploits, which, in some cases, were criminal:

In May 2022, O’Garro was given a community protection notice prohibiting him from trespassing on private property.[9] On 24 May 2023, he was fined £200 plus costs and surcharge (£365 in all) after admitting breaching that community protection order on 15 May and was issued with a two-year criminal behaviour order (CBO).[5][10] The next day, O’Garro was interviewed by journalist Piers Morgan on Piers Morgan Uncensored[11] who called him “an idiot” … Former politician and journalist Patrick O’Flynn praised O’Garro’s entrepreneurial spirit, noting his ability to grab the media spotlight and convert it into social media fans.[13]

Remind me not to cite any further articles by Patrick O’Flynn.

At least his TikTok and YouTube accounts, on which his exploits appeared, have been terminated. Social media companies go where police and the justice system fear to tread.

What has Mizzy learned? That criminal acts have propelled him to fame:

Our political class is no better. They would rather ruin the UK than make the necessary effort to restore it to its former greatness. Pictured below are two Labour MPs Sir Lindsay Hoyle (Speaker of the House) and Keir Starmer (Labour leader) with the Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak:

The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs tells us:

There is no delicate way of putting it: the British governing class has completely lost the plot. It would rather risk some kind of economic collapse or populist backlash than actually deal with any of the country’s problems. Bereft of values and captured by institutional pessimism, our politicians are incapable of decisive action. Numbed by groupthink, and poisoned by ever-expanding managerial surveillance and ministerial turf wars, the Civil Service has been rendered inoperable. The British governing machine is broken; we are heading for total systems failure

How did Britain end up like this? Blairite Third Way politics, devoid of principle beyond “capturing the centre ground”, has a lot to answer for. It is hard to imagine a Tory party with a confident philosophy on free markets contemplating price caps; nor a Labour Party committed to a high-wage economy proving so bashful about the country’s addiction to mass migration. Institutionalised back-covering, and a total breakdown in trust between ministers and officials, meanwhile, mean that any policy that is difficult or controversial is increasingly impossible to deliver.

A Ground Zero moment of implosion may now be unavoidable. At that point, we can only hope that at least one of the two major parties rediscovers its core beliefs, and regains the stomach to fight for them. Big messy wars will need to be fought – starting with a breakup of the Treasury, bringing an end to its reign of terror.

For now, though, things look pretty bleak. In complex systems theory, a system becomes pathological when it gets to the point where measures being taken to maintain equilibrium are actually destroying the system. A system is also classed as fatally neurotic when it deems the psychological cost of detaching from the status quo to be too great, even if failure to adapt threatens its own destruction. There is little doubt that the British ruling class strongly exhibits both of these symptoms. And things will get a lot worse before they get better.

Sherelle Jacobs is not wrong.

But — and it’s a big BUT — two glimmers of hope have emerged.

In September 2022, two months before Britain’s post-Christian census figures appeared, The Guardian published ‘”God gives me reason to hope”: why young Britons are turning to prayer’.

Six of the paper’s readers gave their reasons for praying in response to a survey which found:

More young people in the UK are turning to prayer compared with 20 years ago, with one in three 18- to 36-year-olds saying they had prayed within the past month.

… spirituality in its many forms are thought to be behind the increase.

Three of the responses are from Christians. Two of them follow.

A 32-year-old midwife says:

Since getting pregnant, I’ve come back to prayer. I was raised Christian and have come back to it from time to time. But this time things feel different. With the world crumbling, God has given me a reason to hope and see beyond the hopelessness of our current political and financial landscape. It’s quite a scary time to be bringing a baby into the world with all the uncertainty – the financial situation and working out what kind of world he’s going to be born into is quite scary. Prayer has really helped me to take myself out of those world problems and see things in a broader context.

An 18-year-old student explains:

I used to go to church with the Scouts when I was six or seven but it was never regular – I didn’t really understand what was happening when I was that young. I wasn’t brought up in a religious family and I didn’t have a relationship with faith until recently, when I started seeing videos by priests on TikTok. After I saw that and became interested, I could understand it a bit more. I wanted to connect with faith because I wasn’t happy with the way my life was going, and I wanted to be better to other people. Developing my spiritual health has made me feel happier. I pray because it’s a way I can speak to God and give him my worries or concerns. I’m not involved with a particular church – I’m just trying to find my place at the moment.

Even more surprising is that nearly one-third of Britons under the age of 40 believe in the afterlife and hell, compared with 18 per cent between the ages of 60 and 77.

On May 23, 2023, The Guardian reported on these findings from the World Values Study, conducted by King’s College London:

You may think the idea of hellfire belongs to an age when people’s lives were shaped by the threat of eternal damnation.

Wrong, it seems: generation Z and millennials in the UK are significantly more likely to believe in hell than baby boomers, according to a new study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

Younger people are also more likely to believe in life after death than older generations, despite being less religious generally.

The findings are part of the World Values Study, one of the largest academic social surveys in the world, which has been running for more than 40 years.

According to its data, just under half (49%) of Britons said they believed in God, down from 75% in 1981. Only five countries – Norway, South Korea, Japan, Sweden and China – are less likely to believe in God than the UK. The Philippines topped the league table [in religious belief], scoring 100%.

Good for the Philippines!

Here are the stats on heaven, hell and the afterlife:

Belief in heaven among the UK public has also fallen, from 57% in 1981 to 41% last year. But belief in hell and in life after death has remained largely consistent, at 26% and 46% respectively.

When broken down by age, 32% of those under the age of about 40 said they believed in hell, compared with 18% of those aged between 59 and 77. Belief in life after death was 51-53% for younger generations, compared with 35-39% for older people.

“Our cultural attachment to organised religion has continued to decline in the UK – but our belief that there is something beyond this life is holding strong, including among the youngest generations,” said Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute.

“While the youngest generations continue to have lower attachment to formal religion, many of them have similar or even greater need to believe that there is ‘more than this’.”

The article has international graphs to explore, which are fascinating.

Also of interest is that Britons have a newly increased confidence in religious institutions:

Another unexpected finding is that confidence in religious institutions had rebounded. Between 1981 and 2018, Britons’ confidence in churches and religious organisations fell from 49% to 31%, but by 2022 had risen again to 42%.

A possible explanation is the provision by churches and other religious institutions of essential social services such as food banks, social hubs, warm spots and debt counselling as the cost of living crisis has escalated.

Duffy said religious belief in the UK was unlikely to disappear, but would keep eroding. “It looks like a slow but inevitable decline, unless organised religions can engage with that broader sense of wanting something else beyond this life,” he said.

One week after this article appeared, the rector of St Bartholomew’s in London, the Revd Marcus Walker, posted a series of adverts from the Episcopal Church in the United States, which seem to come from the 1980s. I don’t remember these at all. I would have, too, had I seen them, as I had become an Episcopalian during that decade.

These are really powerful, especially the one about Holy Communion:

As Jesus said (John 6:47-48):

47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.

Everyone responding to Marcus Walker was surprised:

Someone from the Church of England should ask for permission to repurpose these. In Scotland, they could use the text as it is, because the denomination is known as The Episcopal Church there and it’s not doing well.

If not, something similar can be done throughout the UK.

Let’s go, clergy. What are we waiting for? Carpe diem!


It was by sheer coincidence that yesterday, Pentecost Sunday, I happened to be writing about 1 Timothy 6:3-5, a passage that gives the characteristics of false teachers, and then ran across a profile of a former vicar.

Those verses are worth reading before proceeding with the following post.

It is unfortunate that the ex-vicar in question is the Revd Richard Coles, famous in Britain for being on nearly every reality television series going.

It is unfortunate because his on-screen persona is exactly what one would want in a vicar: joviality, warmth and humour. No doubt many Britons empathised when his civil partner David, also a Church of England priest, died a week before Christmas in 2019.

In July 2020, Coles, who was straddling his responsibilities as a vicar with television engagements, defended the Church over slavery. This was a month after George Floyd protests had taken place during lockdown — no problem there, as we saw — and discussions continued from henceforth.

On July 2 that year, The Express reported:

Reverend Richard Coles was shut down by African Studies Professor Kehinde Andrews who explained the Anglo-Church paid some of the largest compensation after the end of the slave trade. The pair clashed in a heated debate over the portrayal of Jesus. It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for reconsideration of Jesus being perceived as a white man.

Speaking on GMB [ITV’s Good Morning Britain], Reverend Richard Coles said: “The Church has also played a prophetic part in seeking equality for black people around the world.

“The Church of England in the 18th and 19th centuries played a significant role in the legislation to bring about the abolition of the slave trade.

“The Church of England played a very important part.”

However, the professor was unhappy and cited Isaiah 1:18:

“The image of the white Jesus was given to us as the enslaved.

“It was taken to African schools and put on to us in one of the main ways to pacify us.

“You still have people in Black churches in this country saying that ‘he will wash you white as snow’.

“That’s the original white saviour image and the whole purpose of it was to embed colonialism and slavery …”

This is the problem with taking anything, including the Bible, out of context. The Lord was referring to scarlet sins.

Here is an excerpt from Isaiah 1 (emphases mine):

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

In 2022, Coles made a one-off documentary for Channel 4, Good Grief, which aired on August 8. By then, he had just retired as a vicar of Finedon in Northamptonshire in the East Midlands and had moved to a seaside village in Sussex, on the south coast.

The day before the programme aired, Coles told The Telegraph of the anger he felt when his alcoholic partner, the priest, died. We also got a synopsis of the show. Note that there is no mention of Scripture:

In the show, we see him searching for new ways to process his sense of loss, immersing himself in a plethora of grief therapies.

He throws himself into skydiving, boxing and surfing to escape his thoughts and tries yoga laughter to “act” his way out of pain; he gathers with others for a grief “supper club” and, perhaps most movingly, a grief cruise in Miami

Researching the film reminded Richard that there are, of course, no quick fixes to the outrageous pain of grief. “You won’t find something that will magically make you feel better. But there are things which can help you connect to the part of yourself that’s most vulnerable, and I found this helpful. Boxing, especially, was my favourite.”

This might surprise his fans, who know him as an erudite, witty man more at home on the Strictly dance floor, rather than sweating in a gym. He laughs when I suggest this.

“Boxing licensed my anger. As a vicar, you swallow your own feelings to help other people manage theirs. Boxing was a way of legitimising the pointless fury of grief.” The more physical activities also helped him push back against the sense of life becoming diminished and made smaller, which grief brings with it. “Grief can make you feel irrational anger towards the dead person for having wrecked your life, which is perhaps why grief, guilt and anger often go around as a trio. Boxing allowed me to feel everything, which was helpful.”

There was also an element of catharsis at work, because Richard is honest about how angry he felt over David’s continued drinking. “At its worst, his addiction was very bad, and I think I knew, at a deep level, that it could only end with his death,” he confides. “And I felt furious with him for drinking like that, and also guilty for feeling furious. But when it was especially bad, I’d arrive home and sit in the drive thinking, what fresh hell awaits me inside?”

Coles has a famous friend in Northamptonshire, Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother:

He tells me about spending the Christmas following David’s death with his friend, Charles [9th Earl Spencer and younger brother of Diana, Princess of Wales]. “And we ended up at Diana’s grave, the most mourned person in my entire life, so yes, we would all see the dark comedy in that.”

Coles retains his house in Northamptonshire.

He rightly pointed out that we no longer know how to cope with death. He also rightly brought up his Christian beliefs:

It’s interesting to hear Richard wrestling with the transcendent power of his own faith in relation to his very human and earthly longing to see David again. “Because I am a Christian and believe in the power of the Gospel, I live in hope of something that awaits beyond the horizon of death. But while the thought of David enduring is wonderful, all I really want today is for him to walk in through the door again.”

However, all I could think of was that Coles would have done better to immerse himself in the epistles at his time of grief, Paul’s, in particular. We are all bound to suffer to some degree in this life. As we know, the death of a loved one affects us all. When we are mourning and calling upon Christ to comfort us, we are also called to use that as a means of sanctification.

In my post on 1 Timothy 6:3-5, I cited John MacArthur’s sermon on those verses. MacArthur spoke of the importance of knowing and understanding the Bible:

If false teaching is contrary to Scripture, it is easily recognized by one who knows what Scripture teaches, one who, in the terms of 1 John 2, has become a spiritual young man, because the Word of God abides in you and you are strong and therefore you have overcome the wicked one. The wicked one plying his false teaching is overcome by one who is strong in the Word

That’s why the primary task of the shepherd is to feed the sheep, so that they begin to recognize what is their proper diet, and they don’t go out to eat the noxious deadly weeds that grow on the fringes of their pasture …

When you know good doctrine and your people know good doctrine, you’re protected. You’re protected from the deadly virus of error. And the only protecting antibiotic that we have against false teaching is the truth – the truth of God.

Yoga isn’t going to cure our inner pain as a mourner. Neither is boxing, although there will be some need to release tension and, for some, boxing fulfils the brief. Yet, the most important element of mourning is keeping an eye on Christ and His infinite grace. Our grief, in some measure, shall pass with time.

On May 28, 2023, on the feast of Pentecost, The Sunday Times Magazine published Decca Aitkenhead’s interview with the celebrity ex-vicar, ‘Richard Coles: “I met my new boyfriend on EliteSingles”‘.

I was stunned to read of the amount of anger that this man of the cloth had had since his youth. Couple that with greed as well as the love of fame, and it’s an unholy mix. It seems apposite that he is now retired from the pulpit. Good grief.

Consider Paul’s verses, then contemplate the following anecdotes.

His fury and materialism began during his schooldays, something he is writing about in his third novel involving a protagonist named Daniel:

Coles’s own father was a wealthy shoe manufacturer who similarly went broke while Coles was a teenager at a prestigious boarding school. It was “an excoriating experience, a life-changing experience” — the emotional legacy of which, he agrees, is betrayed in Daniel’s mother.

“At school everyone judged their fathers by the car they drove. And woe betide the person who once turned up in a Rolls-Royce and next turned up in a Ford Granada.” The memory still haunts him. “Status,” he murmurs reverently. “Prestige.” He has a friend whose father also lost everything while he was at boarding school, and is one of the most driven people he knows. “We both think some iron entered our souls at that point when we were teenagers and we lost prestige because our parents lost wealth. Yeah, that was really formative.”

His relationship with money is “hugely” loaded. “I’ve always disguised it from myself and told myself I’m committed to antimaterialistic doctrines and Christianity. But you know what? I’ve always been able to make a buck. And I have always been scared of poverty.”

He recently told his accountant he was frightened that he would end up living on the street, destitute. The astonished accountant assured him that was not going to happen. “Well, you say that,” Coles retorted, implacably unconvinced.

Years ago, Coles lied about being HIV-positive. It is unclear why he did so:

I’m still trying to work out how someone so honest about himself could ever have told his closest friends a total lie about being HIV positive. “It was an awful thing to do.” He shudders. “Even talking about it now, I’m ashamed of it. It’s there on the record, for ever, and it makes me feel very bad. But I am that person.”

At the end of the interview, Aitkenhead cornered him on his love of prestige and lying:

Years ago, in the course of research for an article about a pair of fraudsters, I read a lot of books about liars. One consistent theme, I begin to say — “I think I can guess what it is,” he interrupts. “Was it loss of prestige in their teenage years?” It was indeed.

“That makes perfect sense to me.” He nods. “Perfect sense.”

Dear, oh dear.

Even his friendship with Earl Spencer seems to have lost a bit of its glow, only because the two know each other so well now:

In his former parish Coles used to spend a good deal of time at nearby Althorp House, the home of Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother. It feels unlikely, I suggest, that anyone could accidentally have made so many famous friends.

“I suppose what I would have said in the past is, ‘Oh, it just sort of happened that way because that’s the world I live in, dah dah dah.’ But it’s because I seek them out. And find, in their company and society, something that affirms me.” To restore his own lost prestige? He thinks for a moment. “Maybe if I’m in their golden glow, I’ll be a bit safer.” He pauses again. “But what happens of course is that it only lasts for a bit. There’s a dazzle. And then after that, if a friendship with someone comes out of it, then you’re just two people, right?”

Let’s return to anger and add lust to the mix.

This is what happened after his father’s financial failure:

In the early Eighties Coles was an angry young man on the dole in King’s Cross, fresh out of a psychiatric hospital following a suicide attempt at 17, and full of fury about homophobia and Margaret Thatcher.

Then he made a name for himself in popular music:

He joined a radical gay activist theatrical troupe and made friends with the Bronski Beat singer Jimmy Somerville. Together they formed the Communards in 1985 and became huge pop stars practically overnight.

Enter anger and the lie about being HIV-positive:

Yet Coles couldn’t enjoy all the fun and five-star hotels and first-class flights because he was always furious with Somerville for getting more attention than him.

Perhaps Somerville had the more winsome personality.


During one of their many blazing rows, in a fit of jealous pique Coles screamed that he had just been diagnosed with HIV. The upper hand and dark glamour this lie conferred was so gratifying, he repeated it to all his closest friends and couldn’t bring himself to come clean for five years. Most of his friends were extraordinarily forgiving — “That took something to admit, doll,” was all Somerville said — but one was so upset he didn’t speak to Coles for a year.

While he kept the lie alive:

the Communards had long since split, undone by mutual loathing — although they later made up and remain on friendly terms — and Coles had survived an epic two-year bender on Ecstasy, cocaine and speed.

Then came Christianity:

What had begun as high-spirited hedonism descended into wretched self-destruction and squalor, but after coming to his senses in his late twenties and cleaning up, to his surprise he found God.

Then came theology studies — and more fame:

By the early Nineties he was a theology student, a Sony award-winning BBC radio presenter and a big hit in celebrity media social circles.

When he had finished studying theology:

On graduation he moved back to his home county of Northamptonshire, where he took up dogging. He thinks that having roadside sex with random strangers was “actually rather good for me”, remedying his lifelong sense of undesirability. “But I think also I was unkind to people sometimes, so absorbed in my own gratification.”

At that point, the first half of St Paul’s 1 Timothy 6:4 came alive:

he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing.

Then came seminary:

The dogging had stopped by the time he began training for the clergy, and in 2005 he was ordained.

I am sure that John MacArthur’s Masters Seminary would have despatched Coles quickly for reasons various.

Then came his parish work, partner and more television:

Two years later, by then a vicar in Norfolk, he fell in love with a fellow clergyman from a neighbouring parish, David, and their relationship was formalised with a civil partnership in 2010. The following year Coles moved to a Northamptonshire parish, began presenting Saturday Live and became Britain’s favourite vicar. The jovial dog-collared doyen of light entertainment has appeared on everything from Celebrity MasterChef to Celebrity Mastermind, The Weakest Link to Strictly Come Dancing, and the tragedy of David’s death from alcoholism in 2019, at just 43, shocked the nation.

Coles feels no regrets about breaking his ordination vow of celibacy in light of the nature of his sexual relationship:

He doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about breaking the same-sex celibacy oath CofE rules obliged him to take. “It’s true, bang to rights, I was dishonest. I don’t like breaking an oath, but if it is one that is unholy then I don’t feel the moral obligation to observe it.” To honour an oath that he “thought was unjust and inhuman and degrading”, he adds, “ would be much worse”.

All of that made me think of 1 Timothy 6:3 …

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[a] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,

… and the end of verse 5:

imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Aitkenhead, herself an atheist, found that aspects of Coles’s life didn’t sit well with her:

… most of all I’m intrigued by his conversion from brittle pop diva to humble cleric — chiefly because it has always struck me as fishy. In my experience, fame-hungry, troubled young pop stars do not grow up to be self-effacing saints. The disarming surprise is how cheerfully he agrees.

“Yes, I don’t actually believe that finding God can fundamentally rewire most of that.” The young Coles who used to storm out of Communards interviews because all the questions had been directed at Somerville is, he chuckles, the person he remains to this day. So why has everyone mistaken him for a sweetie? “Because I’ve offered them that version of me.” With a soft groan, he despairs, “Why do I do it? Sometimes I could drown in a sea of my own whimsy.”

It is a good thing that he has retired.

He admits to his former parishoners having the same impression as Aitkenhead:

I wonder if his celebrity circles made any parishioners suspicious of him. “I’m sure it did.” Of the only two arguments he had with them, one was sparked when someone made a snide swipe about “you and your fancy friends”. He looks embarrassed. “And I snapped. I lost my temper. And why do I lose my temper? Because I’m called out on something.”

A similar disagreement occurred with his late partner:

He had a whopping row with his late husband when he was voted off Strictly and pretended not to mind. “And David knew that I really minded, he wasn’t buying it, and we had a big fight. I lost my temper. And then I felt stupid.” The honest truth, he admits, is he had secretly thought he might win.

That is the Coles story up to this point.

More verses from 1 Timothy have come to mind over the past few hours.

In 1 Timothy 1:3-7, Paul introduced his discussion on false teachers, including this assertion of truth:

The aim of our charge [command] is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Then there are the verses from 1 Timothy 3:1-7 (continued here and here) about the characteristics of a good overseer — a pastor or vicar:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

St Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, knew what he was talking about. The Church would be restored if only more of today’s seminaries followed his instructions to Timothy.

Yesterday’s post was my first instalment about King Charles III’s coronation, which can be viewed in full at GB News.

This video begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, and continues through the flypast, ending around 2:30 p.m.:

Order of Service (cont’d)

Using The Telegraph‘s Order of Service, I left off just after the anointing of the King.

As we will see, he paid homage to his parents with certain aspects of the ceremony:

Before I proceed — and ignore the caption — here is a splendid picture of the King and Queen before being crowned:

The King’s Investiture and the Crowning

The next part involved King Charles being presented with various symbols of office.

In memory of the late Prince Philip, who was brought up in the Orthodox Church, the Byzantine Chant Ensemble sang to the King:

Give the king your judgements, O God, and your righteousness to the son of a king. Then shall he judge your people righteously and your poor with justice. Alleluia. 

May he defend the poor among the people, deliver the children of the needy and crush the oppressor. Alleluia. 

May he live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another. Alleluia. 

In his time shall righteousness flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more. Alleluia. 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever. Amen. 

O Lord, save the king and answer us when we call upon you. 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Glory to you, our God, glory to you. 

As the Lord President of the Privy Council, Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt exchanged the heavy Sword of State for the Jewelled Sword of Offering, and placed it in the King’s right hand:

The Archbishop of Canterbury said (emphases mine):

HEAR our prayers, O Lord, we beseech thee, and so direct and support thy servant King Charles, that he may not bear the Sword in vain; but may use it as the minister of God to resist evil and defend the good, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

RECEIVE this kingly Sword: may it be to you and to all who witness these things, a sign and symbol not of judgement, but of justice; not of might, but of mercy.

The King rose, the sword was fastened around his girdle (belt), and he sat down while the Archbishop said:

WITH this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God and all people of goodwill, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order: that doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue; and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life, that you may reign for ever with him in the life which is to come. Amen.

The King stood. The sword was lifted towards the altar, where the Dean received it. The King returned to the ancient Coronation Chair, which has been in use for centuries. Penny Mordaunt ‘redeemed’ the sword with a blue velvet bag holding a gold coin. The sword was duly returned to her.

Note how Mordaunt stands legs apart in the video. She has to, because those swords are heavy.

Such is the state of our society today — we are fast approaching Idiocracy — that people now think she should be Prime Minister. Even The Guardian reported:

The images of a solemn-faced Mordaunt carrying the 3.6kg jewelled sword for 51 minutes, while dressed in a spectacular teal dress and cape, generated interest in everything from her training regime to the designer who made her outfit. It also prompted a sudden drop in the odds for her to become the next leader of her party.

Even her opponents expressed admiration, with Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, tweeting: “Got to say it, Penny Mordaunt looks damn fine! The sword-bearer steals the show.”

The Guardian had another article about her physical prowess, with a reporter trying out carrying a full water jug — ‘the jug of state’ — by way of comparison:

When I struggled to lift the full jug out from under the tap, I realised this was going to be harder than I thought.

Mordaunt said she had been “doing some press-ups” and training with a weighted replica as preparation for carrying the sword …

Less than 30 seconds in, it became clear how wrong I was. My arm tremors were already rippling the surface of the jug, making it look like the cups in Jurassic Park when the T rex was incoming …

At 8 minutes and 42 seconds in, as the arm judders reached their peak, I succumbed to the inevitable and let go of my jug of state, soaking my feet in the process. The jug did not survive the experiment, making me grateful it was not a priceless artefact handmade for Charles II.

Mordaunt was given the role of lord president of the privy council as a demotion by Liz Truss after losing out in the leadership race, but in less than an hour of sword-wielding, she has used it to pull off a PR coup.

Enough weight lifting. Back to the coronation now.

Life peers presented the following items. Why the King did not choose hereditary peers for this, I do not understand.

Lord Kamall (Conservative) brought the Armills — two ancient gold bracelets. The King touched them and the Archbishop said:

RECEIVE the Bracelets of sincerity and wisdom, tokens of the Lord’s protection embracing you on every side.

Baroness Merron (Labour) brought the King the Robe Royal, in which he had to be invested in order to be crowned. The Telegraph‘s article on the coronation garments and says of this particular one, also known as Imperial Mantle or the Pallium Regale:

Made for the coronation of George IV in 1821, the robe royal’s design was based on a priestly robe.

The gold mantle, woven in coloured threads, features a pattern of foliage, crowns, fleurs-de-lis and eagles, with coloured roses, thistles and shamrock. The gold clasp is cast in the form of an eagle.

It is the oldest robe among these garments.

The King would already have been wearing the Colobium Sindonis, which is a white tunic for the anointing. It is white to symbolise purity before God.

Over that went the Supertunica made of gold silk and brocade, which is magnificent to behold. It is on display at the Tower of London:

The full-length, sleeved coat of gold silk was made for the coronation of King George V in 1911 and was worn by King George VI in May 1937 and the late Queen in 1953.

It is placed over the Colobium sindonis for the investiture.

Both garments are removed before the procession out of the Abbey.

The Supertunica is inspired by the vestments of the early Church and the Byzantine Empire and is adorned with the national symbols of the home nations.

The Supertunica is worn under the Imperial Mantle. Both garments are in the Royal Collection and are on public display at the Tower of London.

The belt that goes with the Supertunica is called the Girdle.

The Prince of Wales then presented the Stole Royal, which is a thin strip of gold and embroidered fabric that goes over the Supertunica.

Those garments were put on the King, Stole Royal then the Robe Royal.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Robe: may the Lord clothe you with the robe of righteousness, and with the garments of salvation.

The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and Metropolitan presented the Orb, which was banded with a cross on top, signifying Christ’s reign over the world. The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Orb, set under the Cross, and remember always that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our God, and of his Christ.

The King touched the Orb, then it was returned to the altar.

Lord Patel brought the Ring to the King, who touched it. Normally, the monarch would wear it at least for the duration of the ceremony.

The Arbishop said:

RECEIVE this Ring, symbol of kingly dignity and a sign of the covenant sworn this day, between God and King, King and people.

It seems Charles has felt self-conscious about the size of his fingers, which has led to speculation about his health:

According to research that GB News compiled, even the Royal Family noticed his fingers:

Prince William reportedly said he wished his “sausage fingers” father would stop writing so many letters so he could spend more time with his grandchildren.

Queen Elizabeth II also commented on her eldest son’s hands.

The late monarch supposedly wrote a letter to her music teacher after his birth in 1948.

It said: “They are rather large, but with fine long fingers quite unlike mine and certainly unlike his father’s.

“It will be interesting to see what they become.”

Howard Hodgson’s book The Man Who Will Be King claimed King Charles even said: “He [Prince William] really does look surprisingly appetising and has sausage fingers just like mine.”

The monarch also used the phrase himself when he was the Prince of Wales after a long haul flight to Australia in 2012

Temporary fluid retention, a sudden change in temperature, high blood pressure and arthritis could all explain his puffier hands.

It is not known what causes Charles’ “sausage fingers” but the symptom is also linked to the secondary disease of Dactylitis.

Dactylitis can be caused by a number of conditions and infections, including psoriatic arthritis.

Dactylitis is the medical term for severe swelling that affects your fingers or toes.

The word derives from the Greek word dactylos meaning finger.

It is an inflammatory disease. But I digress.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon brought the Glove, which the King put on his right hand.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Glove, that you may hold authority with gentleness and grace; trusting not in your own power but in the mercy of God.

Then came the two sceptres, the Sceptre with Cross and the Sceptre with Dove, presented by the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Archbishop of Wales.

The Archbishop placed one sceptre in the King’s right hand and the other in his left, saying:

RECEIVE the Royal Sceptre, the ensign of kingly power and justice; and the Rod of equity and mercy, a symbol of covenant and peace. May the Spirit of the Lord who anointed Jesus at his baptism, so anoint you this day, that you might exercise authority with wisdom, and direct your counsels with grace; that by your service and ministry to all your people, justice and mercy may be seen in all the earth.

Then came the literal crowning moment.

Everyone stood but the King remained seated so that the Archbishop could place the crown on his head. Before doing so, the Archbishop prayed:

KING of kings and Lord of lords, bless, we beseech thee, this Crown, and so sanctify thy servant Charles, upon whose head this day thou dost place it for a sign of royal majesty, that he may be crowned with thy gracious favour and filled with abundant grace and all princely virtues; through him who liveth and reigneth supreme over all things, one God, world without end. Amen.

The Archbishop placed the crown on the King’s head. It looked as if he were screwing it on. I felt sorry for both of them:

After doing so, he said:

God save The King.

The congregation responded likewise with the same proclamation.

While the Coronation Brass Ensemble played a fanfare, bells rang from the Abbey, the signal for the military gun salutes in Horseguards Parade and at the Tower of London. The signal was duly relayed to other parts of the United Kingdom as well as Gibraltar, Bermuda and ships at sea, where gun salutes also took place:

At this point, the other Christian clergy offered their individual blessings to the King. This was a new insertion, as non-Anglican and non-Presbyterian Christian clergy were not allowed to participate in previous coronations since the establishment of the Church of England.

The choir sang during thist ime.

The Enthroning and the Homage

In this part, the Archbishop and the Prince of Wales pledged their loyalty to the King.

Normally, the hereditary peers would have joined the Prince of Wales, but Charles chose to leave them out. It probably would have been awkward if he had included them, because the obvious question would have been why Princes Harry and Andrew did not pledge their liege to him.

It began with the Archbishop who initially stood to say:

STAND firm, and hold fast from henceforth this seat of royal dignity, which is yours by the authority of Almighty God. May that same God, whose throne endures for ever, establish your throne in righteousness, that it may stand fast for evermore.

He then knelt before the King:

I, Justin, Archbishop of Canterbury, will be faithful and true, and faith and truth I will bear unto you, our Sovereign Lord, Defender of the Faith; and unto your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.

The Prince of Wales followed the Archbishop, kneeling:

I, William, Prince of Wales, pledge my loyalty to you, and faith and truth I will bear unto you, as your liege man of life and limb. So help me God.

That was a really moving part of the service, seeing father and son look into each other’s eyes afterwards:

Then the Archbishop, in yet another first, opened the oath up to audience participation, as it were:

I now invite those who wish to offer their support to do so, with a moment of private reflection, by joining in saying ‘God save King Charles’ at the end, or, for those with the words before them, to recite them in full.

Anyone present — or at home or wherever they were watching — could say:

I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.

That part was rather controversial. Some people thought it was a great move, while others thought it presumptuous:

Historian Dr David Starkey, commentating for GB News, was deeply unhappy:

The act itself was not met with a “roar”, according to royal historian Dr David Starkey, who says the muted reaction exposes a sign of poor judgment from the monarchy.

Speaking on GB News, Starkey told royal correspondent Cameron Walker that King Charles did not receive the adulation he would have wanted during the act …

“In England, ordinary people don’t do pledges of allegiance. The old aristocracy would have been totally happy, because that is what they did.

“It is the problem when you decide to put tradition in a waste paper basket”

Lambeth Palace confirmed it had been mutually agreed with Buckingham Palace that the introductory words would be changed.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was to say: “I call upon all persons of goodwill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other realms and the territories to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted King, defender of all.”

All those who wished the pledge their allegiance were invited to reply: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

That said:

Starkey went on to praise the ceremony, describing it as an “absolutely traditional” occasion, and the late Queen Elizabeth II’s fingerprints were all over it.

“We had extraordinary references to the late Queen”, he said. “Her words framed everything. The notion of service and what she said about the function of the Church of England.

“She even framed the Coronation oath and its Protestantism.”

Another fanfare sounded and the Archbishop said:

God save The King.

The congregation responded:

God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May The King live for ever.

That part concluded. It represented the unwritten contract between the King and his people.

The Coronation of the Queen

Although it was not broadcast on television, the Queen Consort was anointed in the open with the same holy oil used for the King.

This was another first.

On April 29, The Telegraph reported:

It is thought to be the first time a consort has been anointed in public view.

By contrast, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was anointed under a canopy in 1937.

When the Archbishop anointed Camilla, he said:

Be your head anointed with holy oil.

ALMIGHTY God, the fountain of all goodness; hear our prayer this day for thy servant Camilla, whom in thy name, and with all devotion, we consecrate our Queen; make her strong in faith and love, defend her on every side, and guide her in truth and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Keeper of the Jewel House brought forth the Queen’s Ring. For whatever reason, Camilla touched only the velvet mount on which it was sitting.

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE this Ring, a symbol of royal dignity and a sign of the covenant sworn this day.

The Crown was brought from the altar. The Archbishop placed it on her head, again having a bit of a time with the heavy crown, which was Queen Mary’s, George V’s wife. Camilla said something about adjusting it, so he did:

He said:

MAY thy servant Camilla, who wears this crown, be filled by thine abundant grace and with all princely virtues; reign in her heart, O King of love, that, being certain of thy protection, she may be crowned with thy gracious favour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, the new Queen adjusted her fringe underneath the crown which proved a bit trying.

She received the Sceptre and Rod from the former Bishop of London, the Right Revd Richard Chartres, and the Bishop of Dover, the Right Revd Rose Wilkin, formerly the Chaplain to the House of Commons:

The Archbishop said:

RECEIVE the Royal Sceptre. Receive the Rod of equity and mercy. May the Spirit guide you in wisdom and grace, that, by your service and ministry, justice and mercy may be seen in all the earth.

With that, the Queen was enthroned. In accordance with the King’s wishes, she is no longer officially known as the Queen Consort but the Queen:

A new piece of music played. It sounded dignified but had shades of a show tune here and there. It turns out that the King had commissioned Andrew Lloyd Webber, present in the congregation, to write a song for the coronation.

The lyrics are based on Psalm 98:

MAKE a joyful noise unto the Lord for he hath done marvellous things. And his holy arm hath gotten him the victory. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. O make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Make a loud noise; rejoice and sing his praise. Let the sea roar, the world and they that dwell within. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Rejoice and sing his praise. For he cometh to judge the earth. And with righteousness shall he judge the world and the people with equity. O make a joyful noise unto the Lord all the earth. Sing unto the Lord with the harp and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord the King.

Holy Communion

During the Andrew Lloyd Webber melody, the King and Queen went to the vestry or another private room to divest themselves of their outer coronation garments and crowns then returned to the area near the altar.

Using the 1662 liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, the Archbishop then consecrated bread and wine for the King and Queen. Holy Communion must be given to the monarch and his spouse during a coronation ceremony.

While they received Communion, the choir sang a new arrangement for the Agnus Dei. This was also specially commissioned for the coronation and was written by Tarik O’Regan, born in 1978.


After Communion came the final blessing, the benediction.

The congregation sang Praise my soul, the King of heaven:

PRAISE, my soul, the King of heaven; to his feet thy tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, who like me his praise should sing? Praise him! Praise him! Praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for his grace and favour to our fathers in distress; praise him still the same for ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless. Praise him! Praise him! glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like, he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows; in his hands he gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Praise him! Praise him! widely as his mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore him; ye behold him face to face; sun and moon, bow down before him; dwellers all in time and space. Praise him! Praise him! Praise with us the God of grace.

The King and Queen returned to whatever private rooms they were in to put on their ceremonial Robes of Estate, neither of which is new.

The Telegraph tells us:

In keeping with tradition, Charles and Camilla will each wear two different robes – a crimson Robe of State on arrival and a purple Robe of Estate at the end of the service.

The King will wear his grandfather George VI’s Robes of State and Estate from the 1937 Coronation, which are almost 90 years old and have been conserved and prepared for the occasion.

Embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework have been working on the crimson velvet, with robemakers Ede & Ravenscroft working on the lining and gold lace.

The Queen will wear her late mother-in-law’s crimson Robe of State, which was made for her 1953 Coronation. The robe has been conserved with adjustments and has a train of 5.5m. The original brief was for a “hand-made velvet robe, trimmed with best-quality Canadian ermine and gold lace”.

The robe is also known as the Parliament Robe as it is worn for the State Opening of Parliament.

It took a long time for the King and Queen to re-emerge for their lengthy procession from the Abbey back to Buckingham Palace. As such, more music played.

Finally, a fanfare sounded and they appeared. Everyone sang the National Anthem. Penny Mordaunt was in front, carrying the sword. Prince George is the last page in the back on our left, on the King’s right hand side:

Procession of the King and Queen

A long recessional procession took place, which included members of the Royal Family who had been sitting in the pews.

When the King reached the entrance to the Abbey, he paused to receive greetings from the leaders of non-Christian faiths. They said in unison:

YOUR Majesty, as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service. We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good.

The King then paused for greetings from Governors-General of the Commonwealth.

It was 1 p.m.

The Abbey’s bells pealed beautifully and continued for at least another hour, possibly longer.

Ready to climb into the Gold State Coach, the King handed his sceptre to an aide and got ready for the procession back to Buckingham Palace. The aide carefully mounted the orb in the coach between him and Queen Camilla once they were seated.

The newly crowned couple were on their way to a new phase of their lives together:

More tomorrow soon on the après-coronation, including what happened outside the Abbey, the procession back to Buckingham Palace, the balcony appearance and the flypast.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday, May 6, 2023, was much better than I had anticipated last Friday.

The state of the UK today

It is important to note the backdrop against which the coronation took place.

We have a Hindu Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak), a Muslim Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan), a Muslim First Minister of Scotland (Humza Yousaf), a Buddhist Home Secretary (Suella Braverman) and a Chancellor (Jeremy Hunt) with a Chinese wife.

This was not the Britain of June 4, 1953, the date of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.

The coronation emblem

The coronation emblem recognised the plant symbols of the four nations: England, Wales, Scotland — which comprise Great Britain — and Northern Ireland:

Coronation video

Here is GB News’s video of the day’s events, from 10:00 a.m. to the flypast mid-afternoon:

Religious ceremony

Most Britons were not alive when the last coronation took place and might have been unaware how religious it is.

As historian Dr David Starkey explained on GB News on April 15, the ceremony is a Christian one:

It involves a covenant between God and the monarch, which is why the King and those before him, are anointed outside of public view.

The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury presides over the service and, in accordance with tradition, the Presbyterian Moderator of the Church of Scotland presented the monarch with a new Bible. Charles received a gilt-edged edition of the King James Version bound in red leather.

In a first, after his anointing by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King received blessings from other Christian prelates, as The Telegraph reported on April 30:

They will have their own ecumenical procession and then, after the King is crowned, there will be a series of blessings, bookended by the two Anglican primates, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Four others – the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Thyateira & Great Britain, Nikitas Loulias, plus the Moderator of the Free Churches and the General Secretary of Churches Together in England will between them utter about 90 words amid the thousands upon thousands uttered by Anglican clerics.

In a nod to other world faiths, the King received greetings from their leaders in Britain as he exited Westminster Abbey at the end of the ceremony:

Canon law of the Church of England, which prohibits other faiths saying prayers, has been adhered to.

Rishi Sunak read the Epistle very well, looking at the text only occasionally (emphases mine below):

The most notable involvement of a non-Christian is the Hindu Rishi Sunak, reading the Epistle, but he takes his place by reason of his office: it has become traditional for the Prime Minister to read a lesson at a Church-meets-state-meets-Crown occasion, as Liz Truss did at the late Queen’s funeral.

Here’s the video:

The Times said that the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Revd Justin Welby, chose the reading from St Paul to the Colossians for its emphasis on the rule of Christ and the joy we find in it:

Selected by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Epistle to the Colossians proclaims the loving rule of Christ over all people and all things and takes its name from the Christian community in Colossae (now a part of Turkey).

Colossae was one of the first churches to be established after the resurrection of Jesus. Sunak was asked to read to reflect modern customs of leaders of countries speaking at state events.

… “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.”

The reading tied in well with the King’s specially composed prayer that preceded it:

God of compassion and mercy

whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve,

give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth.

Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and conviction, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness

and be led into the paths of peace.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.


The theme of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon focused on service, acknowleging the 400 charity workers who were watching on livestream in the Church of St Margaret next to Westminster Abbey.

I will return to the service itself later in the post.

Another rainy Coronation Day

The weather was only slightly warmer than it was when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.

However, it was rainy on both days:

In fact, rain has been a feature of the last several coronations.

My late mother believed that rain meant good luck. It rained on my wedding day. Here I am over 30 years later, still married. The rain was a blessing. May it be so for Charles III as it was for his mother.

High security

Security was at its highest on Coronation Day.

Only days before, the House of Commons passed new laws enabling police with greater powers of arrest. To their credit, London’s Metropolitan Police used them in pre-empting possible violence.

On Tuesday evening, May 2, GB News broadcast some programmes in a small studio adjacent to Buckingham Palace. Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg’s programme was interrupted by a small controlled explosion that evening while he was talking with the former BBC Royal reporter Michael Cole:

Guido Fawkes explained (red emphasis his):

… the entire crew were forced to evacuate their perch outside Buckingham Palace while police used controlled explosives on suspicious objects – now thought to be shotgun cartridges – thrown over the Palace gates. The detonation can be heard live on-air as Mogg speaks. “I think that was probably a controlled explosion in the background…”

Rees-Mogg and Cole were remarkably composed throughout.

Dan Wootton, who had arrived at the channel’s Paddington studios early, took over from there.

The procession to Westminster Abbey

Charles and Camilla’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey was shorter than his mother’s was. The Government, who largely directed the coronation as the taxpayer footed the bill, decided that a shorter route would cost less money with regard to security:

The Duke of Norfolk as Earl Marshal planned the sequence of events, working with the military and clergy as required.

His ancestor, who presided over the late Queen’s coronation, did a flawless job. The Dukes of Norfolk, whilst Catholic, have planned Royal state events for generations.

Two glitches

However, there are some things even the current Duke could not control.

Charles and Camilla, riding in the Diamond Jubilee Coach — designed by Rolls Royce, incidentally — arrived at the Abbey five minutes early.

The King had one of his moments, visible in this video:

The carriage doors remained closed for several minutes.

We later discovered that the Prince and Princess of Wales and their two children — Prince George was already at the Abbey as a page — were running late. Somehow, they seamlessly appeared inside the Abbey. This is the magic of planning and part of the genius of the Dukes of Norfolk who have planned these events for generations.

That said, as the King and Queen Consort had arrived early, their carriage doors remained closed until the appointed moment.

Then Camilla’s attendants and pages had some difficulty holding up her robe and the train on her dress, something that did not happen at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation:

Guests’ arrival

The doors to Westminster Abbey opened early, as is customary for Royal occasions.

The Royal couple expected 2200 guests. The Duke of Norfolk would have assigned arrival times to each group. The first group had to arrive at 7:30 a.m. All guests were expected to stay seated as the other groups continued to arrive.

For the first time, the King invited Royal families from around the world. This did not happen previously because other monarchs considered the coronation to be a pact not only with God but also with the British people. Therefore, no outsiders.

Generally speaking, the guests arrive in order of station, with lesser folk arriving first and the greatest — the King and Queen — arriving last.

Jill Biden and her step-granddaughter Finnegan Biden arrived at 9:39. They were seated in a back row of pews. It looks as if Mrs Zelenskyy might be sitting to her left, but I’m not sure:

Prince Andrew got booed as his car was driven down The Mall to the Abbey:

Former Prime Ministers arrived next, around 10:20. John Major and Tony Blair are wearing their Order of the Garter chains and brooches:

Rishi Sunak and his wife followed them:

Royals from around the world arrived afterwards.

Prince Harry, Prince Andrew and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who arrived with their husbands, reached the Abbey around 10:45, just ahead of the King and Queen. If they had been on time, the Wales family would have arrived in between.

One of the husbands — Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi? — spoke to Harry and the two shared a short but pleasant conversation before Mapelli Mozzi joined his wife to walk down the aisle:

So, Harry was not completely ‘all alone’, as some media outlets reported, although he was as he walked to his seat. Admittedly, it was an awkward moment for him:

Princess Anne, who probably arrived after Harry, Andrew, Eugenie and Beatrice, wore the cloak of Scotland’s Order of the Thistle, which is a deep green velvet. She wore a tall red plume in her ceremonial hat and was seated in front of Harry, obliterating him from view. A coincidence or not? We might never know.

Music played from 7:30 a.m. until the end of the ceremony, so it ended some time after 1 p.m.:

Order of Service

The ceremony began at 11:00 a.m.

Excerpts from The Telegraph‘s Order of Service follow.


The music came from several ensembles:

The service is sung by the Choirs of Westminster Abbey and His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace (Director of Music: Joseph McHardy), with choristers from Methodist College, Belfast (Director of Music: Ruth McCartney), and Truro Cathedral Choir (Director of Music until April 2023: Christopher Gray), and an octet from the Monteverdi Choir.

The music during the service is directed by Andrew Nethsingha, Organist and Master of the Choristers, Westminster Abbey.

The organ is played by Peter Holder, Sub-Organist, Westminster Abbey. 

The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists are conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner CBE.

The Coronation Orchestra is conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano.

The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry are led by Trumpet Major Julian Sandford.

The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force are conducted by Wing Commander Piers Morrell OBE MVO, Principal Director of Music, Royal Air Force.

The fanfares at The Recognition and The Homage were composed for this service by Dr Christopher Robinson CVO CBE.

The King’s Scholars of Westminster School are directed by Tim Garrard, Director of Music.

The Ascension Choir is directed by Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah.

The Byzantine Chant Ensemble is directed by Dr Alexander Lingas.

The Coronation Brass Ensemble is conducted by Paul Wynne Griffiths.

The Order of Service provides more detail with regard to what was played and by which group.

Procession of faith leaders and representatives and Commonwealth countries

Just before 11:00 a.m., the Abbey’s verger led the procession of faith leaders and representatives, beginning with the non-Christian faiths.

Christian leaders then followed, beginning with the group from Wales, followed by Scotland and Northern Ireland and ending with clergy from England.

They were followed by representatives from the 15 countries over which King Charles is sovereign, i.e. the realms. The Order of Service has the complete list.

The King’s Procession

At 11:00, a fanfare sounded, signalling the arrival of Charles and Camilla.

They were led down the aisle by Anglican clergy, followed by the various Pursuivants of Arms, then the Orders of Chivalry and Gallantry Award Holders.

After them came the Heralds of Arms, some of whom bore the items of regalia presented to the King later on.

The Queen Consort and her entourage followed.

The King and those attending him were the last in the procession.

Penny Mordaunt

Among the Heralds of Arms was the Conservative Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt MP, who is also Lord President of the Privy Council. In her position as Lord President of the Council, she carried the Sword of State, which is large and heavy.

Some years earlier, she had appeared in a reality television series, Splash!, hence the aquatic references in this tweet:

Penny Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist, was certainly one of the stars of the show. Even Labour MPs tweeted their admiration for her handling of the sword.

The Telegraph has another photo of her carrying it and this report:

Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt has emerged as the quiet star of the Coronation ceremony – one that nobody saw coming …

For the ceremony, Mordaunt was required to carry the 17th-Century Sword of State into the Abbey in the King’s Procession, and continue to hold it aloft for much of the service – specifically at right angles to her body. The sword, decorated with royal symbols including the lion and union and fleur de lis, is also used during the state opening of Parliament.

Given its 4ft length and 8lb weight, this is no mean feat, as evidenced by her shaking arms, when she handed the historic weapon to King Charles. She had prepared for the moment though: “It’s drawing on all of my military drill experience,” she told Politico, prior to the event. The preparation paid off: Mordaunt performed the ceremonial role with such aplomb that her name was trending on Twitter. Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted: “Got to say it, @PennyMordaunt looks damn fine! The sword bearer steals the show.”

Mordaunt was the first woman to carry out this high profile role in a Coronation ceremony

Her wardrobe represented a break from tradition too. Instead of the black and gold attire worn by the Marquess of Salisbury at the late Queen’s Coronation in 1953, she commissioned a new garment for the occasion that was rich with meaning.

It was an inspired decision. Mordaunt’s cape dress was by London-based label Safiyaa; a bespoke piece in a deep teal hue described as “Poseidon”, in honour of her Portsmouth constituency.

The look was completed by a bandeau-style hat by milliner Jane Taylor, who is a go-to for the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh [Prince Edward’s wife Sophie], and black ballet-style flat pumps, later switched to beige court shoes for her part in the ceremony.

The gold embroidery on Mordaunt’s cape and headpiece is by 250-year-old embroidery house Hand and Lock, which also embroiders the Royal cyphers. The fern design is a nod to the Privy Council uniform motif, adapted and “feminised” for the garment.

The look was modern and elegant, with just the right degree of traditional craftsmanship. Evidently, symbolic dressing is not a skill unique to the Royal family.

Mordaunt told Politico last week that she “felt it wasn’t right” to wear the same attire as Salisbury. Instead, she said that she wanted “to come up with something that is modern and will give a firm nod to the heritage” of the occasion.

Saturday’s well judged look follows her historic role in September, as the first woman to lead the accession council ceremony of the King at St James’s Palace.

The ceremony

When the processions were nearing their end and as the Queen Consort and King approached their chairs, the choir sang the now-traditional I Was Glad, which Hubert Parry composed for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902. It is based on Psalm 122:1-3, 6-7:

I WAS glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand in thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city, that is at unity in itself. Vivat Regina Camilla! Vivat! Vivat Rex Carolus! Vivat! O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.

Having reached their places and still standing, Samuel Strachan, Child of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, addressed The King:

YOUR Majesty, as children of the kingdom of God we welcome you in the name of the King of kings.

The King replied:

In his name and after his example I come not to be served but to serve.

The Archbishop of Canterbury then opened the service:

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered to offer worship and praise to Almighty God; to celebrate the life of our nations; to pray for Charles, our King; to recognise and to give thanks for his life of service to this Nation, the Realms, and the Commonwealth; and to witness with joy his anointing and crowning, his being set apart and consecrated for the service of his people. Let us dedicate ourselves alike, in body, mind, and spirit, to a renewed faith, a joyful hope, and a commitment to serve one another in love.

The Kyrie eleison came next, sung by Wales’s Sir Bryn Terfel CBE to an arrangement for the coronation written by Paul Mealor, born in 1975:

ARGLWYDD, trugarhâ, Crist, trugarhâ. Arglwydd, trugarhâ. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The Recognition followed, which involved the King standing to the four directions of the Abbey — north, south, east and west — with a presentation acclamation for each, to which the congregation responded, ‘God save King Charles’. Fanfares sounded throughout.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields, presented the King with the aforementioned Bible and said:

SIR, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.

The Archbishop of Canterbury asked whether the King was willing to take his oaths, read out one by one with an affirmative response.

The first two are as follows:

YOUR Majesty, the Church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain, is committed to the true profession of the Gospel, and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely. The Coronation Oath has stood for centuries and is enshrined in law.

WILL you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

This is the third:

WILL you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

After affirming that he agreed to the oaths, the King placed his hand on the Bible, saying:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.

He kissed the Bible.

Then came the statutory Accession Declaration Oath, which the King took:

I CHARLES do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.

He then signed copies of the oaths — no problems with the pen unlike at his Accession ceremony — and the choir sang William Byrd’s 16th composition to these words from the Book of Common Prayer:

PREVENT us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, the King knelt and said:

GOD of compassion and mercy whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth. Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The choir sang the Gloria to another William Byrd arrangement, this one from the Mass for Four Voices.

Rishi Sunak read Colossians 1:9-17:

FOR this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

The Right Revd Sarah Mullally DBE, the Bishop of London and the Dean of His Majesty’s Chapels Royal read the Gospel, Luke 4:16-21:

JESUS came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, ‘this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.’

A gospel choir, the Ascension Choir, sang an Alleluia based on Psalm 47:6-7a. The arrangement was composed for the coronation:

ALLELUIA, Alleluia! O sing praises, sing praises unto our God; O sing praises, sing praises unto our King. For God is the King of all the earth. Alleluia, alleluia!

The Anointing followed, with the choir singing in English, Welsh, Gaelic, and Irish.

A three-part Anointing Screen appeared in order for the King to be hidden from the public. Several Army officers in dress uniform from the Household Division held the three parts in place.

The King was divested of his Robe of State in order that he make the sacred covenant between God and himself. He sat in the ancient Coronation Chair, under which was the Stone of Scone (pron. ‘Scoon’), on loan from Scotland.

The choir sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest, originally composed for George II’s coronation in 1727. The work became very popular in a short space of time. Handel made it part of another opus of his as a result. It is based on 1 Kings 1:39-40:

ZADOK the priest, and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king; and all the people rejoiced, and said: God save the king. Long live the king. May the king live for ever. Hallelujah. Amen

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury made the Sign of the Cross in holy oil from Jerusalem on the palms of the King’s hands:

Be your hands anointed with holy oil.

He did the same on the King’s breast and on the crown of his head, using similar wording.

He finished as follows:

And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so may you be anointed, blessed, and consecrated King over the peoples, whom the Lord your God has given you to rule and govern; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When the Anointing Screen was removed, the Archbishop prayed:

OUR Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who by his Father was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by his holy anointing pour down upon your head and heart the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and prosper the works of your hands: that by the assistance of his heavenly grace you may govern and preserve the peoples committed to your charge in wealth, peace, and godliness; and after a long and glorious course of ruling a temporal kingdom wisely, justly, and religiously, you may at last be made partaker of an eternal kingdom; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The King rose to be vested in special coronation clothes — the Colobium Sindonis, Supertunica, and Girdlefor his investiture and crowning.

At this point, he was presented by separate participants with his symbols of office while the Byzantine Chant Ensemble sang. Their hymn was a nod to Prince Philip, who had been brought up in the Orthodox Church.

To be continued tomorrow.

Will we see majesty, grandeur and mysterium tremendum on Saturday, May 6, 2023?

I have been doing my best to keep an open mind about Charles III’s coronation but have my doubts.

British royalists no doubt share my penchant for robes, gowns and all the ancient trappings of monarchy that have survived through the centuries. We would like to see a fairy tale coronation that reminds us of why we are pleased as punch to be British. When it comes to Royal ceremonies, we want to see drama, mystique and theatre.

Pomp and circumstance so last century

Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing a rerun of the Queen’s 1953 coronation in 2023.

Veteran journalist and Royal expert Robert Hardman explains in his article for The Spectator, ‘What will Charles III’s reign look like?’, that the Government — ministers and civil servants — have their hands all over the coronation ceremony. Therefore, we should not blame the King or the Duke of Norfolk, who is the Earl Marshal organising everything (emphases mine):

This is not a case of regal wokery. It simply reflects the fact that ministers and Whitehall are calling many of the shots, on the basis that they are footing the bill. So, for example, the ancient Court of Claims, the panel of peers and senior judges appointed to decide who should be permitted to perform certain roles at each coronation, has been replaced by a ‘coronation claims office’ made up of civil servants. It is they who have trimmed the ermine and shortened the processional route. In other words, don’t blame the Earl Marshal.

Of course, everything has received the nod from the King.

I am not alone in my disappointment about tomorrow’s ceremony.

Historian David Starkey spoke to Lynn Barber, writing for The Spectator, and told her that he blames the King, rather than the Government:

He fears that the forthcoming coronation will be blighted by Charles’s enthusiasm for ‘what he calls modernisation’. ‘It is the most extraordinary pot-pourri – the service seems to be a pastiche of the Book of Common Prayer and the liturgical equivalent of Poundbury.’ He also thinks it’s a mistake not to have the peers in their robes because there used to be a wonderful climactic moment when they all put their coronets on. ‘It was a magnificent piece of theatre. And that’s gone. We will now have this extraordinary miscellaneous collection of people, the sort traditionally referred to as the salt of the earth, in sloppy dress… Because what this coronation shows is that with the breakdown of the old rules, a huge amount of initiative has been handed back to the King. So he can get away with putting the MPs and peers in a box outside, and that’s not what a constitutional monarch should be about. I think that the disappearance of our old governing class and its replacement by a new one is actually a matter for regret.’

He added:

I would like to have a governing class that had the sense of public duty, of seriousness about the national destiny that was exemplified by, say, the Dukes of Norfolk, or Winston Churchill. Churchill said that we were better governed when those who governed us were chosen from about l,000 people, than when chosen from 70 million.

Lynn Barber, another veteran journalist herself and a critical one at that, says that Starkey covered the Queen’s funeral beautifully for GB News last September:

David Starkey’s commentary on the Queen’s funeral on GB News was generally agreed to be the best of all the TV coverage, and now he is covering the coronation, and has made a three-part documentary about it for GB News called The Crown. Of course he knows the history, going back to King Edgar’s coronation in 973 …

‘What I tried to do with the Queen’s funeral, and also the King’s accession, was to talk about it as a historian who is also interested in the present. Because I think the failure of the TV coverage was that there wasn’t another serious historian commenting at all. Where was [Simon] Schama? I didn’t even see Andrew Roberts. I think it’s a sign that the producers were not taking it seriously. Monarchy is nowadays regarded as simply a branch of show biz.’

I watched GB News’s funeral coverage for two weeks last September and it was excellent.

My suggestion to everyone reading this is to watch their live coverage tomorrow on YouTube or, for my fellow Britons, television.

Why 1953’s coronation worked so well

The Spectator‘s William Moore interviewed one of the late Queen’s maids of honour, Lady Rosemary Muir, and others involved in the coronation. His article, ‘Vials of ammonia, shaky scaffolding and sword fights: memories of Elizabeth II’s coronation’, is excellent:

It’s not just about the Government’s pedestrian attitude or the King’s quest for modernity, either.

It’s about upbringing and a can-do attitude, as Lady Rosemary Muir told William Moore:

Lady Rosemary, the daughter of John Spencer-Churchill, tenth Duke of Marlborough, was brought up in Blenheim Palace. The household was run with military precision by her ‘very strict mother’. Everyone knew their role. ‘You were never allowed to be late for one minute. If you were told to do something you concentrated on doing it and doing it properly,’ she says. ‘When people ask me about the coronation they always ask me, “Weren’t you nervous, weren’t you this, weren’t you that” – no! We just got on with it.Her grandmother, Consuelo [née Vanderbilt], had also just got on with it at the 1902 coronation, carrying the canopy over Queen Alexandra during her anointing.

Moore adds a parenthetical observation:

(At 93, her balance and posture make me, 60 years her junior, embarrassed by my slouching.)

Precisely. I would feel the same.

Lady Rosemary was not surprised to have been among the six young noblewomen chosen to take care of the Queen’s velvet train:

She told Moore:

At the 1953 coronation the chief role of the maids of honour was to carry the Queen’s 20ft velvet train and to remove and fold it before the anointing. The Dean of Westminster wrote afterwards that he was struck by how the maids of honour ‘moved with notable precision’. Their exact movements did not, Lady Rosemary recalls, require much practice: ‘You knew what to do, you didn’t have to be taught it’

Rehearsals in general were ‘all very light-hearted’, she says, partly because ‘everybody knew everybody else’. If any part had to be redone, the Duke of Norfolk, who oversaw all non-liturgical arrangements, would turn to the maids of honour, ‘wink at us and say “It’s not you, girls. I’ve got these old gentlemen to sort out.”’

… When the maids of honour lined up with the Queen in the annexe to enter the abbey they were all as calm ‘as if we were out for an afternoon stroll’. ‘We did what we were told to do and did it to the best of our ability,’ she says. ‘That was life in general and the coronation was no different.’

The young women received much publicity after the event. They were the Spice Girls of their era:

From then until the coronation day in June, the maids of honour were the subject of many excited articles. The press dubbed them ‘the Lucky Six… envied by every other woman in the land’.

Unfortunately, Lady Rosemary could not enjoy all the festivities at Buckingham Palace that day:

The day ended for Lord Eccles at Buckingham Palace. ‘The maids of honour were the focus of the party,’ he says. Lady Rosemary, sadly, couldn’t stick around. After a quick pit-stop at the palace (‘Prince Charles was rolling around with the Queen’s crown’) she rushed back to Blenheim because her mother was roasting an ox.

Queen Consort Camilla’s ex-husband shared his memories of the day as one of the Lord Chancellor’s pages. He agreed with Lady Rosemary about doing things to the best of one’s ability:

This sentiment is echoed by Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, who was a page for the Lord Chancellor at the coronation at the age of 13. ‘One just did as one was told,’ he says. Discipline, however, has its limits. In the final rehearsal, the pages were given their ceremonial – but very real – swords. The temptation was too much. ‘As you can imagine, a lot of 13-year-olds clustered together, everyone drew their swords and started jousting away. The Earl Marshal sent in the Gold Staff officers to sort us out. We were cuffed around the ears. Nowadays that would be called assault or something.’ He still has his page’s sword, which sits proudly alongside his army sword …

Brigadier Parker Bowles, who will attend this weekend’s coronation, says it’s ‘slightly unfortunate’ that the seating is limited to 2,000 – ‘the whole thing is very different nowadays’.

By all accounts, the Earl Marshal — the Duke of Norfolk — was flawless in his organisation. The Queen’s ceremony was also much longer than her son’s will be:

Viscount (John) Eccles was one of the young Gold Staff officers – essentially ushers who reported to the Earl Marshal. His father David was the Minister of Works in 1953 and so worked closely with the Duke of Norfolk on the coronation preparations.

Although the day itself ‘came and went without effort’, Lord Eccles says that from watching the Duke of Norfolk and his father he could see the ‘tremendous amount of thought that went into it’. Richard Dimbleby, the coronation’s BBC commentator, later remarked upon the effort it takes to make something appear effortless. The Duke of Norfolk was a ‘man who carried the entire burden of arrangements on his shoulders, who knew every detail, and personally worked on every timetable. I do not think he could have had more than a few hours’ rest at any time during the eight months preceding’.

The great novelty of the 1953 coronation, as well as a further complication, was the fact that it was televised live. Lord Eccles says his father was ‘very keen’ on making the broadcast a success, and worked with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Duke of Norfolk – both of whom were at first uncertain about filming a religious service – to ensure it was ‘proper’. He understood that the new technology was a chance to ‘show the world we could do something like that really well, with tremendous attention to detail’.

Westminster Abbey had tall bleachers installed for thousands of guests, among them peers of the realm. Health and Safety regulations prohibit that nowadays, but this is how the seating was tested for durability:

It is hard to imagine peers piled to the roof on rickety scaffolding in 2023. Seven decades ago, though, George Lawn was a 17-year-old Life Guards trumpeter and one of the 100 or so men from the Household Cavalry Mounted Squadron at Knightsbridge tasked with testing the seating arrangements on one evening in April. ‘We had to clamber up inside, on to all this scaffolding where all the lords and ladies were going to sit,’ he tells me. ‘There were hundreds of soldiers all standing there on the scaffold and this Welsh Guards sergeant major down below said “When I say ‘Jump!’ jump up and down.” So there we were, half the British army jumping up and down. It didn’t matter if we were all killed to see if this thing was strong enough for all these lords and ladies to sit on.’

The Queen was crowned on a wet and cold day in early June. Not everyone’s June 4 was a grand one:

Major Hugh Cantlie was an Ensign in 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards, at Chelsea. On coronation day he was bearing the Queen’s colour and was lining the Mall with his back to St James’s. ‘A police horse had come down the Mall and laid its breakfast right in front of me,’ he says. ‘Then there was the cry “Princess Margaret is coming down!” She was leaving the palace to go to the abbey. We had to do a royal salute, so I then dragged the Queen’s colour through the steaming mound. Then at the recover I got most of the horse manure over my face. So that was my lasting memory of the day.’

His luck didn’t improve. ‘When it was all over it was beginning to rain a bit, so we were ordered to put on capes. I turned round to where they were all rolled up behind us in the gutter and some small boy had been sick on mine.’ In the evening he changed out of uniform and joined the mob outside.

Brigadier Parker Bowles remembers the sumptuous lunch after the ceremony and how much it meant, considering that rationing was still in place and would not be lifted until 1954:

Parker Bowles … was taken with other pages after the ceremony to the House of Lords where they were treated to ‘an amazing spread of food one had never seen before’, including bananas, oranges and coronation chicken.

‘One hadn’t been to many public occasions,’ he explains. ‘There were no parties after the war. [The coronation] was a whole new experience. We had nothing to judge it against.’ On the day of the coronation, the news reached Britain that the first men had successfully climbed Mount Everest. ‘As young boys that really struck us much more than anything else. It was such a new world.’

As young adults, Parker Bowles and Prince Charles mixed in the same social circle, although they did not know each other. The future brigadier went on to date Princess Anne before beginning a relationship with Camilla Shand in the early 1970s that led to marriage, children, then divorce. That said, both are still close friends, and he will be attending his second coronation.

The Stone of Scone returns to Westminster Abbey

The Stone of Scone (pron. ‘Scoon’ in this context) — the Stone of Destiny — arrived in London from Edinburgh Castle late last week.

Wings over Scotland has a photo of its ceremonial removal from the Castle, which involved a procession that included Scotland’s First Minister, the SNP’s Humza Yousaf. Yousaf is the Keeper of the Great Seal Of Scotland:

As such, his acquiescence was required for the Stone Of Destiny to be removed from Edinburgh Castle and transported to London for the coronation of King Charles III next week. Yousaf dutifully complied, and hung about awkwardly as the ancient symbol of Scotland’s sovereignty was carted off under the watchful eyes of men in gaily-coloured costumes to be stuffed back under Proud Edward’s throne.

Once it arrived in London, it was the job of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack, to guard the stone.

I wrote about the theft of the legendary stone that took place on Christmas Day 1950. It was hidden by independence-minded Scots in Scotland until 1952, when police returned it to Westminster Abbey. Prime Minister John Major officially had the stone returned to Scotland in 1996. The stone is said to have been Jacob’s pillow as he dreamt about the ladder to heaven (Genesis 28:10-19).

On April 29, The Telegraph reported that the Scottish Secretary was taking his responsibilities seriously:

Alister Jack, Scottish Secretary, is “standing guard” over the Stone of Destiny in London to make sure “nationalists don’t steal it again”, Tories have been told.

The UK minister addressed the Scottish Conservatives’ conference via video, with junior Scotland Office minister John Lamont appearing on stage to explain why his boss could not be there.

He told delegates at the conference that Mr Jack had been “unavoidably detained in London, standing guard over the Stone of Scone ahead of its central role in the King’s Coronation next week” …

The stone, which weighs 125kg, will be placed in the Coronation chair for the enthronement, before being returned to Scotland afterwards.

Mr Lamont said: “Alister is primarily making sure that nationalists don’t steal it again.

“But he is also making absolutely certain that the stone does come back to Scotland.”

Mr Jack, meanwhile, said he could not be in Glasgow for the Scottish Conservative conference because he had “an important job elsewhere helping to prepare for the coronation of His Majesty the King”.

In a video address he told the conference: “I hope you’ll agree that as excuses go, that one passes muster.”

Mr Jack went on to use his speech to attack the SNP, claiming Scotland’s ruling party “are not a serious party of government, they are simply a campaign organisation for independence”.

He said the SNP-Green administration at Holyrood “isn’t just misguided, it is totally incompetent”.

However, a number of Scots are unhappy that the Stone of Scone is back for the coronation.

Alex Salmond, former SNP MP and the current leader of the Alba Party, which is also pro-independence, voiced his displeasure.

This is a photo of the stone under guard at Edinburgh Castle ready for its departure:

The Spectator reported:

… witness Salmond’s bon mot on LBC a couple of days ago about the Stone of Scone (‘I know it’s just a lump of rock, but it’s our lump of rock’) which has a comforting directness that would never have come from either Sturgeon of Yousaf.

… Salmond is now it seems a new-style left-wing republican: as he said on TalkTV last week, ‘We’re in the 21st century, a democratic age, the monarchy is the pinnacle of a class system, and you’d want to sweep that away.’

… On Monday this week, following the less than dignified temporary transfer of the Stone of Scone from the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle to Westminster Abbey for the coronation, he dismissed Humza Yousaf as a ‘pet poodle’ for physically allowing it to leave and said that had he been in power he would have ordered Police Scotland forcibly to prevent the operation.

This was a one-off outburst, but it was clearly considered and it should worry us intensely. Police Scotland, constitutionally independent like any police force, takes operational orders from no one in government – not even the King can order it about. For Alex Salmond to suggest that a mere First Minister could or should have used that body to create a ‘stand-off’ preventing the Crown exercising the legal rights it has over the Stone of Scone is supremely irresponsible. Not only would this have put the police under political direction: it would also have risked possible violence and would have been hard to reconcile with its officers’ oaths to ‘faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable’ …

To his credit, Humza Yousaf has played this episode absolutely right. He has rightly called out this suggestion from Salmond as improper. And, staunch republican though he is, he will attend the coronation. For this at least the Scots have some reason to be grateful to him. Meanwhile they need to realise that, whatever the answer may be to the independence riddle, Alex Salmond and the Alba party have no decent claim to be part of it.

The coronation is a religious ceremony

Above all, the coronation is a religious ceremony, at least in the United Kingdom.

It is a covenant between God and the monarch, which is why it is hidden from public view. Previous monarchs had a canopy, held by four nobles. King Charles is likely to have a standalone screen hiding him from view:

Afterwards, an unspoken contract is created between the monarch and the people, whom he serves.

The former Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, wrote about the anointing ceremony for The Spectator, ‘The religious roots of the coronation’:

The Israelites asked for a king so that they could be ‘like all the nations’. Anointed monarchs have a long history but today the rites surrounding the British monarch are unique in Europe.

In the unwritten British constitution, while much of the ancient theatre has been preserved since the coronation of King Edgar the Peaceful in 973, the symbolism has changed. During the 19th century, effective power passed to ministers whose position depended on electoral success. As power was transferred elsewhere, however, the symbolic significance of the monarchy increased. Victoria’s reign was crucial in this respect and, often much against her personal tastes, she became a symbolic focus of loyalty surrounded by increasingly elaborate ceremonial events …

In the coronation of King Edgar, the central act was his anointing, and this will be the case on Saturday. Once again, as in 1953, this particular aspect of the ceremony will be shrouded to reflect its central significance and to set free the imagination. Behind the screen, in a very personal act of commitment, the King accepts his calling from God and receives the grace and power to fulfil his responsibilities

Anointing is a symbol of a profound spiritual truth. Much of contemporary life is centred on ‘choosing’, but beyond individual choice there is the realm of ‘calling’ in which a person accepts a servant role for the common good. Those who have followed this way, consciously or unconsciously, are on the way of Jesus Christ, who found life in all its fullness by losing himself and going beyond himself in loving service.

The continuation of a rite which has proved adaptable in very different cultural and political circumstances over 1,000 years serves to affirm some vital principles. We are part of a story and a land which we share with generations past and future. Contrary to the assumption that we should be free to devise and enact whatever the will of a majority of citizens at any particular time might desire, the moral legitimacy of government is derived from faithfulness to given principles of justice distilled from the experience of centuries. Coronations help to define eras, and to promote reflection on the character of the tapestry which we are weaving in partnership with those who have gone before.

The partnership evoked by coronations also involves generations to come. Our generation is not the sole possessor of our land and history. We are responsible for an inheritance on which we have a full repairing lease and a duty to pass it on intact.

The anointing requires the ancient coronation spoon, which was almost melted down during Cromwell’s Interregnum:

The Spectator tells us its history in ‘How the coronation spoon was saved’:

This particular spoon, undeniably, is a very special one: doubtless the world’s most important spoon, and certainly one of the most beautiful examples of that humble genus: silver-gilt, finely engraved with acanthus scrolls, decorated with pearls, and with its bowl strangely divided into two. It dates from the 12th century, and may have been used ever since Richard the Lionheart. It is the oldest piece of the coronation regalia.

After the Civil War the new republic melted everything down. The spoon alone was saved by a Mr Kinnersley, who bought it for 16 shillings – £3,000 today – and presented it to the restored Charles II. It holds the oil that anoints each sovereign (hence the divided bowl, for the archbishop’s two fingers), re-enacting the Biblical anointing of King Solomon by Zadok the Priest, in the ancient belief that monarchs were sacred and ruled in God’s name. France’s kings, indeed, enjoyed chrism brought down from heaven itself by a dove in the year 496 and used, wars and revolutions notwithstanding, until King Charles X in 1825. For King Charles III, the oil comes from olives in the Holy Land, consecrated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and its Anglican archbishop.

The article says that not every monarch was enamoured of the anointing ceremony or the spoon.


Whichever we choose to believe, it renews what Edmund Burke saw as a perpetual contract between the dead, the living and the yet unborn

The coronation ceremony, with all its mysteries and oddities, dates back before the Norman Conquest, and it is something that we can all – however diverse our backgrounds – choose to accept and celebrate as above and beyond our present discontents. If we wish our nation to be more than ‘UK plc’ or a chaos of resentful factions, we should welcome the thought that at its heart is something ancient, unique, even sacred. Not to be deified, but to be respected and cherished.

That seems as good a place as any to end this post.

I hope this will be informative to those planning on watching the coronation on Saturday. Please do tune in to GB News for excellent commentary on the history behind the ceremony.

Traditionalist doubts about the wisdom of King Charles’s plans for his coronation on May 6 are increasing.

Religious aspect

As I remember, in his accession oath last year, the King pledged to be the Defender of the Faith, instead of Defender of Faiths, as he had wished to say so many years ago.

However, on April 8, 2023, The Mail reported that the King was at loggerheads with senior Anglican clergy over the role that other faith leaders could play in his coronation (emphases mine):

It is already expected that the Coronation will be more religiously and culturally diverse than the late Queen’s 1953 service.

But The Mail on Sunday has been told that Church leaders are resisting a more active role for other faith leaders, given that it is an Anglican ceremony, as well as a constitutional event.

A compromise option could be for the King to hold a separate ceremony at which other faith leaders would play an active role.

In a joint message last month, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will officiate at the ceremony, and Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the Coronation ‘at its centre is a Christian service… rooted in long-standing tradition and Christian symbolism’.

According to a source, a meeting held at Lambeth Palace last month heard that the drafting of the order of service was led by Archbishop Welby and ‘conducted with scrupulous regard for the range of opinion among Anglican clergy’ …

The Archbishop is also understood to be giving the King ‘religious guidance’ on the significance of his oath, the commitments he will make to his subjects and the Christian symbolism of the regalia

The King, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is required by the Bill of Rights Act 1688, modified by the Accession Declaration Act of 1910, to declare at either his Coronation or at the first State Opening of Parliament that he is a ‘faithful Protestant’ and will ‘secure the Protestant succession’. 

In addition, the Coronation Oath Act of 1688 requires the King to declare he will maintain the established Anglican Protestant Church.

One source said Church laws meant that the participation of non-Christian faith leaders should be restricted to them just being present in Westminster Abbey and taking part in the procession.

On April 19, UnHerd posted an article urging the King to proceed with the traditional ceremony, ‘We non-Christians don’t need a “multi-faith” coronation’:

The coronation is, in formal terms, a solely religious ceremony. No legal power depends on being anointed. Despite concerns over the erosion of the religiosity of the coronation, the fact remains that placing oil blessed in Jerusalem on a monarch in imitation of the anointing of David, Solomon, and Christ is about as Christian as a ritual as can be. Indeed, just today it has been reported that the coronation procession will be headed by a cross made out of supposed relics from the cross on which Christ was crucified …

… Those of us who are not Christians are perfectly capable of appreciating the coronation on its own terms, without modification. While the meaning of the coronation is undoubtedly different for those of us who lack a relationship with Jesus, it is meaningful nonetheless. 

… Much of its significance comes from the fact that the King, obviously an Anglican, takes it seriously. By elevating the obligation to govern according to law into a perceived divine commandment, the coronation oath impresses upon the head of state the seriousness of their duty.

On December 24, 2022, The Express summarised the anointing ceremony, which is traditionally done under a golden canopy away from public view. The monarch removes his garb to don a simple white linen shirt to receive the oil from Jerusalem:

King Charles will be anointed with holy oil, receive the orb, coronation ring and sceptre, and be crowned with St Edward’s Crown, which was made for Charles II in 1661.

Afterwards, the canopy is lifted and the monarch reappears in full regalia.

Alleged invitation snubs

The aforementioned Mail article reported on likely snubs to nobles on Coronation Day:

Only about 2,000 guests and dignitaries are set to be invited – including more than 850 community and charity heroes – compared with the 8,000-plus peers and commoners who witnessed the 1953 ceremony …

However, disappointed MPs and peers can apply for up to 400 ‘pavement tickets’ to watch from outside the Commons as the procession passes to and from Westminster Abbey.

Lady Pamela Hicks

One of those snubbed, according to her daughter India, is Lady Pamela Hicks, herself related to the Royal Family and one of the late Queen’s ladies-in-waiting of long standing.

On April 19, The Mail reported:

She may have been in the shadow of Queen Elizabeth as her lady-in-waiting, but Lady Pamela Hicks has had a glittering life of her own as a relative of the royals.

The 94-year-old has experienced adventure, immense privilege but also tragedy, including the assassination of her father Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Moving in the Queen’s inner circles, she shared intimate moments with the Princess before she became monarch – being there to comfort her when she was informed of her father’s death and acting as a bridesmaid at her glamorous wedding.

Since the Queen’s death, Lady Pamela has become the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria, but it was revealed today has failed to receive an invitation to the Coronation of King Charles next month due to a guestlist based on ‘meritocracy not aristocracy’.

Lady Pamela was born five weeks early while her parents were on holiday in Morocco and Spain:

Born Lady Pamela Mountbatten, her unexpected and exciting arrival in 1929 was the start of her whirlwind life.

Her parents, Edwina Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten, had been on holiday in Algeciras and Morocco where Edwina had ridden a donkey while heavily pregnant.

Pamela was then born five weeks early at The Ritz Hotel in Barcelona which King Alfonso XIII had surrounded by the Royal Guard who arrested a doctor entering the hotel with equipment to help deliver the baby.

In her podcast, Pamela revealed that her parents ‘lost their minds for a moment’ and considered calling her Ritzy because of her place of birth.

Her father Lord Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s uncle – the younger brother of his mother Princess Alice of Battenburg – and Pamela became his first cousin. 

She was the younger of two children, with her older sister Patricia Knatchbull later inheriting the title of 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma. 

Pamela and Patricia also spent much of their young lives with sisters the Queen and Princess Margaret

After the abdication of Edward VIII and the crowning of their father as King, Pamela wrote in her diary: ‘Poor Lilibet and Margaret. They’ve got to go and live in Buckingham Palace.’

The article details Hicks’s life, which was interwoven with the Queen’s. Hicks was the widow of the famous British interior designer David Hicks, who died in 1998. They had three daughters.

India is her mother’s spokeswoman and announced that the Coronation Day invitation would not be forthcoming. Apparently, there are no hard feelings:

After the Queen’s funeral last year, India said her mother hoped to be one of the few people to have attended three coronations by attending the Coronation of King Charles III.

But she was informed on her 94th birthday that she had failed to receive an invitation to the ceremony which was to have a much smaller guestlist than that of the Queen’s in 1953.

‘One of the King’s personal secretaries was passing on a message from the King,’ her daughter India shared on social media.

‘The King was sending his great love and apologies, he was offending many family and friends with the reduced [guest] list.’

The palace official ‘explained that this Coronation was to be very different to the Queen’s’ in 1953, when thousands more squeezed into the Abbey.

‘Eight thousand guests would be whittled down to 1,000, alleviating the burden on the state.’

India, who is a goddaughter of King Charles and was a bridesmaid when he married Lady Diana Spencer, insists: ‘My mother was not offended at all.

”How very, very sensible,’ she said. Invitations based on meritocracy not aristocracy. ‘I am going to follow with great interest the events of this new reign’.’

Non-royal dukes also snubbed

Allegedly, some hereditary dukes have also been left off the Coronation Day invitation list.

The Express gives us the rank of nobility titles:

The ‘duke’ title stands as the highest-ranking hereditary title out of the five peerages.

In order, it is followed by marquess, earl, viscount and baron.

The article, dated April 15, states:

The King has snubbed a number of dukes by not extending an invite to them for his Coronation, taking place in three weeks’ time. In line with King Charles’s long-expected plan to slim down the monarchy, not all members of nobility have been invited.

the Duke of Rutland and Duke of Somerset have not even received an invite, according to reports.

One Duke who will be attending is the Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, who is also known as the Earl Marshal.

The Earl Marshal title means he is the highest ranking duke in the country – and is in charge of overseeing planning of the Coronation.

Richard Eden, of The Mail‘s Eden Confidential column, had more the day before, writing about the King’s:

… exclusion from the service in Westminster Abbey of most of the grandest aristocrats in the land, along with almost all their fellow hereditary peers. Even most of the 24 non-royal dukes – the most senior rank in the peerage – are not exempt from the cull …

Before going into more detail from the article, over 20 years ago The Spectator ran an informal series on how friendly and affable non-Royal dukes are. They are true gentlemen in every sense of the word, gracious to all, no matter whom.

It takes some doing to make them cross.

Now back to Eden Confidential and the dismay of the Duke of Rutland, head of the Manners family:

The Duke of Rutland, who lives in one wing of his 365-room family seat, Belvoir [pron. ‘Beaver’] Castle in Leicestershire, while his wife, Emma, lives in another, is one of the many dismayed and bewildered by their exclusion. ‘I have not been asked,’ he tells me, saying that he does ‘not really understand’ why. ‘It has been families like mine that have supported the Royal Family over 1,000 years or thereabouts,’ adds the Duke, who has two sons and three lively daughters, Lady Violet, Lady Alice and Lady Eliza Manners.

His own father, Charles, the 10th Duke, attended two coronations – Queen Elizabeth’s, at which, irked by a remark by Lord Mowbray about ‘upstart dukes’, he hid Mowbray’s coronet, and her father, George VI‘s, when the Manners family seemed to be everywhere. Charles and his younger brother, Lord John Manners, were Page of Honour to the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Ancaster, the Lord Great Chamberlain, respectively, while their mother was a canopy bearer for the Queen. Their father, John, the 9th Duke, ‘carried the orb in the procession into Westminster Abbey’, as Charles’s sister, Lady Ursula, later recalled.

This is what normally happens at a coronation after the anointing of the monarch — and what happened in 1953:

… not only did peers attend coronations, they were required to ‘give the kiss of homage and touch the Crown’ – a vestige of feudal allegiance to the monarch, for whom, it was implied, they would fight and, if necessary, die on the field of battle.

At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, a royal duke, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, took off his coronet, ascended the steps of the throne, knelt before the Queen, placed his hands between hers and ‘pronounced his words of homage’. He was followed by two more royal dukes, the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent.

Then it was the turn of the senior peer of each ‘degree’ – the duke, marquess, earl, viscount and baron with the oldest titles. As they ‘paid homage in like manner’, their fellow peers of the respective ‘degree’, knelt in their places in the Abbey, removed their coronets, and also said their words of homage.

The Duke of Somerset was also ready to attend:

Perhaps the disappointment will be even more acute for the Duke of Somerset. ‘He was sprucing up the family state coach,’ a chum tells me, adding that the Duke had entertained the idea of arriving in the Abbey in it. ‘He thought he might be invited, even if not all the dukes were, because his is the second oldest dukedom after Norfolk’s.’

Alas, it appears that the Duke of Somerset, whose title was created in 1547, is among those who have been discarded. After explaining to me a few weeks ago that he didn’t want to comment at ‘this stage’, he now declines to say anything at all.

Viscount Hereford is another model of discretion:

Robin Devereux, 19th Viscount Hereford … as premier viscount, might have expected to ‘pay homage’ on behalf of his fellow viscounts. He, too, declines to comment, but has, apparently, taken his exclusion in good heart. ‘He says he’s still waiting for his invitation,’ I’m told. ‘But he’s not upset about it. He knows that this is a new era.’

What a mistake for the King to make.

Eden Confidential contacted Buckingham Palace, to no avail:

A Buckingham Palace spokesman declines to comment, but a royal source insists that ‘a good representation of non-royal dukes will be in attendance’.

OK! says that anyone snubbed might be invited to attend a reception on Friday, the day before the coronation:

… for those not in attendance at Westminster Abbey, it has been claimed that Buckingham Palace has added a special Friday “reception” to King Charles III’s Coronation weekend plans for a select group of individuals.

The Friday event is said to cater for a group of VIPs, some of which won’t have received an official invitation to the main event the following day.

It will be interesting to see who shows up.

Late April Royal anniversaries

The Mail enumerates the number of Royal anniversaries that occurred this week, complete with historic photos and news clippings.

Princess Grace of Monaco

The non-British event was the marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Ranier in Monaco on April 18 (civil ceremony) and April 19 (wedding Mass) in 1956. She was 26 and he was 32. They spent the evening of April 18 apart as they were considered officially married only after Mass in St Devote Cathedral.

The Mail carried adverts for the home cook from Green’s: boxed Sponge Mixture and Carmelle custard powder.

Queen Elizabeth II’s birth

Our late Queen was born on April 21, 1926, in Bruton Street, Mayfair. She came into the world at 2:40 a.m. that day:

Then, her father, the future King George VI, was three years in to his marriage to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and the pair were looking forward to a life largely out of the public spotlight. 

But the course of the tiny princess’s life would be changed forever a little over a decade later, when her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in December 1936 so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson … 

She was born at at 17 Bruton Street in London’s Mayfair in what was the year of the General Strike.

A bulletin was issued to the Press the following day. It read: ‘The Duchess of York has had some rest since this arrival of her daughter. 

‘Her Royal Highness and the infant Princess are making very satisfactory progress’ …

The Bruton Street home belonged to Elizabeth’s Scottish grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

Her mother and father had moved into the house only weeks before her birth.

The property and its surrounding homes were demolished in the late 1930s and replaced with an office complex. 

Today, a Chinese restaurant stands near where 17 Bruton Street once stood.

The Mail of April 22, 1926, carried a front page splash of photos of mother and baby.

Adverts run along the right-hand column. Hyreco Dog Soap promised to ‘give your dog a treat!’ As Whitsun (Pentecost) was approaching, Blakey Morris & Co. advertised ‘WALLPAPERS FOR WHITSUN DECORATION’.

Queen’s 21st birthday speech

In 1947, Princess Elizabeth delivered her 21st birthday speech on the wireless (radio) during a tour of South Africa with her parents and Princess Margaret. The BBC also filmed the message to the British Empire and Commonwealth nations:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

She certainly did fulfil that pledge.

She ended with this:

‘Let us say with Rupert Brooke: “Now God be thanked who has matched us with this hour”.

Seven months after the speech, the Princess married Prince Philip at Westminster Abbey.  

As Queen, Her Late Majesty would undertake more than 200 visits to Commonwealth countries, demonstrating her devotion to royal service.

Launch of the Royal Yacht Britannia

On April 16, 1953, just under two months before her coronation, the Queen launched the Royal Yacht Britannia in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, with Prince Philip by her side:

The launch took place at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd …

… she told a huge crowd: ‘I name this ship Britannia. I wish success to her and to all who sail in her.’

Amid loud cheers, she then released a bottle of Empire Wine, which smashed on the side of the vessel.

A rendition of Rule Britannia then played as the ship entered open water. 

For the next 44 years, until the ship was retired by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1997, the Queen would use the yacht both as a beloved refuge and for official overseas tours.

At 412ft long and weighing nearly 6,000 tons, at the time of her launch the Britannia was the largest yacht in the world.

During the summer, the ship would travel to the Cowes Week regatta of the Isle of Wight, and then for the Royal Family’s annual holiday at Balmoral in Scotland.

She also carried out 968 official voyages, sailing more than a million miles. 

An advert at the bottom of the Mail’s page with photos of the launch says, ‘I shave like a Prince with Personna Precision Blades’. Another advert is for Palmolive Brushless Shaving Cream: ‘NEW AFTER-SHAVE COMFORT FOR YOU OR YOUR MONEY BACK’.

Those were much happier days, in retrospect.

Will we look back 70 years from now and say that these were, too?

After 16 months as Queen, Elizabeth II had her coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

This colourised version is approximately 90 minutes long and worth every second of viewing. We shall not see its like again:

It was a cold, damp day with temps only reaching the 50s in Fahrenheit. Interestingly, the weather on Sunday, June 5, 2022 — the day of local Platinum Jubilee street parties — was exactly the same. My better half and I walked down our high street, which was full of people, despite the chill, rain and wind.

The Queen’s coronation took a year to plan. Eight thousand people attended. By contrast, Charles III has issued only 2,000 invitations for his coronation on Saturday, May 6, 2023. The King says it is because of the cost of living. However, when his mother was crowned, the UK was still recovering from the Second World War and was in its last year of rationing, even though countries in continental Europe had ended rationing in the late 1940s! The UK still demanded wartime ID be carried at all times. It was around this time that a civilian whom police asked for ID refused to show it and took the Government to court. He won. That was the end of mandatory ID cards in times of emergency.

The Queen’s first year

In anticipation of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, on February 5, 2022, The Telegraph carried a retrospective: ‘The making of our Queen: the untold story of Elizabeth II’s first year on the throne’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

The story begins with her father’s lying in state and funeral:

The King’s lying-in-state at Westminster Hall attracted huge crowds. On the first day, 12 February 1952, close on 80,000 filed past the catafalque. Many had waited in queues the entire night. In the hours before dawn those without blankets stamped on the frosty pavement to keep warm. It was originally intended to close the doors at 10pm but such was the crush, it was 2am before the doors on the northern exit were shut behind the last of the mourners.

In all, over three days, some 300,000 people attended the lying-in-state. For those who were not eyewitnesses, a memorable account was provided by the radio commentary of Richard Dimbleby, an avuncular figure with a seductive delivery of carefully-modulated diction, whose mellifluous tones and overly reverential manner were thought to give royalty the required lustre. ‘They are passing, in their thousands,’ he said, ‘through the hall of history while history is being made.’

Two days later, on a cloudy and misty morning, a mile-long cortege began its journey from Westminster Hall to Paddington Station. In a carriage behind the coffin came the Queen, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and the Princess Royal, all in black, followed on foot by the four royal dukes – Edinburgh, Gloucester, Windsor and Kent – a study in contrasts. Artillery salutes of 56 guns were fired in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London. Big Ben rang 56 chimes, one for every year of the King’s life.

Though King George VI had a record of poor health, his death in February 1952 had come as a great shock. It was his valet, bringing him his morning cup of tea, who found him. He had died in his sleep, after a battle with lung cancer.

There could have been few more surprised by the sudden death than his eldest daughter. Princess Elizabeth and her husband of five years were shielded from the King’s last illness. On 6 February 1952, they were in Kenya at a state dinner during the first leg of a Commonwealth tour and the news of her father’s death was cabled to Government House in Nairobi the following morning.

After a delay in decoding the message (the codebook was locked in a safe and there was some difficulty in finding the key), Philip was told the news and it was he who consoled his wife as the couple walked together in the garden. The Queen did not break down or show any strong emotion but made a conscious effort to apologise to those around her for spoiling their visit to Kenya.

At that point, Elizabeth, aged 27, became Queen. She, Prince Philip and her entourage flew back to London.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill had met the young monarch only once, when she was two years old:

In 1928, after a visit to Balmoral, he told his wife Clementine that the Princess was ‘a character’ with ‘an air of authority… astonishing in an infant’.

As she grew up, George VI taught her about going through the Royal boxes carrying Government correspondence, something the monarch does daily. The Telegraph‘s article has a relevant picture of the two of them doing this in 1942.

Churchill met the Queen when she arrived in London:

She descended the passenger stairs in a brisk, businesslike manner: it was in her nature and her upbringing to put on a brave face.

If only we all did that, especially today.

Then came time for her Accession Declaration, which was held in private. King Charles’s was the first one to be televised.

The Queen then gave a radio broadcast to the nation:

she looked forward to her coronation for which she was preparing ‘with prayer and meditation’. She appealed to her audience to ‘Pray for me on the day. Pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making.’

The postwar economic situation came up in conversations about the coronation:

After six years of war, a heavily-indebted Britain was still struggling to adapt to a peacetime economy. As housing minister and soon to be contender for the party leadership [and, later, Prime Minister], Harold Macmillan noted in his diary: ‘There was general agreement that it should not be this year. This year the bailiffs may be in; the Crown itself may be in pawn.’

‘It’ll have a steadying effect next year,’ said Churchill. ‘Anyway it will beat the Festival of Britain.’ He had objected to the 1951 Festival as an exclusively civil affair with no role for the Commonwealth and Empire or for the armed forces. It was a stunted Britain on display, argued Churchill. He was not about to commit the same mistake with the coronation.

It should be noted that Labour’s Clement Attlee was Prime Minister at the time of the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951. Churchill became PM again in the general election of October that year.

Organising the coronation began, involving some of the same positions, i.e. the two Archbishops and the Duke of Norfolk, who, incidentally is Catholic:

In June 1952, a proclamation setting the date of the coronation on 2 June 1953 was signed by the Queen and posted publicly. At the same time, 42 members of the Privy Council were appointed to a Coronation Committee. Two royal dukes, Edinburgh and Gloucester, were supported by a dozen hereditary peers. The archbishops of Canterbury and York spoke for the Church of England while senior government ministers had the right of attendance along with spokesmen for the opposition parties.

The coronation was to be an almost exclusively upper class affair. Much time was spent on efforts protecting its dignity. Under the direction of Bernard Marmaduke Fitzalan-Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk and hereditary Earl Marshal, a souvenir committee sifted applications to produce officially recognised memorabilia. Among the approvals was a pennant with the royal cipher for cyclists and a home safe with a gilt lettered engraving promoting ‘Savings in the New Reign’. Sharp’s Toffee was granted permission to produce a tin with the Queen’s image on the lid. Of the rejects, the vote against crown embroidered knickers was unanimous.

Interestingly, members of the Coronation Committee were horrified when the BBC requested permission to film the coronation:

the official reaction was hostile. The Queen’s advisors were as one in warning of ‘an intolerable strain’ and that ‘no mistake could ever be rectified’. If there was to be television coverage, it had to be restricted to the procession into and out of the Abbey.

Churchill told the House of Commons: ‘It would be unfitting that the whole ceremony, not only in its secular but also its religious and spiritual aspects, should be presented as if it were a theatrical performance.’

By October 1952, Churchill had changed his mind:

The House of Commons was told of Churchill’s change of mind in late October. The prime minister promised that the cameras would in no way detract from ‘the utmost moral seriousness’ of the occasion.

Little did Churchill know that in the run up to the coronation, a spike in purchases of first-time television sets would occur across the nation. Back then, the screens were small. Nonetheless, many families opened their homes to neighbours, especially children, who were able to see television for the first time. Those who saw the coronation never forgot it.

As preparations took place, the Queen Mother dominated activity at Buckingham Palace:

Elizabeth was not short of advice on how to prepare for the great day. The strongest influence on her (much to her husband’s irritation) was that of the Queen Mother, who had strong views on everything and who found it hard to take a back seat.

The young Queen was seemingly accustomed to handling her duties as a monarch and mother:

Elizabeth was well practised in royal functions. A councillor of state since the age of 18, she was familiar with state papers and had acted on behalf of her father when he was unavailable. It is unlikely that the Queen’s children, Charles and Anne, noticed any great difference in their own lives. With nannies to care for them and with their parents often absent from home, they were semi-detached from the main action.

Coronation rehearsals began on May 14, 1953. They were held daily:

In her private quarters in Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth practised her role ‘attached to sheets tied together to mimic her 13ft train’. Four months had been spent on finding new make-up for the Queen. The beauticians had eventually settled for a peach-tinted foundation and a lipstick to tone with the purple robes of state.

As the coronation drew near, the media indulged in an orgy of royal gossip set against an historical backdrop. When the precise significance of the sword, the sceptre and the orb had been exhausted and there was nothing more to say about the 38 earlier coronations since the Norman Conquest, a note of desperation entered the daily commentary. That St Edward’s Crown was roughly equal to the weight of Debrett’s Peerage while the Imperial State Crown was heavier than Who’s Who was followed by the revelation that ‘Her Majesty is not one of the light breakfasters. She likes to follow her fruit juice with a substantial dish of bacon and eggs.’

In her later years, breakfast became a bowl of cereal accompanied by toast. The Queen and Prince Philip had breakfast together, serving themselves cereal from Tupperware containers.

As Coronation Day neared, people from all over the UK erected bunting, banners and signs on their homes. The Telegraph has a photo showing one street display. I rather doubt we will see such visual enthusiasm outside of bunting this time around.

London became a nexus of national enthusiasm:

The sheer splendour of an occasion gave a much needed injection of confidence and hope to a beleaguered nation. A film of the procession route three days before shows crowds camping out 12 deep on both sides of the Mall. By coronation eve, some 30,000 were bedded down.

The Underground started at 3am and buses began bringing more spectators into the coronation area at 4.30am. They came equipped with spirit stoves, stools, blankets and tinned food. Portable radios and wind-up gramophones helped to pass the time. London’s buskers – dancers, acrobats, singers – worked all hours.

This is how Coronation Day began at Westminster Abbey:

The doors at Westminster Abbey opened at 6am for the first guests to take their places. They huddled together against the chill. Foreign royals and other overseas dignitaries followed after 8.30am. Though most went unrecognised by onlookers they were all given a hearty cheer.

The excitement mounted with the procession into the Abbey led by royal chaplains followed by a host of all that was esoteric in the orders of chivalry, the Royal household, the Commonwealth prime ministers, Sir Winston Churchill looking distinctly grumpy in the Tudor vestments worn by Knights of the Order of the Garter, and the senior clerics of the Church of England. The four-year-old Prince Charles, in tow with his nanny, entered by a side door to sit between the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Proudly, he announced that he was wearing his father’s hair oil. Anyone who showed an interest was invited to take a sniff.

By 11am the full congregation of 8,000 was squeezed into the Abbey and 15 minutes later the Queen arrived in the Gold State Coach, magnificent to look at but a byword for discomfort. At her side was her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet. Across the country 20 million television viewers, many of them sharing sets with friends and neighbours, were tuned in to freckled screens.

The greatest royal show ever, almost certainly never to be repeated, was about to begin – and those who had spent the best part of a year in planning this once-in-a-lifetime event could be forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief.

King Charles remembers

This short retrospective video begins with the Coronation. In it, King Charles recalls that, in the weeks before the ceremony, the Queen wore the magnificent St Edward’s crown when she kissed him good night. It is very heavy and she needed to wear it at length so that she got used to the weight of the Imperial State Crown, which she wore at the coronation. Later, she wore it only for state occasions, e.g. the State Opening of Parliament:

On March 11, 2023, The Telegraph‘s Royal Editor Victoria Ward told us ‘How mischievous Prince Charles “got his paws” on the crown at his mother’s coronation’. The article is accompanied by a photo of him, between the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, looking decidedly bored.

However bored he was, he made history:

The four-year-old boy, dressed in a white silk shirt and white suit, became the first child to witness his mother’s coronation on June 2, 1953.

Prince George will be the next child to follow in those footsteps:

Fast forward 70 years, and Prince George will watch from almost the same spot, as his grandfather returns to Westminster Abbey for his own turn

The nine-year-old future king, who is likely to be accompanied by both of his siblings, is expected to be given an official role at the ceremony.

He will also be the first future king to attend his grandfather’s coronation since Edward VIII and George VI in 1902.

Returning to King Charles and his mother’s coronation:

In the years since Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, Charles has described his memories of the day, which he watched with rapt attention before turning first to his aunt, Princess Margaret, and then his grandmother, the Queen Mother, apparently plying them with questions.

Lady Moyra Campbell, one of the late queen’s six ladies in waiting, would later recall: “We heard the Queen Mother whispering to him, telling him what was happening. He behaved impeccably. It was a lovely moment.”

Having received a special, hand-painted invitation designed especially for him and adorned with marching soldiers, the young Charles was spirited into Westminster Abbey by his nanny, Helen Lightbody, to witness the moment of his mother’s crowning.

After communion, he was taken “silently and unobtrusively from the church”, according to reports from the time.

It was likely not a moment too soon for the young Charles, who was pictured looking more than a touch bored during the ceremony, eyes glazed and face resting dejectedly on his fist.

On the royal party’s return to Buckingham Palace, the young prince was in his element, running up and down the corridors with his two-year-old sister, Princess Anne, who was deemed too young to attend the ceremony. He also sported his first medal, struck specifically for the coronation.

Lady Moyra laughed as she recalled in 2012: “He was wearing his father’s hair lotion to smooth his hair and we had to sniff it and admire it.”

Years later, Charles had seemingly forgotten such joy, telling his biographer that he had been annoyed that the Palace barber had cut his hair too short and plastered it with “the most appalling gunge”.

At one point, the young prince caught sight of the Imperial State Crown, which weighs more than 1kg and is adorned with 2,901 precious stones, including the Cullinan II diamond.

Lady Anne Glenconner, another maid of honour, would later recall: “Prince Charles got his paws on it, however old he was, when we got back to Buckingham Palace.

“Because [the Queen] took it off, put it on a table, and Prince Charles made a beeline for it. And we thought he was going to drop it. We thought, ‘Oh my goodness, that would be a bad omen‘. But luckily, I think my mother, as a lady-in-waiting, seized it from him and took it away.”

Meanwhile, as the Queen posed for official photographs with the Duke of Edinburgh, Charles and Anne played up by covering their faces with their hands.

The young monarch put a hand on Charles to settle him down, before Cecil Beaton’s shutter came down.

Charles later described watching his young mother practising ahead of the coronation with the heavy St Edward’s crown. 

“I remember my Mama coming, you know, up, when we were being bathed as children, wearing the crown. It was quite funny – practising,” he said.

Previously, young Princess Elizabeth wrote down her memories of George VI’s coronation at his request:

Queen Elizabeth had been in a similar position 16 years earlier, when as a young 11-year-old Princess she was present to watch her own father, George VI, crowned on May 12, 1937.

Having been thrust unexpectedly onto the throne when his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated, George wanted his daughter to feel more prepared for her own coronation day and so asked her to record her memories.

“It was very valuable,” the Queen later acknowledged.

Her recollections of the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, scrawled neatly in red pen in a child’s exercise book, have since been preserved in the Royal Archives.

The title page reads: “To Mummy and Papa, In Memory of Their Coronation. From Lilibet, by Herself.”

She wrote: “We sat down and waited for about half-an-hour until Mummy’s procession began. Then came Papa looking very beautiful in a crimson robe and the Cap of State.

“I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did too.

“The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.”

The young princess said the music was “lovely” and the orchestra played “beautifully”.

However, she admitted that towards the end the service “got rather boring as it was all prayers”.

“Grannie (Queen Mary) and I were looking to see how many more pages to the end, and we turned one more and then I pointed to the word at the bottom of the page and it said ‘Finis’. We both smiled at each other and turned back to the service,” she wrote …

The Queen later admitted in a 2018 BBC documentary that she could remember her father’s coronation “much better” than her own.

“Because I wasn’t doing anything, I was just sitting there,” she said, before adding with just a touch of pride: “I’ve seen one coronation and been a recipient in another, which is pretty remarkable.”

Whether George will be spotted taking his own notes at his grandfather’s Coronation in May remains to be seen, but he will most likely have the good fortune of attending two coronations before his own big day, whenever that arrives.

Religious ceremony

On June 2, 2022, at the beginning of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee four-day weekend, the Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell wrote about the religious aspects of the coronation for The Telegraph, ‘The Queen’s Christianity is the lens through which she views the world’:

Amid all the pomp, pageantry and pleasure the Platinum Jubilee brings, it is easy to forget that, at its heart, the Queen’s Coronation nearly 70 years ago was a religious event.

While television cameras may have been granted access to Westminster Abbey that day, one moment was hidden from public view.

Her Majesty was anointed with oil and afforded a time of stillness and reflection before God. She was also given a Bible by Archbishop Fisher and reminded that scripture is “the most valuable thing this world affords”.

Geoffrey Fisher was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, and was alongside Her Majesty as she prepared for the spiritual journey that lay ahead. One of the treasures in the Lambeth Palace library is the book of devotions that he prepared and presented to her all those years ago. It includes prayers, passages of scripture and daily meditations.

For Her Majesty, the Coronation was an intimate encounter between a monarch and her God, a moment where the Queen would be called by name and given a lifelong vocation.

It marked a moment at which her personal relationship with Christ met the national events and public moments that remind us that this country, its laws and customs and culture, is shaped by the Christian faith …  

This is a discipleship that, gently but truly and generously, makes the love of Christ and the care of God known. Quite simply, she could not be as she has been without her faith in Christ.

In Archbishop Fisher’s book of private devotions, the first prayer he gave the Queen to consider was Psalm 25:3-4: “Shew me they ways, O Lord: and teach me thy paths. Lead me forth in thy truth, and learn me: for thou art the God of my salvation; in thee hath been my hope all the day long.”

This prayer, which Her Majesty prayed 70 years ago, is still as relevant today, and as a Christian I too take great comfort in it as I seek to follow in the way of Christ. It is, indeed, a calling for all of us.

Nineteen copies of the Archbishop’s devotions were printed. The devotions covered the month leading up to Coronation Day. He signed the books Geoffrey Cantuar (Latin for Canterbury):

I have much more to write about the Queen’s coronation.

More to follow tomorrow.

Since the coronavirus pandemic abated, being able to attend church every Sunday is a joy to millions of Christians who were locked out of their churches during the second quarter of 2020.

Three years on, and the memory of not being able to observe Easter, the greatest feast of the Church year, in our houses of worship, still evokes sharp and sad memories, as can be seen in one of the The Conservative Woman‘s Easter 2023 posts, ‘The Easter message of “Say no to lockdown”‘ and its many comments.

Here is but one exchange from the comments (emphases mine below).

The initial comment reads:

There can be no real healing in the church until the hierarchy admit closing their doors was an awful thing to do. A Light in the darkness? Not in March 2020 they weren’t. They were a particularly bad darkness because they should have offered Christians solace but instead they were a part of the machine.

They must publicly repent, promise it will never happen again and that like Pastor Artur Pawlowski [in Canada] they will all go to prison sooner than obey such unjust laws.

Of course they will do no such thing, any more than the Cabinet ministers of the time will admit to being wrong, because God is not their real master.

The reply reads:

Worse than that, they kept those doors closed tight at Easter. That was the biggest sin. It wasnt just one denomination either, it was all the churches. That put all congregations into isolation. There was nowhere to meet as the strict house arrest policy of the time ensured it ( no one could meet up with another – remember that?). Together with the police arresting people for trying to buy Easter Eggs or lipstick or even just wearing a skirt to go for a walk. (Edit, only if you were a woman though).

The worst was, of course that Bozo Bojo didn’t even order churches to close. They put themselves amongst the “Non-essential services”. The fat controller had, at the time, excluded them.

When I look around, it seems to me that it was that which killed Christianity. The locking of people out of the House of God and the isolating of people so that “Church” in any guise (defined as where two or more gather together, in my name, there will I be also) could not operate.
Jesus may have risen but from 2020 onwards, the church was well and truly crucified and buried. They no longer even seem to hold true to the faith.

(I note that mo ques did not close. They carried on it seems. Quietly and no one said anything).

In late May 2020, the Church Times published a survey questionnaire to assess British Anglicans’ views of locked churches. I wrote about it on June 8 that year.

In 2021, the results were posted online. On October 8 that year, Cambridge University Press published Ursula McKenna’s ‘Assessing the Church of England’s Leadership Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic: Listening to the Voice of Rural Lay People’ in the Journal of Anglican Studies.

Excerpts follow, beginning with this section from the abstract:

Of the 1460 rural lay people in England who took part in the Coronavirus, Church & You survey, 501 wrote further (sometimes detailed) comments on the back page (34 per cent participation rate). This study analyses the comments made by a subsection of these 501 rural lay people, specifically the 52 participants who voiced their views on how the Church of England’s leadership responded during the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic … Overall, rural lay people were disappointed with the response of church leadership to the first national lockdown. If these churchgoers are to be fruitfully reconnected with their churches after the pandemic, then leadership of the Church of England may need to hear and to take seriously their concerns.

The introduction gives us the directive from the Church of England the day after Boris Johnson imposed lockdown on Monday, March 23, 2020. However, as the comment above states, Boris did nothing about churches.

The Church of England did on Tuesday, March 24. This was part of the C of E’s statement:

The archbishops and bishops of the Church of England have written collectively to clergy through their dioceses, urging them now to close all church buildings – other than when they are needed to keep a food bank running, but even then under strict limits. There will be no church weddings until further notice, funerals will not take place inside church buildings and the only baptisms will be emergency baptisms in a hospital or home.Footnote 2

The introduction continues:

Private prayer, including by priests, was no longer permitted in church buildings (churches were subsequently allowed to open for private prayer from 13 June 2020 and for congregational worship from 4 July 2020) …

A report published by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture (CSCC), Churches, Covid-19 and Communities: Experiences, Needs and Supporting the Recovery, Footnote 6 lists a range of surveys and studies carried out by Christian organizations, other faith groups and non-faith organizations in just the first 12 months of the pandemic, all expressing a number of common concerns and difficulties.Footnote 7 Research carried out by CSCC,Footnote 8 which included surveys at three different points in time alongside qualitative interviewing, looked at three areas related to the closure of churches: the effects on the provision of social care, the exacerbation of the impact of Covid on individual and community well-being, and the impact of closure on the experience of grief and loss. Data from over 5500 respondents (mostly over the age of 60 and from rural villages or towns) who self-identified as ‘church leaders’, ‘church members’, and ‘general public’ provide evidence of responses reflecting ‘deep frustration and anger about closure of churches’,Footnote 9 with many church leaders and members expressing ‘frustration at the limitations on their ability to serve communities’.Footnote 10

Another survey undertaken during the first national lockdown and from which the present study draws its data, the Coronavirus, Church & You survey, was designed to address a range of discrete but interrelated issues arising from the pandemic, from the national lockdown, and from the Church’s national lock-up of churches. This survey has already been prolific in publishing its quantitative data

Both the CSCC reportFootnote 22 and an earlier report by Nye and LobleyFootnote 23 draw attention to the perceptions of churchgoers in respect of national church leadership during the pandemic. The study by Nye and LobleyFootnote 24 draws on data from 288 Christians, the majority of whom were over 55 years of age, 57.5 per cent were Anglican and half resided in villages …

older churchgoers aged 70 or over held a less positive attitude toward the national leadership. While 42 per cent of those under 60 considered that their denomination at the national level had responded well to the crisis, the proportion fell to 36 per cent of those aged 70 or over. While 43 per cent of the younger group considered that their denomination at the national level had done a good job of leading us in prayer, the proportion fell to 36 per cent in the older group.Footnote 28

The research aims section says:

It is against this background that the present study will draw on data collected as part of the Coronavirus, Church & You surveyFootnote 29 focusing on the views and experiences of lay people either living in rural areas or worshipping in rural churches, and exploring their perceptions of national church leadership during the first four months of the Covid-19 pandemic. While existing surveysFootnote 30 have highlighted national church leadership as an issue of concern, the current study will add detail to that concern by focusing more fully on identifying those aspects of national church leadership that rural lay people perceived to be most salient

The Coronavirus, Church and You survey offered space for additional comments:

If you would like to write about your experiences in your own words, you can do so here, or include anything that we had not asked that you think we should have included.

The Cambridge assessment is based on those replies.

Most of those responses were negative:

Analysis of these data identified ten themes, including: lacking quality leadership, comparing with other Churches, becoming irrelevant, centralizing action, closing rural churches, neglecting rural people, neglecting rural clergy, marginalizing rural communities, using the kitchen table [in worship videos], and looking to the future.

Nearly everyone responding was over 50. I reckon that is because only older people bother to read carefully anymore, i.e. to discover there was more to the survey.

Excerpts follow:

I just think there should have been regular national encouragement and care from the Bishops of York and Canterbury. They appear to have been very quiet in the crisis rather than leading. (Male 50s)

Embarrassing lack of leadership from the Archbishops. Unsurprising, but embarrassing, nonetheless. (Female 50s)

Nationally the Church of England has seemed to be wholly absent at a time when the voice of the Church should have been transmitted loud and clear…. From my perspective there seems to have been a wholesale failure of leadership. The previous very high regard that I had for Archbishop Welby has evaporated. Where has he been? (Male 60s)

The opportunity should have been taken to take space within national newspapers to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. That this has not been done is a disgrace. The C of E does not deserve to survive and probably won’t. (Male 70s)

I feel quite angry that our archbishops, our diocesan bishop and local clergy have just meekly acquiesced to churches being closed … and aren’t agitating to have them re-opened. (Female 70s)

Some respondents made comparisons with other denominations:

When making these comparisons, the visibility and response of the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, was frequently singled out as a contrast to the leadership actions of the Church of England which was viewed as timid and as showing a lack of courage or determination.

Responses follow:

The Roman Catholic Church seem to have done a better job and it is interesting that media seem to have mainly been interested in what the Roman Catholic Church, or humanists, have to say, rather than the Church of England, since it has closed churches and ‘retreated’. (Male 50s)

The leadership provided at the top of the C of E during the pandemic has been pusillanimous. I am giving serious thought to joining our local URC [United Reformed Church, i.e. Methodists and Congregationalists]. (Male 70s)

Above all, the C of E had a golden opportunity to give prayerful leadership and was found lacking: the most inspirational, heartfelt and genuine words of spiritual comfort and belief have come from The Queen, not her churchmen. (Female 60s)

Some people said the C of E was becoming irrelevant as a result:

In the pandemic, the majority of the hierarchy of the C of E have yet again demonstrated their inability to understand the needs of humanity in pastoral as well as spiritual aspects. Closing churches … playing with online liturgies and generally avoiding most of the social and economic issues facing humankind (now highlighted by the pandemic). It is no surprise the C of E continues to decline/become irrelevant as it retreats to its ivory towers! (Male 60s)

The church, both nationally and locally, has become increasingly irrelevant during lockdown. It has failed to inspire, lead, nurture and care. Others, such as Captain Tom and Joe Wickes have captured the nation’s hearts. The church has done nothing worthy of note apart from complain about lost income. (Male 50s)

Others were unhappy about the top-down approach:

Clergy and congregations should have been trusted to act sensibly, given their local circumstances, within the broad national guidelines, ‘One size fits all’ was neither necessary nor appropriate. (Male 70s)

As a church warden and regular churchgoer I did not feel that the church hierarchy gave us good spiritual support during the lockdown. Also, too many Bishops who don’t appear to care for the grass roots of the Church. (Female 70s)

I am very disappointed with the leadership of the National Church, and I feel they have lacked courage, vision and faith in their incredibly slow reactions to the virus situation. At parish level we have done well, but no thanks to the diocese upwards! (Female 30s)

I have been deeply frustrated by the communications from central church (mostly nationally but also regionally) which have had a lot of ‘can’t do’, often presented in an unhelpful way rather than allowing for each parish to make decisions based on their local practicalities and local needs. (Female 60s)

 There was a distinct impression that the C of E was more about social care than worship:

Disappointing church leaders didn’t debate whether churches were an essential service, when bike shops, garages, hardware stores etc were regarded as ‘essential’. (Male 70s)

I am outraged that the church authorities seem to have made no defence of the importance of worship. Popping to the shop for milk or a trip to the garden centre seem to have been deemed a higher priority than religious practice, and I have seen no evidence that the bishops disagree with that assessment. It has been disgraceful. (Male 30s)

Anglican Church overreacted by closing church buildings completely. This reinforced a sense that the church is now behaving as not much more than an extension of social care. (Male 60s)

Some pressed the need for individuals, even non-believers, to enter a church at a crucial time:

People in rural villages who are not churchgoers often perceive the parish church as ‘their’ church and may well not appreciate being locked out of it, particularly when they may feel a need for private devotion or prayer. (Male 70s)

I feel let down by the Church. Church leaders have at no time shown any interest in finding ways to open churches…. There is dismay within the non-church going community that the focal point of our village is closed at a time when it might have attracted more interest in communal worship. (Male 70s)

As churchwardens many of us could have supervised a couple of hours a day in our churches or more in some cases to allow people in, to light candles and pray while cathedrals are staffed and could have continued to open for individual prayer. To be allowed to go to off licences and supermarkets but not to church has been wrong. (Female 60s)

I am furious that the buildings have actually been locked. The shops are open so why did the C of E feel it necessary to lock churches? The Church has turned its back on the needs of those who mourn, the ill, and the dying at the very time when the Church was most needed. I have a terminal condition and am unable to go to the place where I find peace – I feel utterly abandoned. (Female 70s)

I feel so sad … and that the Church hierarchy seemed to step back from its flock, a missed opportunity to be a Presence in a time of great need. Feel let down. (Female 60s)

As an organist, I am particularly annoyed about the closure of our church buildings …. Early on in the lockdown, the Prime Minister said that you could travel to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, which, I believe, means that if I need to use the organ to practise a piece of music I am learning for a future event, I should be allowed to do so. However, the Church of England went one step further than the Government’s advice and prohibited this possibility for me. I am also subsequently disappointed that, rather than appearing to lead the Church and wider community in spirituality and prayer through Holy Week and Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury instead chose to spend time defending these actions at what is the most important season of the Church’s year. (Male 30s)

The decision to ban priests from their own churches was simply wrong. It was understood as a firm directive and the Archbishop’s attempt to finesse it later by saying that it was simply ‘guidance’ was unworthy. (Male 60s)

Some found Justin Welby’s use of his kitchen table in an Easter worship video unsettling. I fully agree:

Why on earth did the Archbishop of Canterbury celebrate Easter in his kitchen, when there is a chapel in Lambeth Palace? Did he think he was being matey and ‘down to earth’? No sense of spirituality. The Last Supper took place in an Upper Room, not Martha and Mary’s kitchen! (Female 70s)

And as for the Easter service from Archbishop Welby’s kitchen, I thought it trivialised one of the most important festivals in the church’s calendar – why couldn’t he alone have conducted that ‘service’ from a church? (Female 70s)

The Church of England has also not covered itself with any glory here either – hiding away in their kitchens trying to avoid any kind of blame as their major assets, their focal points around which their communities coalesce – the churches remain closed. Their priests barred from entering!!! (Male 60s)

Despite their scorn for the C of E leadership, respondents separated the C of E from their personal Christian faith:

My faith in Almighty God, our Creator, remains strong and firm, no thanks to the Church of England letting us down very badly, acting in an unnecessarily fearful and cautious manner – no trust in God that all will be well. In other words, when put to the test they failed. (Female 60s)

The assessment concludes:

Three conclusions emerge from these data analyses.

The first conclusion is that the rural lay people themselves took seriously the invitation and the opportunity offered by the back page of the quantitative survey. One third of the rural lay people (34 per cent) who participated in the survey took additional time to respond to the invitation …

The second conclusion is that the comments afforded rich additional insights into the theme of national church leadership among a sample of rural lay people. The themes identified by the analyses suggest that for this group of rural lay people these issues are important both for them personally and for the church. It is clear that these rural lay people were disappointed and frustrated with decisions taken at this time. In particular, they voiced concern about both the lack of any visible leadership, together with leadership that merely acquiesced to government policy as opposed to publicly challenging or asserting alternatives to that policy. The closure of churches was particularly hard to accept. This was seen as a managerial rather than a spiritual response

… These data suggest that some churchgoers are becoming increasingly exasperated with the way in which they are being treated.

The third conclusion is that systematic attention given to the qualitative comments on the back page of quantitative surveys may be of proper benefit in shaping future research among churchgoers. The proper blend of qualitative and quantitative methods clearly enriches the science of congregation studies.

This was a useful study, particularly if, heaven forfend, this ever happens again. Will the C of E learn? I wonder.

Giotto Wikipedia 220px-Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-19-_-_Presentation_at_the_TempleThe feast of Candlemas — the presentation of Jesus at the temple — is February 2.

However, a number of Anglican churches designated Sunday, February 5, 2023, as Candlemas.

Pictured at left is Giotto’s representation of the event, with Simeon holding the Christ Child and Anna the prophetess on his right.

Candlemas always falls on February 2, because it is, in the Church calendar, the 40th day after Jesus’s birth. According to Jewish law (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15), Mary would have had to complete her ritual purification prior to accompanying Joseph and Jesus to the Temple. The presence of the infant Jesus, although circumcised and formally named (January 1), was required so that the priests could conduct the ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn. In those days, Mary and Joseph would also have brought an animal sacrifice. They could only afford a pair of turtledoves.

As the Holy Family had to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem on foot, it would have probably taken them three days one way. Therefore, it was no light undertaking.

Luke tells us that there were two holy, elderly people present: Simeon and Anna (Hannah, in Hebrew). Simeon’s prayer over Jesus became the Nunc Dimittis (or Canticle of Simeon). It can be found in Luke 2:22-40:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: to be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

You can read more about Candlemas here.

Simeon and Anna the prophetess are the focal points in Luke’s account.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit moved through Simeon, a devout man who had no time for worldly religion or temporal deliverance. He was, in the traditional Jewish sense of the term, ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, the Messiah. Luke describes Simeon as ‘righteous’, meaning ‘right with God’ (verse 25).

Indeed, Simeon was so close to God that the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until he saw the Son of God (verse 26).

You can read more about Simeon here and here.

When Anna heard Simeon’s prayer, she knew that this infant was the Messiah.

Luke describes Anna as a prophetess. She is unlikely to have received divine revelation directly. It is more probable that she was a lay minister for women, either teaching them or praying with them. She would have had no teaching authority over men.

Anna lived at the temple and was known for her holiness. She spoke of God and Scripture, little else. She was a widow for most of her life and might have been a lay minister to women.

You can read more about her here. Anna was one of six prophetesses in the Bible. You can read about them here.

Our church was one of many Anglican churches that kept their Nativity scenes up past Christmas. Candlemas, or the Sunday when it is celebrated, is the very last day to see them until they reappear on Christmas Eve.


Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday.

Before June 2022, the last time an ordination was shown on British television was when the first female Anglican priests were ordained in 1994.

I did not cover this at the time, as Boris stood down as Conservative Party leader. The news onslaught surrounding the contest for his successor, Liz Truss, lasted for the rest of the summer. Then the Queen died, sadly. It was not long after that when Truss had to stand down to make way for Rishi Sunak.

Having been refused ordination by the Church of England, Calvin Robinson was ordained a deacon on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at Christ Church Harlesden, a Free Church of England parish in north west London which is part of GAFCON:

The Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans — GAFCON — is a global network of conservative Anglican churches that formed in 2008 in response to an ongoing theological crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Thankfully, they took in their brother Calvin and recognised his calling:

GB News was on hand to film the ceremony and broadcast it that weekend:

Calvin’s GB News colleagues offered their heartfelt congratulations, such as the Conservative life peer Baroness Foster:

Some of his colleagues attended the ceremony …

… and stayed for lunch afterwards:

Those who were unable to attend also sent their best wishes. Every one of them recognised the CofE’s rejection of a godly man called to Holy Orders:

Always evangelising, whether indirectly or, as is the case here, directly, Calvin never misses out an opportunity to exhort people to experience the truth and light of Christ Jesus, as he did with GB News contributor Dominique Samuels:

Other conservative media personalities who are Calvin’s friends also offered their congratulations for his ministry, such as the Reform Party leader Richard Tice …

… and Margaret Thatcher’s former aide Nile Gardiner:

Calvin’s friends from his radio days also wished him well:

Politicians also chimed in, from former London Assembly member and Conservative candidate for Mayor of London (2021) Shaun Bailey …

… and Conservative MP Steve Baker, who has not hesitated to mention his own faith in House of Commons debates:

I’ll leave the closing word to the head of the conservative think tank The Bow Group. Ben Harris-Quinney discusses choosing principle over power and achieving both:

As Calvin replied:

For the greater glory of God!


The Revd Calvin Robinson has his own GB News show every Sunday at 2 p.m.

He also appears as a contributor on several other of the channel’s programmes throughout the day and evening.

May God’s grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit continue to guide Calvin in his ministry for Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate:

Deo gratias! Thanks be to God!

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June 2023
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