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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!


As Platinum Jubilee celebrations were just about to start one year ago, it seemed apposite for me to continue to remember the Queen.

Yesterday’s post pointed out that she was the most portrayed person in all of history.

Although the Queen led a charmed life for all her 96 years, she had a sense of Royal duty from the time she was 10 years old when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated.

On September 8, 2022, Politico had an interesting obituary with specially commissioned portraits of the late monarch. Given that Politico is not at all associated with love of the monarchy, the portraits were sensitively done.

Excerpts follow from the article, emphases mine.

Regal silence

There is no question that the Queen’s demeanour helped her to make her 70 years as Head of State dignified and memorable. She was:

a revered figure who donned crowns, opened parliaments and asked people who they were and what they did at garden parties. It was she who stared out Mona Lisa-like from banknotes and who became head of state to 150 million people, from Papua New Guinea to Canada, and one of the most famous people of her time …

Lauded globally — she stood alongside the Dalai Lama and the pope as one of those rare definite articles who seemed to be above scrutiny. So much so that even die-hard republicans would temper their calls for an end to the monarchy by saying: “But the queen has done a fantastic job.”

She succeeded at that job, in no small part, by making a virtue out of silence. She stubbornly refused to be interviewed, examined or subjected to scrutiny. While younger royals broke the fourth wall of monarchy, the queen remained quiet and immutable.

Indeed, it was by keeping her official alter ego as vague as the unwritten British constitution, and her private persona hidden away altogether, that Elizabeth II became the most successful sovereign since Victoria, bringing relevance to a feudal institution that was 200 years past its sell-by date.

But because of that, in writing the story of her life, it is almost impossible to find out who she really was beneath the hats and robes and jewels.

The queen was an abstraction: a role, like any other — and it was the person behind her, Elizabeth Windsor, who expertly played the part

This is the life of Elizabeth Windsor.

Life at 145 Piccadilly

Politico tells us of Princess Elizabeth’s birth:

She was born by caesarean section on April 21, 1926, to her mother, also Elizabeth, the Duchess of York. As was then the custom, the Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks, was present — just in case she was swapped for someone who was not of royal birth. 

As Princess Elizabeth, she was third in line to the throne, with her uncle Edward the presumed heir apparent.  

Her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, had no ordinary London residence:

Official biographers like to make much of her “ordinary childhood” and the very normal-sounding York family address at 145 Piccadilly in the heart of London. In truth, the address was no common or garden terraced home. It was a substantial palace, with 25 bedrooms, a ballroom, a library and an enormous garden.

Royal Central has more:

Following her birth on April 21 1926 at the home of her maternal grandparents at 17 Bruton St Mayfair, the baby Princess Elizabeth moved to the house that her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, had taken at 145 Piccadilly W1. This would be the house in which she would spend the first years of her childhood, as well as White Lodge in Richmond Park. These were the residences where the young princess would live together with her parents and her younger sister Princess Margaret Rose, who was born four years later in 1930. In 1932, the Duke and Duchess of York began to use Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park as a private country residence, when Princess Elizabeth was aged six. During this period of her childhood, Princess Elizabeth also spent time at the country homes of her paternal grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, and her maternal grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

The white terraced, stone-faced residence had a large garden and a semi-basement kitchen. Princess Elizabeth is said to have been taken out by her nanny from this house, for a stroll in the pram through nearby Mayfair to Hyde Park. An old British paramount newsreel recording from 1935 shows the Duke and Duchess of York at 145 Piccadilly, arriving and leaving the property. Among the photographic collection of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, is a photograph of Queen Elizabeth together with the corgi dog Jane taken in the grounds of 145 Piccadilly in around 1936, the fateful year which saw both the abdication of Edward VIII and the accession of her husband the Duke of York to the British throne as King George VI.

The site has been home to the InterContinental London Park Lane for nearly 50 years. The hotel’s history page tells us:

Historical accounts recall a white terraced building, indistinguishable from those on either side of it. There was a semi-basement kitchen, ‘like the giant’s kitchen in a pantomime with its immense shiny copper pots and great fire-range’, Lisa Sheridan.

An extensive garden at the back, shared with other houses, added an element of community. Elizabeth lived in a suite of rooms at the top of the house, consisting of a day nursery, a night nursery and a bathroom linked by a landing, with wide windows looking down on the park. It was not unusual for her nanny to put her in her pram and take a two-hour stroll through Mayfair into Hyde Park.

Other stories relating to Elizabeth’s childhood at 145 Piccadilly told of the Princess allegedly playing games by fetching a small toy, such as a teddy bear or a ball, and dropping it from the nursery landing down the stairwell onto visitors as they arrived at the house.

The best modern day representation of the late Queen’s childhood at 145 Piccadilly can be found in the multiple Oscar-winning film, The King’s Speech. Scenes of the young family trying their best to enjoy London life in the heart of Mayfair during the years of the Depression were actually filmed at 33 Portland Place, but the so-called ‘shabby chic’ interiors are said to be in keeping with the style of the house at that time

Years later:

The hotel was opened by His Grace the 8th Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley on 23rd September 1975.

Returning to Royal Central:

According to the website ‘Westend at War’, the building was destroyed by a high explosive bomb on 7 October 1940. The same website quotes the source Westminster in War (William Sansom, 1947) to explain that in 1940, the site at 145 Piccadilly was being used as a chief office for a “relief and comforts fund”. The permanent record that was made out by the ARP on this date describing the damage that the house had sustained, is today kept in the Westminster City Archives.

The former 145 Piccadilly is at No. 1 Hamilton Place, the site of which is occupied today by the upscale InterContinental London Park Lane Hotel. The hotel was constructed between 1968- 1975 under the direction of Sir Frederick Gibberd. Close to the five-starred London Hilton and the Four Seasons hotels, it overlooks Hyde Park Corner, together with the Wellington Arch and statue of the Duke of Wellington. Apsley House, also known as Number One, London is located on Hyde Park Corner and is the London home of the Dukes of Wellington. The InterContinental London Park Lane is proud of the royal connection with the location on which the hotel stands and has been welcoming guests ever since it opened.

Scene Therapy has photos of young Princess Elizabeth with her two first corgis as well of photos of 145 Piccadilly as it was when she lived there.

We discover that it was a modest residence by Royal standards of the day:

In 1926, Princess Elizabeth of York was born in her maternal grandparents’ Mayfair townhouse at 17 Bruton Street. A year later, the new family moved a few blocks away to Piccadilly; one of the most exclusive addresses in the capital. Piccadilly is a busy central London road that stretches from Piccadilly Circus to Hyde Park Corner, with famous establishments lining the route such as The Ritz, The Royal Academy and Fortnum & Mason. Throughout the 19th century and into the early 1900s, Piccadilly was also home to some of the most elite townhouses in the country, with residents including the Rothschilds, the Duke of Wellington, Lords and Vice-Admirals. The handsome homes that made up ‘Piccadilly Terrace’ featured spacious rooms with high ceilings and large windows set across 4-5 floors including servants quarters, all with views of Green Park.

For senior royals to reside in a townhouse, however grand, was considered rather unusual. At the time, however, Britain was suffering significant austerity thanks to The Great War and subsequent Great Depression, so King George V requested his family reign-in their spending and consider more ‘modest’ abodes. So The Yorks lived at 145 Piccadilly during the week and retired to The Royal Lodge on the Windsor Estate at weekends.

145 Piccadilly featured an abundance of panelling, mouldings and ornate plasterwork, with drawing room details gilded in gold and double doors encased in arched doorways. The interiors are packed with antique furnishings including a large 17th Belgian tapestry hung at the rear of the drawing room featuring a woodland scene woven by Marcus de Vos, and a ceramic and gilt-bronzed mantel clock by Balthazar à Paris, both now housed in the Royal Collection Trust. Other furniture and objects from 145 Piccadilly can now be seen in various royal residences across the UK, such as the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother that stands at the rear of 145’s drawing room, which can now be seen hung in the library ante-room at Prince Charles’ Clarence House.

The houses that made up Piccadilly Terrace featured the full range of floors expected of a smart aristocratic residence including an attic floor, usually home to servants’ sleeping quarters, a chamber floor for principle bedrooms and nursery rooms (such as the Day Nursery and Night Nursery as seen included in the images below), a drawing room floor, which housed private rooms including a boudoir and spacious library, the ground floor, home to reception rooms, and a basement where staff rooms, kitchens, pantries and other utility rooms featured.

Though 145 Piccadilly was considered ‘modest’ by royal standards, the interiors proved to be more befitting of the London homes of other aristocrats such as the nearby Apsley House or Spencer House, which both still stand today. 145 and its adjacent homes on Piccadilly Terrace were damaged during WWII before eventually being torn down

Returning to Politico, we learn of the nannies:

Photos of the era depict Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret being doted on by their mother and father, but in truth, they were brought up by an army of servants and rarely saw their parents. Childcare was left to two nannies: Clara Knight, a strict disciplinarian who instilled fear and good manners, and Margaret MacDonald.

Margaret ‘Bobo’ MacDonald

Incredibly, Margaret MacDonald remained by the Queen’s side for life:

MacDonald was the only person outside of the royal family who was allowed to call Elizabeth by her family nickname Lilibet, and she shared a bedroom with her charge until she was 11 years old. Lilibet’s first word, “Bobo,” was addressed to MacDonald — and the nickname stuck. 

Every morning, MacDonald brought Elizabeth a cup of tea, laid out her clothes and ran her daily bath. Effectively prohibited from marriage — to have done so would have cost her the job — MacDonald dedicated her life to the queen until her death in 1993

“In her later years Bobo held a unique position in Buckingham Palace, having her own suite, no duties, and enjoying a closer personal friendship with the queen than practically anyone else, including some of the queen’s closest relatives,” wrote Douglas Keay, author of “The Queen: A Revealing Look at the Private Life of Elizabeth II.” 

But we know nothing more. The loyal servant never gave an interview, never discussed her relationship with her mistress and died with her secrets intact. 

Marion ‘Crawfie’ Crawford

Marion Crawford was the opposite of Bobo MacDonald with regard to discretion.

Crawford was the princesses’ governess.

Most people will know her story, as she was one who fell from grace for disloyalty.

Politico summarises what happened:

Crawfie was the Yorks’ very own Mary Poppins, steering her charges through the change in their circumstances when their uncle abdicated and their father unexpectedly became king. If Bobo was a surrogate mother, Crawfie was an older sister, role model and friend. 

But by 1947, neither Elizabeth nor Margaret had need of a governess, and aged just 39, Crawfie was retired. 

Two years later she accepted an offer to write a book called “The Little Princesses,” which caused a sensation when it was published in 1950. 

Despite having approved the project, the queen mother declared that Crawfie had “gone off her head,” and the woman who had devoted the first part of her life to the monarchy was unceremoniously ghosted.  

The incident was all the more remarkable given the book was a wholly affectionate memoir and showed the royal family in a very good light. Her fate was probably sealed by one or two turns of phrase that hinted at the king’s bad temper during the war.  

Nonetheless, “to do a Crawfie” became royal slang for treachery. Deprived of her grace and favor, Crawford disappeared from official records and narratives in a manner that would have put Soviet propagandists to shame.  

The impact on Crawfie cannot be understated. She attempted suicide twice. Later in life, she moved close to the Balmoral estate in the hope that she might one day chance upon her old charge and that amends could be made. But the moment never came. When she eventually died in 1988, the royal family sent not so much as a wreath to the funeral. 

We don’t know how this affected Elizabeth. Nor do we know how much of a role she played in perpetuating Crawfie’s misery. But this brutal and callous dispatching of such a close confidante and loyal friend speaks volumes about the family that is sometimes referred to as “The Firm.”  

The lifeblood of the monarchy is self-preservation. Nobody is indispensable. Nobody is bigger than the machine. Throughout the queen’s reign, that ruthless self-preservation — so at odds with her image — would rear its head again and again.  

It seems as if Politico missed Tatler‘s 2020 article about Marion Crawford and her husband, which is much more nuanced. It comes complete with photos and its author, Wendy Holden, tells an amazing story:

… the original scandal of the Queen’s life – also chronicled in a book that lays bare royal secrets – doesn’t exist in the Windsor Cloud. For 70 years, it successfully ‘disappeared’. Few accounts of the time afford it more than a footnote. The protagonist’s name, though, remains a byword for betrayal.

The unimaginable bounder this suggests was none other than a young Scottish teacher. Marion Crawford was governess to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, aged six and almost two when she arrived in 1932. She stayed for 17 years. ‘Crawfie’, as they fondly called her, was not only their teacher, but their constant confidante and companion.

Crawfie guided the girls through the drama of the abdication of their uncle, the upheaval of their parents’ accession and the trauma of the Second World War, when she took them to Windsor Castle’s dungeon bomb shelters as Heinkels roared above. Later, she was there when Elizabeth met Philip. Yet, at the end of her service, the royals cut her off. The reason? A harmless memoir, The Little Princesses.

I came across it by accident in a second-hand bookshop on a rainy day. It immediately became the inspiration for the royal-themed novel I’d always wanted to write. The Governess, my new book, fictionalises Marion Crawford’s time with the Royal Family. It shines a new light not only on the Queen’s little-known childhood, but on the lively young teacher who helped make her the monarch she is today …

The Duchess of York poached her sister’s servant:

It could have been so different. Crawfie never intended to teach royalty – rather, the other end of the social scale. Her vocation, she felt, was in the slums of Edinburgh. ‘I wanted desperately to help… but,’ as she puts it in The Little Princesses, ‘something else was coming my way.’ That would be the famously charming Queen Mother (then Duchess of York), whose sister Crawfie worked for during the holidays. Spotting the young teacher’s potential, she poached her, persuading Crawfie to come for a trial ‘to see if you like us and we like you’.

Even though Crawford had spent the day travelling from Scotland to Windsor, she was expected to start work on arrival:

Crawfie, with her progressive ideas, was certain she wouldn’t like them. It didn’t help that she arrived at Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park, late at night. Since Lilibet (as they called Princess Elizabeth) had insisted on staying awake, an exhausted Crawfie, straight off the train, was obliged to stagger into the nursery. Here, a child was sitting up in bed, yanking on dressing gown cords tied to the bedposts. ‘I’m driving my horses round the park,’ she winningly explained.

It was love at first sight for them both. And so Crawfie stayed, but with caveats.

It was Crawford who showed them how the other half lived. She took the princesses on all manner of distinctly un-Royal visits:

She thought the Royal Family stuffy and wanted to bring normality and fun to her pupils’ sequestered lives. Defying court protocol, she took them on the Tube, shopping at Woolworths, swimming at public baths and even helped set up a Buckingham Palace Girl Guide group. This exposure to the ordinary has proved invaluable to the Queen.

Despite these daring things, everything went well.

Then, after Crawford’s retirement in 1947, as the princesses were old enough not to need a governess anymore, there was an intersection of the Queen (as the Duchess of York became), an American magazine, and Crawford’s husband with the governess stuck in the middle:

What became The Little Princesses seems originally to have been the Queen Mother’s idea. The then Queen Elizabeth thought it would benefit post-war relations if pieces about her eldest daughter appeared in the American press. A palace courtier was chosen to write articles and the now-retired Crawfie, who knew Princess Elizabeth better than anyone, was ordered to tell him all she knew. He, not she, would have the byline and be paid by the magazine, the Ladies’ Home Journal. But Crawfie’s husband, George Buthlay, felt his wife should write her own account and sent her to Queen Elizabeth to ask permission. It was flatly refused and Crawfie prepared to shelve the project. But Buthlay had other ideas – for Crawfie to write a memoir.

It was the beginning of the end, a very painful one for Crawford, who never recovered:

Though different versions of the story have been put forward, the definitive account seems to be this: together with the Ladies’ Home Journal’s unscrupulous editors, Buthlay told his wife that Her Majesty would see the manuscript – that nothing would be published without royal approval. All lies; the book came out regardless, initially as magazine articles. The Royal Family was furious, considering it an act of treachery, and poor Crawfie was cast into the outer darkness.

She fled to Aberdeen and bought a house right on the route that the Royal Family took annually to Balmoral. But her hope that they might one day stop and forgive her proved unfounded. She became depressed and lonely – it had been too late, on retirement, to have children of her own. Crawford left a poignant note on attempting to take her own life: ‘I can’t bear those I love to pass me by on the road.’

That the Windsors maintained their animus until Crawfie’s death in 1988 seems extraordinary, especially as breaches of royal privacy, many self-inflicted, have been numerous since. But at the funeral of the woman who had served them so devotedly, not a single royal flower was sent.

In my opinion, be it ever so humble on matters Royal, the Queen Mother was still very much alive and well when Crawford died. From what I understand, the Queen Mother, as jovial as she appeared in public, ran the family’s private affairs with a rule of iron. I think she would have put her foot down at giving Crawford any honour at all. The Royal Family used to be like Las Vegas. What went on behind closed doors stayed there.

What I find puzzling it that, if or since The Little Princesses was published in 1950 and the Queen Mother was so cross, how was it that Crawford and her husband ended up attending a garden party at Holyrood Palace (Edinburgh) in 1952? The Tatler article has a photo of them getting into a chauffeur-driven car to the event.

Nevertheless, it appeared that the Queen had a change of mind late in life:

The material released to mark the Queen’s 94th birthday in April included a few seconds of film in which Crawfie and the princesses are dancing the Lambeth Walk.

Perhaps the scandals besetting the monarchy in recent years have given the Queen a new perspective on an old hurt. Nearly nine decades after that first meeting in the night nursery, has Her Majesty finally forgiven Crawfie?

Prince Philip

Marion Crawford was there when the 13-year-old Princess Elizabeth met the man of her dreams.

Politico tells us:

In 1939, in the shadow of war, the 13-year-old princess met her Prince Charming during a visit to Dartmouth naval college.

Philip, then aged 19, was exotic Eurotrash. An exiled Greek prince who had grown up in Paris, he was estranged from his family. His three surviving sisters had married into the Nazi regime. His father was living the life of an aging playboy in Monte Carlo. His mother had been declared insane.

In Britain he found a home. In Elizabeth he found devotion.

She was smitten from the get-go:

In a letter to a cousin, she declared that she had met a “Viking God,” and for the rest of the war the two exchanged letters.

Like almost everything else in the queen’s private world, we know nothing of what they said to each other.

The Queen was less than impressed, so the princess enlisted help from elsewhere in the family:

The queen mother distrusted Philip and nicknamed him “the Hun,” but Elizabeth got her way, finding in Louis Mountbatten, Philip’s uncle, a Machiavellian ally. In 1947 the couple were engaged.

That year, the princess wrote a letter, describing her feelings for her fiancé:

In a rare gushing letter to the author Betty Shew written that same year, we get a tantalizing glimpse of Elizabeth’s feelings. Over four excitable pages. Elizabeth talks about nightclubs and dancing and how they were once pursued thrillingly by a photographer through the streets of London. It’s the letter of a woman who is deeply in love.

The wedding in November 1947 was modest for post-war Britain, but it was still lavish by any standards today:

Their wedding that November was a matter of national celebration. Billed as an “austerity wedding,” it was really nothing of the sort. The union was an excuse for nationwide festivities. Thousands of people descended on London for the event. There were 2,500 presents — including a shawl woven by Gandhi and a diamond and platinum Cartier necklace from the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The war had given the royals a new raison d’etre as a “national family,” and the marriage of the beautiful young princess to the handsome young prince seemed to encapsulate fresh beginnings and a new hope of a better world to come.

Early married life

Princess Elizabeth became a naval wife for a time, but not just any naval wife:

They had two children (Charles and Anne) in quick succession and between 1949 and 1951 lived in Malta, where Philip was serving as a naval officer on HMS Chequers.

Once again, official biographies portray this era as a period of “normality.” It’s not entirely true. They lived in a six-bedroom mansion, and in addition to Bobo, had an army of staff.

More approachability

During the Queen’s reign, the Royal Family began opening up in the 1960s, not least with a multi-episode documentary which I saw when growing up in the US. My parents and I were fascinated and amused in equal parts.

Politico says it was a disaster, but I wonder if the chap who wrote the article was even alive then. The Investiture of the Prince of Wales took place around the same time, which my mother and I got up early to watch. Both programmes helped to demystify the Royals.

At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, even though the media tried to play down the Royal Family and the Sex Pistols came out with ‘God Save the Queen’, her subjects broke out the bunting and organised street parties. The monarch sent her heartfelt thanks.

Diana and Fergie

What can one say about the wives of Charles and Andrew?

With regard to Diana, I have read in several places then and now that the Queen Mother had a hand in that marriage.

Politico says:

In 1981, the crowds turned out again, this time to watch Prince Charles marry Diana Spencer, and people turned out to wave again. From the fawning coverage, it looked like a fairy tale, but for the royal family, it was the beginning of a tragedy.

The couple had only met a dozen times and had been pushed together in near desperation, and the relationship quickly dissolved into a battle between Diana and The Firm.

The Duchess of York was no angel, but she and Prince Andrew are still together, despite their divorce.

Later jubilees

How wonderful it was to celebrate the Queen’s Golden (2002), Diamond (2012) and Platinum Jubilees (2022). Those of us alive at the time should consider ourselves blessed.

Politico points out that the Golden Jubilee was a departure from the norm. I was having dinner not far away on the night of the concert and could hear the music on the venue’s terrace. It was electric:

the event was turned instead into a “people’s party,” complete with Brian May playing the national anthem on Buckingham Palace’s roof.

the queen — having been the nation’s sweetheart and the nation’s mother — was reinvented as the nation’s grandmother

Even in her teatime years, the Queen continued to surprise us:

As she advanced into her 80s, the outward image of an unsmiling monarch seemed to loosen up a bit. There was a stunt with James Bond actor Daniel Craig at the opening of the 2012 Olympics, when she appeared to jump out of a helicopter, and she made a funny viral video with her grandson Harry in the run-up to the Invictus Games in 2016.

Her Christmas Day messages became softer in tone …

And who can forget her sketch with Paddington Bear last year at the Palace?

An enduring enigma

Politico concludes that we knew the Queen, yet we didn’t know her at all. That was by design:

At the end — the life of Elizabeth remains an enigma.

We know this much about her: She was in essence a countrywoman, of a certain type familiar among the British upper classes. Dry and stiff upper lipped. Raised in singularly cosseted surroundings from which she never strayed far. She adored horses and people who loved horses, and dogs and people who loved dogs.

Interestingly, one of the last films the Queen made, in April 2022, was with her horses at Sandringham. ITV showed the footage a year ago during the Platinum Jubilee weekend. The Mail had the story, complete with photos and a short video:

The monarch, 96, described one of the horses as an ‘extraordinary girl’ and is heard to say she wonders what goes through the creature’s head.

The clips, filmed at the Royal Stud in Sandringham in April, will be shown in a special feature as part of ITV‘s Saturday Platinum Jubilee coverage …

In the clips, the monarch, wearing a black coat and with a floral headscarf wrapped around her head, observed various horses and foals, alongside her trusted bloodstock and racing adviser John Warren …

Gently stroking the coat of one of the horses, the Queen is heard to say: ‘Well it must be three or four years when she came down into Windsor yard, but behaved as though she’d always been there.’

Admiring the horse, she added: ‘Extraordinary girl, aren’t you?’

Another clip showed the Queen asking a horse ‘would you like another one?’, before picking a carrot from a bowl and feeding it.

Later, observing two horses walking alongside each other in the yard, the Queen is heard to say: ‘I often wonder what goes through her head’ … 

Her Majesty’s fondness of horses began when she was just four after her grandfather, King George V, gave her a little Shetland pony.

By the age of six she had fallen in love with riding, becoming an accomplished equestrian in her teenage years and has continued to ride for pleasure throughout her life.

From her first appearance at the annual Trooping the Colour to 1986, the monarch would attend the ceremony on horseback.

She first attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show as a horse-mad teenager in 1943. Together with Princess Margaret, the 17-year-old showed off her equestrian prowess by winning the Pony & Dogcart class.

The Queen owns several thoroughbreds for racing after she initially inherited King George’s breeding and racing stock following his death in February 1952.

In 1974, the monarch’s interest in horses was the subject of a documentary title, The Queen’s Race Horses: a Private View, which she herself narrated.

Returning to Politico:

She knew a lot about the things she had inherited and not much about anything else. She drove — fast — about her estates in a beaten-up Land Rover and dedicated her life to fiercely protecting the promulgation of the family firm.

But it was almost as if she was absent from her own story — her legend as rigorously curated and spun as that of any autocrat. To provide her United Kingdom with the monarch she felt it needed, she sacrificed an ordinary life and the other things most of us take for granted. But then the curious nature of hereditary monarchy never offered her another path.

Britain will consider itself lucky to have had such a stalwart head of state. Elizabeth Windsor played the role of queen with unflinching conviction for more than 70 years. In performing the part so well, she has left a hole that might yet prove impossible to fill.


What can we learn from the Queen’s conduct?

Discretion, which, according to an old British saying, is the better part of valour.

Silence, in not saying more than one should.

Order, in everything: attire, appearance and daily life.

Those things coupled with a deep personal faith comprised an extraordinary person.

If we all took these aspects of the Queen’s life to heart and cultivated them, the world would be a much better place.

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.

This week brought a special treat for my far better half and me.

We went to London for an event and had an early dinner beforehand at a place that The Times‘s Giles Coren reviewed in November 2022: Noodle & Snack, 145 Cleveland St, London W1T 6QH, in Fitzrovia, a minute’s walk from Great Portland Street Tube station. It’s open from noon to 9 p.m.

Coren wrote:

It’s an awakening of the soul. I’m obsessed

While I wouldn’t go that far, Noodle & Snack is probably the most authentic Chinese restaurant in London, if not in the UK. I’ve never had such good Chinese food since Lee Ho Fook in London’s Chinatown. It used to be my go-to and had lots of Chinese customers, but it closed years ago.

Some things have changed since Coren reviewed the restaurant.

First, they are no longer licensed, so it’s soft drinks or jasmine tea only. That was okay, because we had wine at the event we went to later. However, it could be a show-stopper for those who want to unwind at lunch or dinner.

Secondly, they took Coren’s comments on board and have translated what was in Mandarin only to English and Mandarin. Thank goodness. The menu on the wall has more offerings than the menu on the table, so check out both of them.

Thirdly, she has a print of Coren’s column about the restaurant on the wall next to the cash register.

A lovely lady named Sally waited on Coren, and I think she waited on us, too. Coren had asked her for recommendations, so we did, too.

She said something that was music to our ears:

I don’t want to give you too much to eat.

She suggested the sweet and sour pork, a helping of vegetables and an order of boiled dumplings.

She suggested the same to Coren:

“Have the sweet and sour pork,” she advised me. “Proper. For Chinese people. Speciality from my home city of Shenyang.”

… it was wide, tenderised fillets of pork, floured and deep-fried twice for crispness, in a sweet and sour sauce made from two kinds of vinegar, brown not orange, with big slices of sweet onion and soft, roasty-tasting garlic, and truly life-changing.

It stayed crispy until the end, too. When I lived in the US, I used to order crispy beef done the same way in a spicy orange and Szechuan pepper sauce — one of my abiding food memories, even though I had it several times. I had only found it at that one restaurant though, and thought of it like a lost friend I’d never encounter again. Fortunately, I have been reunited. Beef, pork — it doesn’t matter. It’s the flour dredging and frying that counts.

Then there were the dumplings. Coren described them:

Now, the dumplings were not your silken steamed dim sum, but heftier, thicker and very much boiled. Ten of them in a portion, a daunting prospect, but then… so soft, so warming, and the pork filling mild and quite sweet but made tangy with aromatic vinegar. Unbelievably delicious.

I agree with everything but the dipping sauce. Ours was pretty much straight soy, no aromatic vinegar. That didn’t matter either, because the sweet and sour pork came with plenty of sauce.

The biang biang (bang bang) noodles are a must. These are not the normal noodles from the Orient that one expects, but thick pappardelle on steroids. As Coren put it:

… the biang biang noodles … were wide and chewy and fresh and stuck together in places, just like your mum would have made if your mum was from northern China and really good at cooking.

They came with a sprinkling of mild chili flakes and spring onions. Sally mixed the noodles together for us and we helped ourselves. We put the sweet and sour pork on top and had dumplings on the side.

We asked for knives and forks, because unless one is adept with chopsticks, the food is too unwieldy, especially the noodles. Sally happily obliged.

My only criticism is that the plates are really small. They could do with normal sized plates, because the food is so ample and you want to enjoy it while it’s still hot.

The bill for two came to £39.60, including a 10% service charge. While they take MasterCard, Sally says they prefer cash, so, for that amount, I paid in folding and told her to keep the change.

Coren really liked Noodle & Snack:

And that weekend I dreamt of Noodle & Snack, night and day. Esther kept asking, “What is it?” and I’d go, “Oh nothing, nothing…”

And at noon on Monday I was back, fifth time in eight days, this time with my office mate Charlie, who knows China better than me and wanted to see it. Sally brought us a cold chicken “snack” on the house that was clean and cool and fiery with Sichuan pepper. And I got the sweet and sour pork again for Charlie, who laughed because it was so good. And also aubergines that were floured and fried twice and so squishy banana-like inside I wanted to cry, but don’t have a name for as it wasn’t written or spoken in English at any point. And the best mapo tofu of all time.

I noticed that, on the table menu, they have duck spring rolls and a squid dish for those with more adventurous tastes. On the wall menu, two different tripe preparations are available along with more pork and vegetarian dishes. This menu is indicative only.

As Coren raved about them, we’ll try the floured and fried aubergines next time.

It should be noted that getting downstairs to the loo was somewhat unsettling, and I’m used to London’s downstairs conveniences. There is a banister on only the left-hand side of the stairs. I’m not as agile as I used to be in dress shoes. That said, the loo was immaculate, and my mother always said that was the deciding factor in a restaurant. If they care about the loo, they’ll care about your food, too.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, Noodle & Snack is a fine place to eat. Giles Coren’s review has much more about the restaurant’s decor, complete with photos. You can see more photos along with a few customer reviews here.

Talk about value for money. You won’t leave hungry.

Last week, I wrote about society photographers Richard Young and Dafydd Jones.

The first famous high society photographer of the 20th century was Cecil Beaton. Unlike Young and Jones, however, Beaton was of his world and in it.

Early years

Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton was born in London’s leafy Hampstead on January 14, 1904.

His grandfather had founded a timber merchants firm and Cecil’s father Ernest, an amateur actor, worked for the company. Ernest and his wife Etty had four children. Their other son, Reginald, died prematurely in 1933.

Cecil Beaton by Lafayette (cropped bw restored).jpgYoung Cecil and his siblings had the best of everything, including a nanny. She had a Kodak 3A camera which she taught him how to use. Fascinated, Cecil began taking pictures of his sisters and mother.

When he became proficient, he began sending his photographs to society magazines.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Cecil attended Heath Mount School, still in Hampstead at the time, then went to Harrow in north west London. Although he had little interest in school, he ended up at St John’s College, Cambridge, where he read history, art and architecture. By then, he was making contacts at Cambridge as he continued to photograph. He also designed theatre costumes. It was during those years that he had his first photo published in Vogue and two photos of his sister Nancy in Tatler. He went down from Cambridge in 1925 with no degree. However, London beckoned, so he returned to the capital and never looked back.

The 1920s and the Bright Young Things

In the 1920s, Beaton’s world intersected with that of a former classmate of his, Evelyn Waugh, who used to bully him at Heath Mount School. As a young adult, Waugh had his novel Vile Bodies published. It featured high society characters ‘the Bright Young People’, also called the Bright Young Things.

A 2020 Tatler article, ‘Stars in his eyes: Cecil Beaton and his Bright Young Things’ describes that world and his role in it, complete with photographs (emphases mine):

Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties’ – this was how Evelyn Waugh depicted the era of the 1920s, when the elite of the younger generation, determined to throw off the gloom of the Great War, dedicated themselves to entertainment. As Waugh portrayed them in his novel Vile Bodies, the Bright Young People (or Bright Young Things, as others called them) were funny, frenzied and frivolous, capering from party to party. Among them, and, like Waugh, an astute recorder of the period, was the photographer Cecil Beaton, whose portraits of the era’s leading lights make up the dazzling cast of Bright Young Things, a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Unfortunately, the exhibition had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. This Tatler article has a set of photographs from it.

Beaton and Waugh never did become friends:

Beaton had been at prep school with Waugh, who bullied him cruelly. Beaton later described Waugh as ‘a very sinister character’, while Waugh pilloried Beaton in Decline and Fall as the society photographer David Lennox, who ‘emerged with little shrieks from an Edwardian electric brougham and made straight for the nearest looking-glass’.

Beaton was hardly standing on the sidelines with his camera. He played a lead role in these parties:

Before long he was embedded in a world of aristocracy, theatre and, perhaps most significantly, a circle of exuberant young people intent on immersing themselves in the most extravagant and imaginative forms of self-indulgence …

Within this world, Beaton was both observer and recorder, as well as eager participant, appearing in pink satin and heavy make-up as a 17th-century dandy, as the Madam of a brothel, and in a coat covered in broken eggshells and roses.

Among the many of Beaton’s friends whom he photographed at this period was the very wealthy, very camp Stephen Tennant, son of one of the renowned Wyndham sisters. Tennant adored dressing up and being photographed by Beaton in outrageous poses – in flowing court dress as Queen Marie of Romania at the Impersonation Party, or heavily rouged as the poet Shelley at the Pageant of Hyde Park. After Tennant complimented him on his work, Beaton wrote in his diary: ‘I felt puffed with pride that he so gushed at me.’

Another sumptuous occasion was the Great Pageant of Lovers through the Ages, which took place in 1927 at the New Theatre in the presence of Princess Mary and Princess Arthur of Connaught, with Tennant as Prince Charming in a pink wig and Beaton as Lucien Bonaparte in an ornate satin coat with long tails. Also present were two of the most celebrated actresses of the era, Gladys Cooper, who went as Helen of Troy, and Tallulah Bankhead, as Cleopatra.

In Beaton’s view, he had by now achieved the perfect balance at the centre of two interconnected worlds – society and the theatre. A subject of his who combined both was Lady Diana Cooper, daughter of the Duchess of Rutland and one of the most famous beauties of her day. Her face, as described by Beaton, ‘was a perfect oval, her skin white marble. Her lips were japonica red, her hair flaxen, her eyes blue love-in-the-mist.’ He once photographed her as the Madonna in The Miracle, a play directed by Max Reinhardt, which required Lady Diana, serene and holy, to stand throughout most of the performance motionless in her niche on the wall.

accurately describing himself as ‘a scheming snob’, Beaton adored being at the centre of this wild and frivolous world. He made friends everywhere

Also part of the fray were the very wealthy Bryan Guinness and his beautiful wife Diana, one of the Mitford sisters. The young Guinnesses soon became one of the most fashionable couples in town, generous hosts who entertained lavishly …

It was at the very end of the decade, the season of 1929, that the Guinnesses gave an extravagant 1860s party, which, as it turned out, was to be almost the last of the period dominated by the Bright Young People. The spark had already begun to fizzle out and times were changing. In November, Beaton, by now highly paid and much in demand, left for his first visit to America, where in the years to come he was to pursue a remarkable career in Hollywood and New York. His horizons were expanding, his reputation continuing to grow, both as a photographer and as a designer of stage sets and costumes.

Beaton hosted the next big blow out party himself in 1937. At his Fête Champêtre were his friends from the Bright Young Things days a decade earlier. Ever the dandy, he had four changes of attire and the party did not end until 7 a.m. the following day.

The party took place at Ashcombe House in Wiltshire, which he leased between 1930 and 1945:

Here many of the original Bright Young People gathered for a magnificent garden party, photographs of which appeared in Life magazine. The marquee was decorated with flowers and ribbons, the waiters wore animal masks and 30 supper tables were designed to look like ballet dancers.

Beaton entertained frequently and lavishly at Ashcombe House, which is a huge Georgian estate.

His photographs showed up in an important estate collection in 2021. He often took photographs of Dame Edith Sitwell, one of them being in 1926. Dame Edith lived at Weston Hall, which went up for sale that year. Its varied contents later went to auction.

In October 2021, Tatler reported on the contents:

For three centuries, the Sitwells have dominated the literary and artistic landscapes, with generation after generation of writers, eccentrics and creatives amongst their number. Since the 18th century Weston Hall in Northamptonshire has been the family seat, until it was sold earlier this year. Now, its contents are making up a landmark auction at Dreweatts, charting not only the fascinating history of this important family, but also of England itself.

Joe Robinson, Head of House Sales at Dreweatts and taking up the mammoth challenge of cataloguing the works, said, ‘Weston Hall was a fascinating encapsulation of not just the Sitwell family history, but also the social history of Britain over the last few centuries. With the extensive collection of works having been preserved in the house for so long, it has been thrilling to go on a journey of discovery with the family, to uncover so many hidden treasures with such wonderful provenance. The stories behind the works truly enrich the pieces and when you purchase a work from this sale, you know you are buying a true piece of history.’

A veritable treasure trove, highlights of the collection include many artworks that were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in 1994, in a show titled The Sitwells and the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s. One such piece is a carved fluorite dress ring featuring two mythical beasts that belonged to Edith Sitwell, one of the Bright Young Things of the 1920s. There are multiple other pieces of Edith’s jewellery and clothing included in the sale, who was known for her avant garde fashion sense and sometimes shocking behaviour …

Fans of celebrated society snapper Cecil Beaton will also no doubt be keen to get their hands on a whole cache of rare photographs of the family, up for sale for the first time. One of his most famous portraits was of Dame Edith Sitwell wearing an ostrich feather hat, pictured below, while others included are of Georgia Sitwell, the wife of writer Sacheverell Sitwell, taken circa 1927.

Food critic William Sitwell wrote in The Telegraph at the time that he spent many happy days at Weston Hall and remembers Dame Edith’s many party costumes left for the younger family members in a dressing up box.

He told Tatler:

This sale offers countless individuals and collectors the chance to own items and collections that are part of the fabric of English history. It’s extraordinarily diverse, representing the wide interests and experiences of my family and our ancestors. After the sadness of leaving Weston it will be heart-warming to think that works of art and furniture, which are like so many close friends to myself and my family, will find new homes and become part of new, wonderful collections.

Beaton also snapped the Mitford sisters, who were part of the Bright Young Things. In 2021, one of Nancy Mitford’s novels, The Pursuit of Love, was made into a television mini-series. Tatler reported on the Mitfords’ descendants and introduced the sisters to a new generation. There was no escaping Cecil Beaton or Evelyn Waugh:

Recognised for their beauty, eccentricity, conflicting political views and sharp intellect, the Mitford sisters were undoubtedly the ultimate It Girls of the 20th century. Everyone was captivated by ‘The Six’; whether it was Evelyn Waugh who spent over two decades writing 500 letters to Nancy, Cecil Beaton who captured Diana in theatrical costume time and time again, or youngest sister, Deborah, who later became Britain’s most loved Duchess as The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

Royal photographer

In July 1939, Beaton’s life took a seemingly improbable new turn.

One day he received a phone call out of the blue. The Victoria & Albert Museum tells us of his diary entry:

The telephone rang. “This is the lady-in-waiting speaking. The Queen wants to know if you will photograph her tomorrow afternoon” … In choosing me to take her photographs, the Queen made a daring innovation. It is inconceivable that her predecessor would have summoned me – my work was still considered revolutionary and unconventional.

That Queen was Elizabeth, George VI’s wife and mother of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

I read about that in Tatler. Beaton thought it was a prank call and slammed down the phone on the lady-in-waiting. She patiently rang back to arrange an appointment.

The V&A exhibition has a stunning photograph of the then-Queen Consort in Buckingham Palace Garden as well as subsequent ones of the Royals:

The opportunity to photograph Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort of King George VI, in 1939 was the high point of Beaton’s career to date. Published two months after the outbreak of the Second World War, his images presented a sense of continuity with a magnificent pre-war Britain. Several wartime sittings of the Queen and her family would reinforce his vision of a seemingly unshakable monarchy and witness the transformation of Princess Elizabeth from girl to young woman.

Beaton created sumptuous backdrops when the photo shoots took place indoors:

The flowers that appear in many of Beaton’s portraits were often picked from his own garden. Cascading arrangements of roses, carnations, lilies and hydrangeas filled the space between a photographic backdrop and the sitter, and were an essential prop in the creation of his idealised pastoral scenes.

Beaton was enamoured of the Royal ladies. Wikipedia says:

Beaton often photographed the Royal Family for official publication.[17] Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was his favourite royal sitter, and he once pocketed her scented hankie as a keepsake from a highly successful shoot.

War photographer

Not many of us probably know that Beaton also became a celebrated war photographer, so much so that he is partially credited for America’s entry into it. Wikipedia says that, in between his Royal photo shoots:

the Queen recommended him to the Ministry of Information (MoI). He became a leading war photographer, best known for his images of the damage done by the German Blitz. His style sharpened and his range broadened, Beaton’s career was restored by the war.[16]

… During the Second World War, Beaton was first posted to the Ministry of Information and given the task of recording images from the home front. During this assignment he captured one of the most enduring images of British suffering during the war, that of 3-year-old Blitz victim Eileen Dunne recovering in hospital, clutching her beloved teddy bear. When the image was published, America had not yet officially joined the war, but images such as Beaton’s helped push the Americans to put pressure on their government to help Britain in its hour of need.[5]

After the war ended, Beaton bought a stately manor, Reddish House, in Wiltshire, more about which below.

In September 1951, once it was politically acceptable and socially safe to party again, Beaton was one of the guests at Le Bal Oriental in Venice. In a 2020 article, Tatler described it, complete with photographs:

Venice was abuzz with decadence and glamour on 3 September 1951, as the beautiful and the damned gathered for eccentric aristocrat Count Carlos de Beistegui’s high society gathering Le Bal Oriental – the first since World War II.

Guests were invited six months prior, in order to give them enough time to design their decadent costumes, with the theme inspired by a fresco in his home, the Palazzo Labia. The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo was the chosen artwork; it depicts a wager between Cleopatra and Mark Antony as to which one could provide the most expensive feast. A worthy inspiration for a dress code, no doubt.

The guest list itself was superlative: the brightest stars and hottest young things of the era. Fashion designer Christian Dior attended in a costume designed by surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, while Dalí wore one by Dior. Cecil Beaton took the photographs, while director and actor Orson Welles held court alongside society beauties including Countess Teresa Foscari Foscolo and Patricia Lopez-Huici de Lopez-Willshaw, as well as Aga Khan III.

Then there were the details. Arrival by gondola, after a five-day journey across Europe for many, with cheers from waiting Venetians; 70 footmen dressed in the exact liveries worn at the Duchess of Richmond’s famous ball held the night before Waterloo; thirty guests attired in Pierre Cardin (it essentially launched his career); a 6am end time and a host wearing 16-inch platform shoes.

 There is a self-portrait of Beaton:

Cecil Beaton standing on the balcony of the Palazzo Labia dressed as a clergyman

Very convincing it is, too, as by that point Beaton had grey hair and looked seriously distinguished.

Costume design for My Fair Lady

Beaton was somewhat of an artsy polymath. He could act, sing, photograph — and design costumes as well as stage sets.

My Fair Lady put him firmly in the spotlight.

A 2022 Tatler retrospective of the play and the film, complete with photographs, tells us:

Thursday, 15 March 1956: The opening night of My Fair Lady on Broadway. Cecil Beaton had spent month after exhausting month designing and supervising the costumes for a production he was hugely enthusiastic about but not yet entirely convinced by. The run-up had been challenging. Both revolving stages malfunctioned, the sets were flimsy, the curtains got caught up and wouldn’t come down, and the dress rehearsal was a disaster. Blizzards kept audiences away from the try-out evenings. Rex Harrison, playing Henry Higgins, was plagued with fear and self-doubt, manifesting itself in monstrous displays of egotism. Beaton found him ‘beneath contempt’, and only by a miracle, he said, did he prevent an ugly confrontation, while an exasperated 20-year-old Julie Andrews, playing Eliza Doolittle, rehearsing the last-act fight with Harrison, threw her slippers in his face with such force the entire chorus applauded her from the stalls.

Beaton need not have worried. He recorded the opening night in his diary: ‘Every joke was appreciated, every nuance enjoyed and the various numbers were received with thunderclaps. The success was beyond all expectation.’ It was also, he added, ‘an electric evening…I am grateful and overwhelmed.’ Curtain call after curtain call. So frenzied was the reception – in the days following, the police were drafted in to keep order at the box office – he now recognised My Fair Lady for what it was: the greatest triumph of his life so far, the high point of his career, though ‘it has taken such a long time to achieve’, he said wistfully. It won him his second of four Tony awards.

By the time the run ended in 1962 after nearly 3,000 performances, My Fair Lady was the highest grossing Broadway show in history. The London production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which opened in 1958, ran for five and a half years and was reckoned to be the most expensive then staged in the West End.

Beaton had worked on The Chalk Garden sets and costumes in 1955, but loathed it:

Enid Bagnold’s curiosity, part melo- drama, part comedy of manners, opened on Broadway to rave reviews but by then Cecil had fallen out with just about everyone connected

When he was dropped from the London production, it opened a window for him on what would become My Fair Lady. If Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe had not come into his life, he said, he would surely have given up on the theatre.

Beaton, having been born halfway through the Edwardian (Edward VII) period, was a natural fit for My Fair Lady:

As a boy, Beaton had collected glitter-coated postcards of the leading ladies of Edwardian opera and theatre, one of his greatest heroines being the musical comedy star Zena Dare, whom delightedly he got to dress when, at 70, she took on the role of Mrs Higgins for My Fair Lady’s West End run. His childhood informed his outlook on life; the observations made at an early age remained constant, he would say, while around him the world would change.

His costumes for My Fair Lady were rooted in his memory bank of Edwardiana, memorialising the world of music hall comedy, his mother’s formal dresses, his Aunt Jessie’s ostrich-feather hats, fin-de- siècle fashion plates – and, famously, for the black-and-white Ascot scene, he reinterpreted the ‘Black Ascot’ of 1910 held in mourning for the late king.

Beaton was exacting and resourceful:

In all, Beaton designed more than 150 costumes and kept a punctilious eye on their construction, irritated when a cartwheel hat had to be refashioned three times. Julie Andrews recalled they were so over-scaled that the wearer was often obliged to enter a room sideways – if, that is, they could see at all from beneath the exaggerated brims.

Beaton was exacting and resourceful. Some curtains from his former country home, Ashcombe, had once been appliquéd with 10,000 or so pearl buttons. Taken out of storage, the buttons were detached and sent across the Atlantic to do service for the Pearly Kings and Queens attempting to get Alfred Doolittle to the church on time.

When Beaton’s fastidiousness combined with first-night nerves, it was a combustible mix. After the first try-out before the Broadway opening, he was apoplectic with Andrews who had, in all innocence, worn a picture hat back to front. In her dressing room, unsure if everything had gone right, the first words she heard were not of reassurance, but from Beaton flinging the door open, grabbing the hat and shouting: ‘Not this way round. That way round. How could you get that wrong?’ However, the reviews were ecstatic and Beaton was now a Broadway celebrity in his own right, the consummate showman: ‘I felt I was on the crest of a wave and must enjoy the ride…’

The ride was by no means over. Two years later, in April 1958, with the main leads reprising their roles, the show opened in London. Beaton had remodelled several hats and made 20 new costume designs. He considered them far superior to the Broadway ones, though he was delighted to hear that in fashionable Manhattan, belle-époque-style chiffon blouses and delicately pointed boots were now all the rage. Always eager for self-publicity, Beaton wasted no time in getting his pictures of My Fair Lady’s leading players into Vogue and Ladies’ Home Journal. He accepted a commission to design a range of modern clothes based on his costumes, as well as a line of children’s swimwear, and held gallery shows of his sketches. Eventually he would mine it all for a standalone book, Cecil Beaton’s Fair Lady (1964).

Though Rex Harrison played up again, the momentum of Broadway was firmly behind London and My Fair Lady opened in a blaze of glory. At a special charity performance, attended by the Queen and Prince Philip, crowds lined the streets from Drury Lane to the Strand. It was more like a coronation than a premiere, remarked Lerner.

The film came next:

Andrews lost the part of Eliza to Audrey Hepburn. However, there was no doubt as to who would design the costumes and this time the sets too, ‘an explosive moment of excitement’, remembered Beaton – but it was not to last long.

For 10 months from the beginning of 1963, Beaton removed himself to Hollywood where, in the 1930s, he’d had great success as a photographer of movie stars. Despite a close friendship with Hepburn – ‘an angel of goodness’ – filming was an unhappy experience with echoes of his depressing time on The Chalk Garden. He quarrelled furiously with director George Cukor, whose approach he found undisciplined, his manner coarse. Further, his stage successes had emboldened him and he was unwilling to compromise. He also developed the habit, in breaks during filming, of taking the star off set to photograph her, sweet, pliable and willing, in each of his designs, her own and those of the extras. Already finding Beaton’s English vanities insufferable, Cukor was incensed at his presumption and at one point barred him from the set. Tempers simmered to breaking point. ‘Everyone’s nerves are explosive,’ commented Hepburn, ‘everyone’s on edge!’ Beaton tried to resign and in the end left the film earlier than planned. Meanwhile, Rex Harrison was positively beatific.

Regardless of what went on behind the scenes, it was another triumph for Beaton:

My Fair Lady earned Beaton two Oscars for costume and art direction. If the stage productions on London and Broadway made his name, the film guaranteed him immortality. ‘There is no formula for success,’ he once wrote. ‘The element of the unknown is always present to make or mar your effect; but when all the elements fuse and an entity is created, then all the heartburns seem to have been worthwhile.’

Royal photograhy continued

In the post-war years, the then-Princess Elizabeth called Beaton to photograph her first born, Prince Charles.

The aforementioned V&A article tells us:

On 14 November 1948 Princess Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, Prince Charles Philip Arthur George. At her mother’s suggestion, the Princess chose Beaton to photograph her newborn son. Beaton would go on to take photographs commemorating the births of her other children: Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964 …

Beaton photographed the infant Prince Charles on 13 December 1948, two days before the Prince’s christening. He commissioned a new backdrop for the occasion, which his assistants installed in the gold and ivory-coloured Music Room at Buckingham Palace. Beaton used a large 8 x 10 inch and smaller Rolleiflex cameras. He recalled that:

His mother sat by the cot and, holding his hand, watched his movements with curiosity, pride and amusement.

My favourite photograph is his official Coronation portrait of the Queen in 1953 with its magnificent backdrop of Westminster Abbey and sumptuous red curtain. The Abbey backdrop appears to be a large painting placed behind the Queen, although you would never know it from looking at the picture.

The Oldie magazine agrees with me:

Back at the Palace, the Queen was photographed by Cecil Beaton. She came in with her maids of honour, ‘cool, smiling, sovereign of the situation’. As she posed, he thought she looked ‘extremely minute under her robes and crown, her nose and hands chilled, and her eyes tired’.

To him, she was less forthcoming, but he extracted from her, ‘Yes, the crown does get rather heavy.’ She had been wearing the Imperial State Crown for over three hours, processing in the Gold State Coach through the rainy streets of London. Cecil Beaton went on to capture one of the most iconic images of the reign, way better than the official, tedious James Gunn portraits that lurk in embassies across the globe.

The V&A article has it in all its colourful splendour:

Cecil Beaton attended the ceremony, along with 8,000 other guests. He sat in a balcony close to the pipes of the great organ, recording his impression of the glorious pageant in animated prose and black ink sketches. After the ceremony he returned to the Palace to make final preparations for the official portrait sitting.

In this glittering portrait, the Queen wears the imperial state crown, a replica of that made for Queen Victoria’s Coronation. The Queen holds the sceptre with the cross in her right hand, balanced by the orb in her left. On her right hand she wears the coronation ring, a symbol that the sovereign is ‘wedded’ to the state. On both wrists are the armills, golden bracelets signifying sincerity and wisdom.

In the years that followed, the portraits that Beaton took of the Queen and her children are relaxed rather than stylised, a big departure for him:

Beaton’s approach to royal portraiture changed dramatically. All attention was now focused on the sitters, a stark white background replacing the elaborate Rococo-inspired backdrops of earlier years.

In 1968, Beaton was given an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He decided to add a new portrait, one of the Queen. I read in Tatler that he was mildly frustrated that none of the poses were what he wanted. Finally, spontaneously, the Queen suddenly turned her head at an angle. Beaton’s timing was perfect, and another iconic portrait emerged.

The V&A article says:

He felt anxious before the sitting, writing in his diary:

The difficulties are great. Our points of view, our tastes are so different. The result is a compromise between two people and the fates play a large part.

As times had changed by 1968, Beaton selected pared-down portraits:

Beaton selected plain white and blue backgrounds, resolving to be “stark and clear and bold”. The portraits were a triumph.

But — and its a big but:

They were the last photographs Beaton made of Elizabeth II, although he continued to photograph other members of the family until 1979.

This is, in part, because the Royal Family had its own photographer, Princess Margaret’s husband Lord Snowdon.

However, Beaton also suffered a stroke in the 1970s. Despite adaptations made to cameras and other equipment, he became more anxious about his future. Wikipedia says:

… in 1976, [he] entered into negotiations with Philippe Garner, expert-in-charge of photographs at Sotheby’s.

On behalf of the auction house, Garner acquired Beaton’s archive – excluding all portraits of the Royal Family, and the five decades of prints held by Vogue in London, Paris and New York. Garner, who had almost single-handedly invented the photographic auction, oversaw the archive’s preservation and partial dispersal, so that Beaton’s only tangible assets, and what he considered his life’s work, would ensure him an annual income. The first of five auctions was held in 1977, the last in 1980.[citation needed]

Cecil Beaton died at Reddish House in January 1980, four days after his 76th birthday.

Reddish House has had various famous owners since then and went on the market again in 2020, when Tatler told us:

… the smart home was purchased by Beaton for £10,000 in 1947, with the photographer living there until his death in 1980. He moved there from his sprawling Georgian estate, Ashcombe, which was just down the road.

A consummate host, Beaton threw plenty of soirées in his down-sized abode, with guests as illustrious as the Queen Mother, Mick Jagger, Truman Capote, David Hockney and Lucian Freud. Greta Garbo even moved in for a spell – staying for six weeks

Not only did he add more rooms on the eastern side of the house, he also extended the parlour southwards and added new fixtures and fittings. Upstairs, the house had been fitted for illegal cock-fighting – Beaton made use of the cages as a wardrobe for his costumes for the play, The Gainsborough Girls. He also planted the gardens, that remain today.

The article has photographs, including another self-portrait from 1968.

Cecil Beaton was one of a kind.

Tomorrow’s post will be about another great Royal photographer, the late Lord Snowdon.

If there is anyone who indirectly deserves credit for attracting me to Britain, it is surely the society photographer Dafydd Jones.

One Sunday afternoon in the early 1980s, I was browsing the magazines at the international newsstand near where I lived and saw a copy of Tatler, a publication about which I read in my English Lit anthology in high school. Richard Steele founded it in 1709 as a high society gossip magazine. Columns went under the pseudonym byline of Isaac Bickerstaff, which is still in use today. The magazine ceased publication for some years before it was resurrected in 1901, a timely year as Edward VII was crowned in 1902, so there was a lot of society news to cover.

I thumbed through the society photos of young Britons at outrageous parties and had never seen anything like them. Having purchased a copy, Tatler became a monthly event for me, if only for the society pages. I had to be part of this party action. By the end of the decade, my prayers were answered and my dream came true.

When I moved to the UK, one of the first things I did once getting a permanent address was to subscribe to Tatler. Gradually, the society photos became less spontaneous and more staid. My focus turned to the articles, and it is still a pleasure to read 40 years later.

It was only in 2023 that I discovered the name of the photographer who captured that wonderful world of the 1980s: Dafydd Jones.

Langan Brasserie’s unofficial photographer Richard Young, whom I referenced yesterday in my piece about the restaurant, was of that world but not in it. So it was with Dafydd Jones, Oxford resident albeit not a university student.

On April 23, The Sunday Times Magazine gave us a sneak preview of Jones’s new book, England: The Last Hurrah, published by ACC Art Books (£30).

The article features some of his most outrageous classics. I would call readers’ attention to have a look, especially at the ones with the following captions:

Suspected under-the-table drinking at a ball at Grosvenor House, London, November 1982

The chocolate heir Cosmo Fry at a party for the Pirates of Penzance theatre production, London, May 1982 [with Annabel Harris, Tatler, May 2023, p. 39]

Champagne flowed, countless cigarettes were smoked, black ties and shoes came off in the early hours of the morning after.

I did go to a few parties like that in the early 1990s — nothing debauched. My far better half and I got back to our hotel in Cambridge no earlier than 3 a.m. on those occasions. Great fun they were, too, featuring amusing people with amusing stories to tell. We still meet up most years, but marriage, children and sometimes illness intervened. Things aren’t what they once were in our late 20s and early 30s.

The Sunday Times Magazine article says:

In 1981 Dafydd Jones’s pictures of decadence and debauchery at Oxford University won him second place in a photography competition run by this magazine. A job offer from Tina Brown — then the editor of Tatler magazine — soon followed, and Jones gained access to the riotous and rigidly exclusive social calendar of Britain’s upper crust.

Throughout the 1980s he attended debutantes’ dances and May balls, birthday parties and Eton picnics, capturing the “absurdities of upper-class English life”, as he writes in the introduction to a new book. Even at the time, Jones notes, the high-society revelry he witnessed felt out of date — like an “imaginary version of England which no longer really existed.”

Yet, it really existed — week after week, month after month, year after year — for one blissful decade. And Dafydd Jones was part of it all.

And so were Tatler readers, among them myself, living an ocean away, dreaming of parties galore.

At a rather auspicious time, in post-lockdown October 2020, the lowkey photographer wrote an article for Tatler, Oxford: The Last Hurrah Special Edition by photographer Dafydd Jones’, for his book about his amazing candid shots from then-University students, some of which the magazine featured. One of them is of Boris Johnson on a night out with Allegra Mostyn-Owen, the woman who would become his first wife.

Jones explained how he got his start as a society photographer (emphases mine):

After the drab seventies, things were changing in Oxford, and students – some with well-known establishment names – were dressing up for extravagant parties. In 1980, I was living there too. I had a degree in fine art and wanted to be a photographer – my chance came with a competition run by The Sunday Times Magazine. My assignment: to cover ‘The Return of the Bright Young Things’. I badgered my way into the parties and tried my best to simply capture what was actually happening. There was this wonderful youthful excitement thrumming through the colleges. I would feel high from the general euphoria, even without drinking much. When the pictures were published, the issue caused a small sensation, and soon invitations to photograph other Oxford parties came flooding in.

I loved Oxford: the light, the buildings, the early morning mist. (For May balls I would usually skip the all-night partying and arrive at dawn to catch the dreamy-eyed survivors.) I photographed the May Morning celebrations, tea parties, balls and Eights Week. But Oxford had a dark side, too. Tragically, two of the people in my images, Olivia Channon and Gottfried von Bismarck, died from drug overdoses. My shots caught the attention of Tina Brown, then editor of Tatler. She hired me as the Bystander photographer and I moved to London.

Jones had already published a book of his incomparable photographs:

Now, after the success of the first, I have had a second edition printed, and from the new edition, I am releasing a special collectors’ set of 60 copies. I normally make a few test strips of the most important area in the image. When I have it right I then make the final print. Often a few hours work in the darkroom will only result in one or two final prints. The book was made from an edit of the prints I made for the Bodleian Library.

The book is — or was — available from ACC Art Books for £100, including shipping. All funds received (excluding shipping) went to the Trussell Trust, a charity that supports a network of food banks in the UK to provide emergency food and support to people in crisis.

Oxford University has a few elite private ‘societies’, one of which is named after the alleged ‘favourite’ of England’s Edward II, Piers Gaveston, the 1st Earl of Cornwall. As the Piers Gaveston Society was founded in 1977, it appears the name could be for shock value only, as their events after 1990 appear to be rather staid. That said, whatever goes on there, stays there — much like in Las Vegas. Membership is still limited to ten undergraduates who have to sign non-disclosure agreements. No phones of any kind are allowed.

The Piers Gaveston Society rose to national prominence in 1983, probably thanks to Dafydd Jones, who wrote a brief explanation for Country & Town House in 2020, around the time his photographic memoir about Oxford University appeared. He explains the photograph that was published and appears in the article:

My career began with some pictures I did of the Piers Gaveston club in Oxford. I lived around the corner from where several members lived in Norreys Avenue. I covered informal meetings, dinners, drinks parties. This … was a Piers Gaveston Ball I photographed, held in London at the Park Lane Hotel. The dress code was ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ after the painting by Hieronymus Bosch. It went on from about 10 pm until 3 am. Many men were dressed as women. The women were mostly scantily dressed. Many friends were there and I spent a lot of time chatting, but also there was a lot to photograph. Memorably, I used up 24 rolls of film – a record for me. I was an early fan of Hugh Grant. At the time he’d only appeared in an undergraduate film set in Oxford. Marina Killery was a hat maker and artist. Lulu was already married to Valentine Guinness, one of the founders of the club. Lord Neidpath is wearing a dress and on his other side is Catherine Guinness, who’d returned from a spell in New York where she was part of the Warhol circle.

The excitement of the decade can be corroborated by Petronella Wyatt who also penned a brief piece for the article. She was up at Oxford University for a brief spell before she got fed up. Her father was the late, famous Woodrow ‘Voice of Reason’ Wyatt, the most conservative Labour MP ever elected and, later, political columnist for the now-defunct News of the World. He was made a Knight in 1983 and a life peer in 1987, Baron Wyatt of Weeford, the place in Staffordshire where his family lived in the 17th century. Wyatt died in 1997 at the age of 79. Petronella was the issue of his fourth marriage to a Hungarian lady, Verushka Banszky von Ambroz (née Racz).

Petronella, following up in her father’s footsteps, was also a journalist, and, when she was at The Spectator, had a close friendship with the aforementioned Boris Johnson, the magazine’s editor, later Prime Minister.

Petronella told Country & Town House of her time at West Wycombe Park in the Home Counties, just outside London. Again, this was in the 1980s:

When I was 18 I was invited to a costume ball at West Wycombe Park by its wonderfully eccentric and charming owner, Sir Francis Dashwood. Like his 18th century ancestor, a founding member of the Hellfire Club, Francis was adept at the art of hedonism. The gathering was large but select: royals, politicians, grandees, writers and other luminaries. Oriental tents were erected on the grounds, overlooking lakes with temples on which ballerinas and singers performed. As the stars got brighter a gondola glided into the central lake. Its occupant was Pavarotti, who sang to us. Afterwards there was a great firework display accompanied by a full orchestra. I was drunk on beauty. I will never forget it as long as I live and I shall never see its like again.

What few people mention is that West Wycombe Park has a magnificent family chapel, featured in Tatler‘s April 2023 issue as being the best of its kind in the UK. Victoria Dashwood got married there recently to the heir of Tyrell’s crisps, James Chase. As with the Piers Gaveston Society, the Hellfire Club is probably not all it is cracked up to be.

But I digress.

Returning to Dafydd Jones, in brief autobiographical excerpts from a 2007 interview for the Centre for British Photography, he charted his rise from being a local Oxford photographer to one of high society.

In the beginning:

I went to art school. After leaving I managed to get a job at Butlins holiday camp as a ‘colour walkie’ photographer. When I finished the season it was impossible to get any sort of job – I’d saved up enough at Butlins to buy some camera equipment. Some art school friends were setting up a cheap shared studio space in Jericho in Oxford. I took a space planning on doing photographic black and white portraits. At the same time I was shortlisted for a photography competition for photojournalists the Sunday Times were running.– One of the subjects for a photo essay was – The Return of the Bright Young Things’- Living in Oxford already I was in the right place.

As I mentioned earlier, Britain was undergoing social change — a bright one for the time:

After I began this project I decided that I wasn’t sure if the ‘Bright Young Things’ actually existed but that there was definitely a change going on at Oxford. It was the first time I’d photographed parties. – I tried to take photographs that recorded the memorable moments and described what was happening. I tried doing a few colour pictures but black and white spoke much more strongly. Also my budget was low. I bought a bulk roll of black and white film. Developed and printed them in my darkroom. – I didn’t win the competition I was a runner-up. The judges described my pictures as being more ‘pointed than the winners.’ The magazine issue caused a small sensation at the time. – My work attracted the attention of Tina Brown who at the time was an up an coming editor on the Tatler.

I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to photograph these parties. I had access to what felt like a secret world. It was a subject that had been written about and dramatised but I don’t think any photographers had ever tackled before. There was a change going on. Someone described it as a ‘last hurrah’ of the upper classes.

It was only a ‘last hurrah’ in the sense that Jones was the first and last photographer of the upper classes’ kind. He was truly remarkable in capturing the moment. A photo speaks a thousand words. Jones’s were proof of that.

Jones worked under two of Tatler‘s most famous editors, Tina Brown, who went to edit The New Yorker, and Mark Boxer, who died before his time. Later on, Jones photographed for another of Tatler‘s editors, Jane Proctor. In between, he moved his wife and two children to New York so that he could work for Vanity Fair, when Graydon Carter edited the magazine:

I have been very lucky to work with editors, art directors and picture editors that have encouraged me and used the pictures well. Tina Brown, Mark Boxer, Graydon Carter, Jane Procter, etc.

He discussed Tina Brown, one of the toughest editors in the business:

The first time we met Tina Brown I was surprised at her bluntness. She would speak her mind. She was always on the lookout for new talent. – She gave the impression she’d drop you if she found someone whose work she preferred.

Brown catapulted Tatler to a new-found success outside the high society world. Readers were captivated, as they were with her successor Mark Boxer. The society pages were still known by their original name, Bystander, at the time:

When Mark Boxer became editor at the Tatler the magazine had a golden period. It was the best magazine I’ve worked for – with fashion by Joe Mckenna, Isabella Blow and Michael Roberts. – Spoofs by Craig Brown and brilliant writing and photography. But Mark tragically died. Emma Soames became editor but she had a difficult job following Mark. I wasn’t sure how much she ‘got’ my pictures. The party coverage could be cruel if the pictures were used in the wrong way. Then there was a recession on the horizon. Someone mentioned introducing colour photography to Bystander and having more flattering pictures of smiling faces. At that point I decided to go to New York ask Tina about an offer she’d made a few years earlier.

On May 3, 2023, Tina Brown wrote an article for The New Yorker about Jones, including more of his iconic photos:

Blizzard Ball. London, 1986.

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II at a Guards Polo Club match. Windsor, 1985.

Margaret Thatcher arriving at the Winter Ball. Grosvenor House, London, 1984.

Feathers Ball. Hammersmith Palais, London, 1981.

Lady Diana Spencer at Sandown Park. Esher, 1981.

Feathers Ball. Hammersmith Palais, London, 1981.

David Kirke, Tim Hunt, Nicky Slade, and Lord Xan Rufus-Isaacs ride a dining table in the Dangerous Sports Club ski race. St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1983.

In ‘The Photographer Who Captured England’s Last Hurrah’, Brown tells us:

When I took over the editorship of Tatler (the old social flagship of the British upper classes that once had loitered on every coffee table of every stately home in England) in June, 1979, it had declined into a threadbare shiny sheet with staples through it trying to masquerade as an upmarket magazine …

Then again, it had been a weekly, not a glossy monthly.

At that time, Langan’s Brasserie photographer Richard Young was getting his restaurant photos published in RITZ magazine:

The Tatler photos were the polar opposite of what had begun to make a splash in RITZ, the raffish social newspaper of the late nineteen-seventies that was modelled on Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. Edited by the late David Litchfield, a former filmmaker, RITZ offered a parallel social world of louche café society, specializing in “candids”

Let’s not forget television shows, either:

By the early eighties, the ruling class had its confidence back, but there was also—as the harshness of the Thatcher years played out—a nostalgia for the “Brideshead Revisited” era of aristocratic whimsy and frolicky romance. (The BBC TV adaptation of “Brideshead” ruled the airwaves in 1981.) The pages of Tatler needed to reflect all these crosscurrents, the emerging social edge, the high-low social mix, the secret excesses that still existed behind the closed doors of the great houses of England, and it needed to be chronicled with a cleverly irreverent point of view.

Brown says that Tatler‘s photos of aristocratic parties were staid, as the ageing photographers relied on invitations to various events. As such, spontaneity was lacking. Enter one Dafydd Jones, who was of a similar age to the Bright Young Things he was photographing for The Sunday Times contest:

The series by the runner-up, one Dafydd Jones, immediately caught my eye with its stark black-and-white definition and the sheer effervescent brio of its depiction of oblivious aristocratic bad behavior—photographic moments as memorable as Evelyn Waugh’s sentences.

In 1981, Lady Diana Spencer was increasingly sought before her marriage to the then-Prince of Wales. The future princess was often snapped walking alone. Tina Brown sent Dafydd Jones out to photograph Britain’s biggest media sensation until her death at the end of August 1997.

In a May 16, 2023 Country & Town House podcast interview with Oxford grads Ed Vaizey — former Conservative MP, now Lord Vaizey — and Charlotte Metcalf, who was a friend of the University’s Dangerous Sports Club, Jones explained how he was able to get the now-famous photo of Lady Diana at the Sandown Races in Esher, Surrey. The page also has a recent photo of Jones today.

Jones says that he felt dissuaded because he did not have a press pass to enter Sandown. A seasoned veteran told him that he needed only to buy a ticket to the day’s racing and he would be admitted, no questions asked. Jones always travelled lightly, with only his camera and its small case. As such, nothing gave him away. By contrast, press photographers stood outside Sandown’s gates with long lenses. Jones described them as getting a ‘bird’s eye view’, whereas he got a close up.

Amazingly, he was able to snap Diana walking alone against a backdrop of hundreds of spectators waiting for the race to begin. Tina Brown’s article says:

I assigned Dafydd to follow the then Lady Diana Spencer when she attended the race meet at Sandown Park in March, 1981. He shot her in black and white, eyes down, running the gantlet of hungry paparazzi whose lenses were all trained in her direction. We used it as a double-page spread beneath the headline “Di, Di, over Here Di, Di . . .” It became the classic, early image of a hunted future princess.

It was reprinted many times in the years that followed, including into a double-page spread.

The fulfillment of that assignment signed the deal for Jones and Tatler. Tina Brown fills us in on his origins and his demeanour:

I asked Dafydd to bring his portfolio into Tatler’s old headquarters on Bruton Street, and resolved there and then to make him our party photographer. He was a strikingly elfin presence, so young, so hesitant, so unassuming. His own humble origins, including attending a state-run school in Oxford and making extra money as a campus cleaner, were the perfect townie vantage point from which to view the privileged antics of the Oxford jeunesse dorée. Throughout the next eight years, his pictures became the defining images of the new Tatler, reflecting more pointedly than all our glossy competitors the inimitable look and feel of a strata of society at play. Because he was so understated, he was able to be invisible. Because he always knew what he was looking for, he was usually the last to leave, producing wonderful motifs of sleeping young beauties with their long, lissome legs sprawled on padded banquettes with their entwined dance partners, or lolling with a friend on a summer lawn at the end of the revelry. Unusually for an outsider who penetrates the inner circles, Dafydd was never co-opted by the world he covered.

Jones has a collection of photographs of sleeping beauties on his website. He took these between 1980 and 1987, noting his mixed emotions about them:

Sometimes the party just goes on too longAfter doing these pictures I worked in the U.S. and travelled around Europe photographing social events for several years. I didn’t ever see anyone falling asleep at a party anywhere else. Some perhaps are passed out rather than sleeping. There is something more peaceful about just sleeping at a party. These were the pictures I really liked. It takes confidence to go to sleep at a party but seen together the pictures give an impression of a society in decline

He referenced these in his podcast with Lord Vaizey and Charlotte Metcalf, again musing that they are perhaps a sign of a declining society. Then again, he and his family moved to the United States afterwards. Lord Vaizey said that Americans drink much less that Britons do, hence their ability to stay awake.

Metcalf says that she was friends with members of Oxford University’s Dangerous Sports Club and described their bungee jumping off the Severn Bridge, which links England and Wales. Even Jones found that a daunting tale, especially when Metcalf talked about the police arriving just when the participating members were suspended over the water, with no escape. She was in charge of the getaway car.

Speaking of the Dangerous Sports Club, a photo of which is in The New Yorker, Jones said he was deeply disappointed to see it ripped off for something else. He consulted his lawyer, who said there was nothing that could be done. There was no protection for his original intellectual property which had been recreated.

When photographing big events, Jones had to dress up in a dinner jacket and black tie. Upon returning home to his wife and two children, he reeked of cigarette smoke. He regularly took off his DJ and draped it over a chair in the back garden to air out for the next event. In his podcast with Vaizey and Metcalf, he says that it was one of his son’s enduring memories.

Also in the podcast, Jones says that he thought he was going to get punched out by a young Scottish party host who asked him why he hadn’t been photographed. Jones managed to smooth everything over, but it was a tense moment nonetheless.

Jones had more stories to tell, including another of his first assignments at the Aspinall nature reserve at Port Lympne in Kent. John Aspinall was throwing a 21st birthday part for his daughter Amanda. At the time, Tatler was not invited to cover those private parties. Jones went by himself and stood in the rain, photographing cars arriving and leaving several hours later. He told Vaizey and Metcalf that he liked the raindrops on the camera lens and on the cars. He hadn’t arrived by car himself, so he was stranded. Early in the morning after the party, a car stopped and the driver asked him if he needed a lift. The offer came from a member of the Cecil family, one of the oldest and best known in England. Jones duly accepted. From there, more party invitations followed.

In May 2023’s Tatler, Jones wrote about his experiences in ‘”Mind if I crash?” My 40 years as Tatler‘s party snapper’ (pp 36-38). His more recent photographs can be found in ‘Screen Time’, a collection of celebs looking into their mobile phones. Not a patch on the 1980s, but still relevant.

He says that he had help once he joined the magazine. To begin with, Tina Brown’s assistant spread the word (p. 36):

Gabé Doppelt tirelessly sent out requests, describing me as ‘almost invisible’. Initially, only one positive reply came back, for a 21st birthday near Bristol. My future father-in-law was a retired brigadier, so I asked him how I could photogaph a Sandhurst ball. ‘Write to the adjutant,’ he instructed, so we did. ‘Oh, yes, came back the reply, adding: ‘The Tatler last photographed one of our balls in 1966. We have some pictures up in the mess’

Among the smattering of young Etonians at Tatler there was an older figure: Peter Townend. He was well versed in the debutante season and lived for socialising. He asked mothers if I could photograph their parties, and some agreed. That’s how I got a picture of a debutante being pushed into a lily pond. Now there’s something almost revolutionary about it — out with the old.

The Season revolved around the Royal Family, who (p. 38):

would follow the same routine every year … The clubs and enclosures were designed to keep people out. To be admitted to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, you needed two letters of recommendation from members who had themselves attended for at least five years.

After a while, he says:

It was a bizarre job … But readers were noticing the party pictures, and partygoers had the confidence to laugh at themselves … I was eventually given a company Mini.

Even though he still experiences a bit of conflict about his photographic subject matter, Jones says:

People might think I’d tire of the endless parties, but the social whirl is a circus — and that still excites me to this day.

His most recent collection of photographs, England: The Last Hurrah, is avalable from ACC Art Books for £30.

Dafydd Jones’s wife and two children have all pursued occupations in the visual arts.

In closing, I am delighted to finally find out who took all the marvellous photographs chronicling Britain’s high society in the 1980s.

For his innate art for capturing spontaneity, there is no better photographer than Dafydd Jones. We will never see his like again.

An exhibition of Dafydd’s photographs is now running at The Centre for British Photography on 49 Jermyn Street, London until the beginning of June.

This week, a friend of mine and I shared a real treat, eating at Langan’s Brasserie, just across from Green Park station, on the Stratton Street side.

Langan’s, founded in 1976, closed during the pandemic, although it was not a victim of it. It had been taken into administration, as it had been failing since 2019. New owners quickly bought it and undertook an extensive refit.

Even if the 1970s celebrities of stage and screen might no longer visit because of death or old age, the brasserie continues with its classics and traditions.


Having finished a late afternoon wine tasting early, we arrived at the restaurant a good 45 minutes early, well before dinner service would normally start in many places.

However, that was no problem for the accommodating staff. The gentleman at the reception desk warmly welcomed us and took my coat.

Two groups were still finishing their late lunches, and he showed us to our table, also helpfully indicating the loo for the disabled just off to one side. My friend greatly appreciated the gesture.

Menus quickly followed. Our ageing waiter was either Spanish or Italian and of the old school: friendly, yet professional.

The atmosphere on the ground floor dining room is pleasant in its green and white decor. Particularly striking are the three large, green glass chandeliers adorning the ceiling. Dark green curtains separate the dining area from the rooms for private parties.

Each table has napery, complete with linen napkins. There is no stainless steel cutlery here, only silver. Even the sauce pots that accompany some of the dishes are silver.

The all-day menu has a special section to indicate Langan’s Classics: Bangers & Mash (£26), the Spinach Soufflé (£15) and the Fish Pie (£33).

The wide-ranging Raw Bar section has dishes that serve as starters or main courses. The main course in this category is the Plateau de Fruits de Mer for two (£87). Langan’s are big on Obsiblue prawns, which, although farmed in New Caledonia, are still considered a luxury treat. The prawns are blue in their natural state but, when cooked, are pink, just as every other prawn.

Most of the main courses come with potato and/or other garnish which means that there is no need to order a side of vegetables: money saved.

The grill section largely focuses on beef but also has a fish of the day on offer. Those dishes would require a side of potato or vegetables.

For starters, my friend ordered the Shellfish Cocktail (£19.50), which comes with Obsiblue prawns and a lobster claw. Not knowing how filling it would be, I opted for the aforementioned Spinach Soufflé, which takes 20 minutes to prepare.

The 20 minutes passed by quickly. The French sommelier took our order for Rully Blanc – Les Villeranges – Domaine Faiveley (2020, £76). He came back with the wine (complete list here), poured it and chatted with us for several minutes about French and Italian wines. My friend is very knowledgeable, and the two compared notes on their respective favourites.

After the sommelier left, we only had time to sip a bit of the Rully and sample some homemade sourdough before our starters appeared.

My friend’s classic Shellfish Cocktail did not disappoint. It was done in the classic British 1970s way with the slightly sweet Marie Rose sauce and shredded lettuce. He finished it with a spoon.

The Spinach Soufflé exceeded my already high expectations. It came with a small silver pot of hollandaise sauce with a touch of anchovy blended in for a smooth, almost herby flavour. The soufflé was perfect in its construction: a beautiful, flat rise and piping hot. I have never tasted anything like it: rich, unctuous and comforting. Despite its price, it is ample enough to serve as a main course, which I will remember for a return visit.

Our waiter came by to ask how everything was, which is not something normally done in British restaurants. We sent our compliments and finished eating.

We did not have long to wait for our main courses, either. Granted, it was only around 6:30 or so, but everything went like clockwork.

My friend had the Chicken Kyiv (£29), which came with a silky potato puree, Savoy cabbage relish, pancetta and peas. He said it tasted just the way the classic Kiev did back in the ’70s. The sauce was expertly encased in the middle and did not leak or get absorbed into the meat. His only wish was for more garlic in the butter sauce, but he is rather big on garlic.

I had the Golden Beer-Battered Fish & Chips which was a bargain at £24, accompanied by homemade tartare sauce and mushy peas, both in small silver pots. The waiter asked if I needed any additional sauce. Knowing my love of tartare sauce, I asked for extra. He duly returned with a small silver bowl of it. I’m not sure what they put into it. It was very light on cornichons and had no capers, but it did have horseradish and a strong vinegar, along with some dill and possibly tarragon. It was fabulous. My friend enjoyed dipping his bread into it.

The unidentified fish — probably hake — was perfectly fried, wonderfully moist on the inside and crispy on the outside until the very last bite. The portion of piping hot chips was massive, much more than I could eat: the soufflé effect.

Our sommelier was judicious in refilling our wine glasses throughout. We were still left with a glass apiece after we finished our main courses.

Then came time for dessert. Classics are there — Rum Baba (£12), Baked Vanilla Cheesecake (£12), Langan’s Mess (£12), Crème Brûlée (£11.50) and a British and French Cheese Platter (£16.50) — along with a more recent offering, Four Chocolates Fondant (£12.50). Homemade ice creams are also available — Bourbon Vanilla, Bolivian Dark Chocolate, Vietnamese Coffee, Strawberries & Cream — at £3.80 a scoop, accompanied with a choice of Greek yoghurt, tropical tutti frutti, Coconut Malibu or raspberry and yuzu sauce. Liquid Puddings — cocktails — are also available.

Wine suggestions come with each of the desserts. Feeling rather replete, I opted for a glass of Sauternes Cuvée Céline – Clos Le Comte 2015, 75ml ( £9), which was the perfect end to an outstanding meal.

My friend chose the Rum Baba, which was made the authentic way: a yeast cake, with plenty of holes to absorb the generous sousing of Plantation Stiggins’ 1824 Pineapple Rum. It came with a thin layer of pineapple compote on the bottom, which he said was surplus to requirements. I had a bite of the baba, and the rum sang through it. Definitely one to consider for a future visit.

The bill came to £236.

By the time we left, more people were coming in, among them a large private party which went through the green curtain. The noise level grew louder, therefore, book at a quieter time for more conversation.

On our way out, one of the waitresses was with a lady at reception. They suggested more dishes to try when we return: the aforementioned Langan’s Fish Pie as well as the Roasted South Coast Cod (£36), which comes with Obsiblue prawns, bouillabaisse and red pepper rouille. They also suggested the Crème Brûlée.

Everyone and everything was top notch. We were treated as future friends rather than complete strangers.

We shall be back!


Tripadvisor has a brief history of Langan’s, named after the original co-owner Peter Langan, who has since gone to his eternal rest (emphases mine):

November 2021 saw the hotly anticipated reopening of Langan’s Brasserie. With acclaimed duo, Graziano Arricale and James Hitchen at the helm, their mission is to bring all of the elegance and eccentricity of the original Brasserie – opened in 1976 as a joint venture between actor Michael Caine and the legendary restaurateur Peter Langan – back to the forefront of London culture. Reimagined for a new generation by Peter Mikic (Vogue once called the London-based interior designer a “master of metamorphosis”) each of the three floors will have its own distinct visual identity. Upon entering, guests are instantly be immersed in a sense of occasion …

You can see more photos on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

Although Langan’s interior might not look exactly the same, The Telegraph‘s restaurant critic, the incomparable William Sitwell, reminded us of its great past just before it reopened late in October 2021. His article comes complete with vintage photographs:

It was London’s most famous restaurant. Indeed, in the late 1970s, many regarded it as the capital’s only restaurant. At least, the only one worth going to, worth eating in and, above all, worth being seen in. For two decades from 1976, Langan’s Brasserie on Mayfair’s Stratton Street bestrode London’s social scene.

It was a haven for film stars, rock stars, aristocrats and the beautiful people of the day; and those who dined there were more than happy for everyone to know about it.

Now, 45 years after it was founded, and on the eve of its reopening with new owners, the man who obliged the stars’ desire to have their presence well and truly documented in newspaper gossip pages is reflecting on those heady days and – more specifically – nights.

In the kitchen of his London home in North Kensington, society photographer Richard Young – regarded as the original paparazzo – is almost melancholy at the memory. ‘Those days are truly gone,’ he tells me. Yet adorning the walls of his kitchen, hallway, staircase and on almost every space of wall, in fact, are many of those memories in stark black and white.

Framed photographs attest to Young’s role in the story of one of Britain’s great celebrity hotspots; shots of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Sean Connery, many of which were captured on the pavement outside Langan’s, and also, in delightfully unguarded moments, indoors.

‘Langan’s became the main port of call for any major star who was visiting the capital,’ says Young, now aged 74 and still plying his trade as a photographer of the famous. ‘In those days there were only two restaurants worth going to – Langan’s and San Lorenzo. But San Lorenzo wasn’t as profitable for me [because fewer stars dined there] – and the food wasn’t as good.’

The restaurant was the brainchild of actor Michael Caine and Irishman Peter Langan, a former chef. Caine had dined at Odin’s in Marylebone, where Langan was cooking, loved his seafood salads and crème brûlée, had become friendly with him and suggested they open a place together. Langan had bonhomie in spades; Caine could supply the guests.

I went to Odin’s in the 1990s with my better half. The food was excellent there, too.

Sitwell continues:

Caine’s idea had been to create an iconic restaurant, like his beloved La Coupole brasserie in Paris. ‘It was a shame there was nowhere in London like that,’ he said. Having dined often with Langan, he decided, in 1975, that they should just fill the vacuum themselves. ‘Peter, let’s create the most fabulous restaurant in London,’ he said one night. 

Langan found the location, where a restaurant had previously stood:

He focused on design and décor while Caine financed the project. The room had the comfort and sophistication of the smart drawing room of a grand London house, the walls adorned with artworks by the likes of David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. The great and the good felt at home.

Soon after, they would hire the chef Richard Shepherd, a man with impeccable credentials and latterly of the city’s renowned Capital Hotel – together the three of them created a restaurant that had the magic touch; a combination of food, atmosphere and guests that other restaurateurs could only dream of.

Now, Richard Young has brought together a collection of all the photographs he took at the restaurant over the best part of two decades.

His book encapsulates an era of glamour that existed long before social media; a time when celebrities didn’t have to worry about fellow diners taking covert pictures of them with a smartphone (and so were able to really let their hair down) and when gossip lovers pored over the pages of Nigel Dempster’s Daily Mail column or William Hickey in The Express.

Young provided a steady daily supply of pictures of celebrities for the latter, having stalked Langan’s the night before.

‘Every morning I would bring in three or four rolls of film that I had taken on my Leica M4,’ he says. ‘They couldn’t believe how I’d got pictures of everyone from Francis Bacon to John Travolta. They loved it and I never told them quite how I did it.’

In fact, Young was on the inside, literally, of Langan’s. At the time a fledgling photographer, he was hired by David Bailey and Patrick Lichfield, founders of celebrity magazine Ritz, to cover the capital’s social scene, and he would join meetings held on an almost daily basis at Langan’s …

‘I went to Langan’s nearly every night. I’d sit at the bar and watch who was coming in. It was triple-A-list celebs and it was fantastic. I could take pictures of them at the front as they left and even sometimes at the tables, usually with their permission. Sometimes without…’

Caine recalls the sight of Young arriving on his precious motorbike. ‘He would turn up on his Harley-Davidson and hang outside, capturing all the big names,’ he writes in Young’s book. ‘Eventually, he became a part of the Langan’s family.

He would hang by the bar and then run outside to capture the likes of Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro or Mick Jagger as they were leaving, and then come back in and finish his orange juice.’

Langan’s became Young’s second home:

‘From Princess Grace of Monaco to Frank Sinatra to Catherine Deneuve to Roger Moore, they all went there and it proved a very lucrative time for me,’ Young recalls. ‘To be honest, at the time I didn’t see the inside of my own home very much.’

The food was an essential part of the Langan’s experience:

With Shepherd in the kitchen, Langan’s wasn’t just a place to be seen – the food itself was a major draw. His dishes were mainly old-school French brasserie in style and, as a glance at an old menu reveals, there were a hell of a lot of them.

His handwritten bill of fare, featuring a drawing by David Hockney of the three proprietors – with Caine in the middle, besuited and holding a cigar – featured some 30 hors d’oeuvres, 20 plats du jour, six specialities du jour, 14 legumes and salades, 25 desserts, seven fromages and a concise list of wines and champagnes, all written in French on a single page.

There were snails, avocado with vinaigrette, Dover sole, roast duck, profiteroles and créme brûlée. It was a menu to appease the well-heeled and well-travelled and excite the palates of fashionable Londoners.

However, it became apparent that Langan had a personal problem:

From Caine’s perspective, Shepherd was there not only to run the kitchen efficiently but also, in Caine’s frequent absences, to keep a close eye on Langan. ‘The pressure was enormous,’ recalls Shepherd now, ‘juggling the kitchen, the staff, running the business – and Peter himself.’

For Langan needed to be kept under close observation; indeed, he frequently required a supporting arm as well, to stop him from toppling over. Peter Langan was in his mid-30s when Caine met him. From a rural background in County Clare, he had come to London in the 1960s and quickly established himself as both an effective restaurateur and bon viveur.

He became known as the life and soul of the party. Guests wanted to drink with him and, as his reputation as a hellraiser grew, they expected to see him worse for wear. As Young explains, in the early years he didn’t wish to disappoint.

‘But a lot of it was showbiz,’ he says. ‘He wasn’t drunk nearly as often as people thought. But they expected to see him on all fours, under the tables and biting ladies’ ankles – so that’s what he did.’


Often, Langan wouldn’t make it home at all and would be found asleep on the floor or just slumped in a chair at the back of the restaurant by the cleaning ladies in the morning. Fed up with his antics one night, Shepherd told the staff to put Langan’s chair and table outside on the pavement, to keep him out of trouble.

‘Sadly, Peter unravelled over the years,’ said Caine. In 1988, at the age of 47, he set fire to his house and a few days later died of his injuries. ‘He was a very sensitive soul,’ his widow Susan said, ‘and somewhat misunderstood.’

Back to the celebrities. Mick Jagger once celebrated his birthday at Langan’s:

Young famously captured Mick Jagger blowing the candles out at a table upstairs while celebrating his birthday in 1982.

‘I could hear people singing Happy Birthday in the Venetian Room upstairs one night,’ recalls Young. ‘A barman told me it was Jagger’s birthday. I’ve never run up a set of stairs faster. But I got the picture, bang, bang, bang and the photograph went everywhere. And I was surprised Mick didn’t tell me off.’

Prince Andrew showed up, too. At that time, he was a youthful veteran of the Falklands War.

Young continued photographing:

Night after night. He shot Dudley Moore taking over the piano; he flirted with Elton John, who obliged by flicking a V-sign at him; he saw Marie Helvin running down the street barefoot, clasping her high heels; he recorded Prince Andrew’s frequent dates in the restaurant; and he photographed quieter times as Caine, Shepherd and Langan sat upstairs, talking business.

By the 1990s, the London restaurant scene was changing:

… with a fleet of new British culinary stars emerging in the capital, such as Marco Pierre White, and other dining rooms attracting attention, like Sir Terence Conran’s Bibendum in South Kensington and Rowley Leigh’s Kensington Place in Notting Hill, Langan’s star was waning. Celebrities found new places to be seen at.

Young moved with the times:

Richard Young’s Harley-Davidson was more likely to be spotted a few hundred yards away, behind the Ritz, outside Le Caprice.

Sitwell says:

On my last visit to Langan’s for lunch, some five years ago, the food was still good, but the place was much quieter – with not a fashionista in sight.

Langan’s closed in 2019, a year before the pandemic. However, it was resurrected during lockdown with the refit by new owners Graziano Arricale and James Hitchen:

still as a French brasserie, but with swanky additions, such as a raw seafood bar and beef tartare prepared at the table.

It will be reimagined with a rather grander aesthetic, too, yet the new owners will be hoping to rekindle that original heady mix of A-list guests.

As Arricale, a former operations director for high-end hospitality boss Richard Caring, puts it, ‘We look forward to creating a real hub for the locals of Mayfair, along with those from the worlds of fashion, art, film and music, to help us bring Langan’s back to its rightful place at the centre of Mayfair.’

An Evening Standard article from October 2021, complete with photos, told us more about the new owners and reminisced about the old Langan’s:

Now it is to be reanimated by school friends and business partners, Graziano Arricale — formerly of Birley Clubs, who count celeb haunts Annabel’s and Harry’s Bar among their roster — and James Hitchen, who made his name as the CEO of one of Manchester’s most popular restaurant groups, East Coast Concepts.

This most storied of London restaurants, then, is in experienced hands. The pair have kept the bones of the old Langan’s — the grand brasserie-style food and showpiece dining room — but given it a facelift, expanding the offering. There will be a basement private dining room, a raw seafood bar, and an invitation-only upstairs bar, all of which has been overseen by interior designer Peter Mikic, with a profusion of Italian marble.

The question for the pair, though, is can they distil that same magic which saw Langan’s, which was co-founded by Michael Caine, become the restaurant of the Seventies and Eighties? The names were endless: Mick Jagger, Marlon Brando, Muhammad Ali. Joan Collins said it was “like a private club, where one could see many of one’s friends. I loved the food and the atmosphere, even if you did have to fight through the paparazzi on the front pavement”.

Peter Langan got on the wrong side of Princess Margaret, by then divorced:

He once invited himself to Princess Margaret’s table while she was dining with her young lover Roddy Llewellyn, flinging his jacket onto the back of her chair and then scrambling onto the table while mumbling incoherently. She never returned.

He also barred certain A-listers of the time:

He once barred Rudolf Nureyev “for being himself”. He failed to recognise Brando, saying: “The only thing I knew about him was that he was even fatter than me.” And with Orson Welles, he kept things even simpler: “I think you’re a stupid fat f***.”

One famous couple from the past who did appear at Langan’s reopening on October 28, 2021, were Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster. The Mail‘s Richard Eden reported:

Rod Stewart along with his rock ’n’ roll friends were regulars at Langan’s Brasserie in Mayfair back in the day — so you can imagine how delighted I was to see the 76-year-old star sailing into an emotional reunion with a long-lost pal at the reopening on Thursday night.

He and his glamorous wife Penny Lancaster, 50, ran into their old friend Jo Wood — ex-wife of Rolling Stones’ Ronnie, Sir Rod’s bandmate in the 1970s rock group Faces.

I wish the new owners well.

Initially, critics panned the new Langan’s for overpriced food and snooty staff, but Arricale and Hitchen took the criticism on board and changed things.

On November 18, 2021, The Times‘s Marina O’Loughlin, an eminent food critic, slammed both the food and the staff — as well as the new dress code, a first for the establishment, requesting that men wear jackets. Her article has a great photo of half of the main floor dining room.

Three weeks later, the aforementioned William Sitwell poled up, writing an equally sharp critique for The Telegraph. His complaints mirrored O’Loughlin’s.

Fortunately, the owners held onto the new dress code and properly addressed the food, the prices and the snootiness. A number of the dishes mentioned in those reviews have been dropped, with prices for many others dramatically reduced.

Sitwell, incensed that he had been asked about his reservation by the doorman, wrote:

if you now arrive at this expensively refurbished gaff, as it works feverishly to reclaim past glories, and are greeted with a ‘Good evening’ from the chap at the door, you know who to thank.

Thank you, Mr Sitwell.

The doorman was courteous and helpful to another couple who wondered if they could get a table without a reservation. They duly did.

On that basis, Langan’s and its owners deserve to succeed. They’ve listened, and they’ve made necessary changes.

My friend and I had a memorable dinner, one that will go down in our personal annals of great food memories. You won’t be disappointed, either.

Those who missed my series on King Charles III’s coronation so far might be interested in reading parts 1 and 2.

Here is GB News’s video which captures the events of Saturday, May 6, 2023, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.:

This post discusses what happened after the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey and star performances by people involved.

Getting fit like 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:

Here she is later on during the ceremony. Note how she positions her legs:

As I mentioned yesterday, her 51-minute holding of the sword was something to behold. A Guardian journalist tried holding a full water jug of similar weight and could only manage eight minutes.

The Telegraph tells us ‘How to get arms of steel like Penny Mordaunt’ (emphases mine):

The 350-year-old ceremonial blade weighs in at 3.5kg so this was no mean feat – “get her in the Olympics,” quipped TV presenter Dan Walker. With the eyes of the world upon her, it’s little wonder that Mordaunt, like an athlete training for the Games, had been preparing for this moment for some months.

“[I] will be carrying the Sword of State, which is the heaviest sword,” she told a podcast ahead of the Coronation. “It has to be carried at right angles to the body, hence the need to do press-ups – pointing upwards, out in front of you, for some time.”

50-year-old Mordaunt revealed that she had taken inspiration from her decade as Royal Navy reservist in training to become the first woman to carry out this important ceremonial role, noting that her experience in the armed forces made her used to “standing for long periods of time, not fainting”.

But the strict exercise regime which naval recruits are put through will surely also have provided a framework for Mordaunt’s press-up heavy preparations, ensuring her arms were at their strongest for the task.

As one serving naval officer tells me, “in training, we are introduced to an exercise called ‘four corners’ where we stand rank and file in a gym, then a PT [physical trainer) shouts orders at us to jump and face different corners of the room to carry out exercises like press-ups, star jumps and mountain climbers”. Extreme discipline, both mental and physical, is required to endure these sessions.

The officer stresses that this approach is less about focusing on one particular area and instead creating a full body workout; “as well as cardio, it’s about functional fitness, calisthenics and using your own body weight.”

An easy way to introduce something similar into your own routine if you don’t have a naval PT to bark orders at you would be to adopt the 5BX fitness regime, which was designed for the Canadian Air Force in the 1950s. Standing for ‘five basic exercises’, the 12-minute routine includes press-ups, sit-ups, back extensions, stretching and running on the spot. Both Prince Philip and King Charles have credited it for keeping them trim well beyond their youth.

Although Mordaunt’s tailored cape obscured most of her arms, the momentary glimpses we did get showed off enviably honed biceps.

“Many of us watched in awe at the King’s Coronation as Penny Mordaunt stood holding the sword for what seemed like an eternity,” says personal trainer Caroline Idiens, whose philosophy centres on strength training and the physical and mental wellbeing this can foster, especially in midlife

Mordaunt, sitting on the front bench for Prime Minister’s Questions today, received compliments from the Labour shadow front bench opposite. She smiled and mouthed, ‘Thank you’.

Many more compliments followed from all sides of the Commons on Thursday, May 11, when Mordaunt, as Leader of the House, led Business Questions.

What the King likely said in the coach

Many watching the day’s events wondered exactly what the King said when he and Camilla arrived five minutes early at the Abbey and were not allowed to leave it until the exact time. You can see the moment in the tweet below:

Even Majesty magazine’s editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward said the King ‘almost had a bit of a hissy fit’. She spoke with Nigel Farage on his Monday evening show:

That day a lip reader gave The Star his best guess on what the King said. GB News reported on that and what led to it:

King Charles appeared to be grumbling to his wife Camilla as he allegedly said “this is boring” while they waited to enter Westminster Abbey, a lip reading expert claims.

The King and Queen arrived at the Coronation ceremony ahead of schedule and were forced to wait outside in their diamond jubilee state coach.

The Prince and Princess of Wales along with their children Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were unable to overtake the monarch so joined his procession through [to] the church.

Speaking outside Saint Margaret’s church next to the abbey, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the bishop of Chelmsford [and one of the Lords Spiritual in the House of Lords], said that there were a couple of hiccups.

“There were one or two things that didn’t go strictly to plan,” she said. “I’m not going to embarrass anyone in particular.”

While waiting outside the church, King Charles appeared to tell Camilla: “We can never be on time.

“There’s always something… this is boring,” lip reading expert Jeremy Freeman told the Daily Star.

Now back to the après-coronation.

The procession back to the Palace

The King and Queen left the Abbey in the Gold State Coach.

This is a great video clip of the procession back to Buckingham Palace:

The Princess Royal

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, was in the group of mounted military behind the Gold State Coach. She had the role of honorary Gold Stick in Waiting, meaning that she was her brother’s honorary bodyguard. Gold Stick’s responsibility is to protect the monarch.

The various roles of ‘stick’ and ‘rod’ date back to Henry VIII. For example, Black Rod, who was also in the coronation, is part of the House of Lords and is the one who summons MPs to the Lords for the State Openings of Parliament.

But I digress.

The Telegraph reported, ‘Princess Anne wins praise for being “best rider” on Coronation parade’:

The former Olympic rider followed the King and Queen, who were in the Gold State Coach, on horseback during the large military procession back to Buckingham Palace.

Clare Balding, who was commentating on this part of the Coronation for the BBC, said: “I think fair to say she’s the best rider on parade; she’s a former Olympian, a European Open champion as well, so she knows what she’s doing.

“She’s riding a horse called Faulkand, looking extremely comfortable en route.”

The Princess took part in the historic procession route back to the Palace in her official role as Gold Stick in Waiting and Colonel of the Blues and Royals

It is understood that the King gave his sister the important Gold Stick in Waiting role in the Coronation ceremony as a thank you for her loyalty and unwavering support.

This was the largest military procession since Winston Churchill’s state funeral in 1965.

Prince Harry

After the King and Queen left the Abbey, most of the Royals were waiting for cars.

Prince Harry conversed with the husbands of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Jack Brooksbank, respectively. Harry sat next to Brooksbank during the ceremony and chatted together during parts of it. At one point, Harry must have said someone’s name because Brooksbank smiled and asked ‘Who?’ The two shared a chuckle.

The levity continued after the ceremony, but the princesses did not seem amused.

That afternoon, GB News reported:

Body language expert Darren Stanton suggested the moment showed the Yorks’ daughters being unsure about how to reassure the father-of-two ahead of the biggest royal event in a generation.

Stanton told GB News: “They were trying to include him but there was a bit of an awkwardness in terms of them thinking is that or is that not within protocol.

“It shows that they were trying to include him and make him not feel awkward because he did look awkward walking in without Meghan.

“However, I think generally he is more confident without her.”

He continued: “I think there was a little bit of hesitancy, as if they didn’t know what to do really.”

Stanton added: “They [Beatrice and Eugenie] are a lot more forgiving and less inclined to follow the protocols and things because they grew up with him.”

However, Prince Harry was seen chatting to both his cousins’ husbands Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi and Jack Brooksbank.

When asked about the Duke’s conversation with the pair, Stanton also said: “It’s almost like going to a wedding and not knowing anyone but you see someone you may know a little bit and you talk to them so you don’t feel as awkward.”

But Harry and his wife Meghan Markle are particularly close with both Eugenie and Jack.

Stanton said he did not see a long-term future for the Sussexes as a couple:

It was good of whomever directed them down the aisle to sandwich Harry in between the couples so that he looked less isolated:

David Starkey also noted Harry’s awkwardness:

On Monday, May 8, Princess Eugenie clarified the situation on social media:

GB News reported:

The 32-year-old, who is expecting her second child with husband Jack Brooksbank, took to Instagram to express her feelings about the special day.

Eugenie posted a selection of photos from the event, and to the delight of fans, included Prince Harry in the mix.

Writing to her 1.7 million social media followers, she said: “Yesterday meant so much to me, as I’m sure it did to so many watching.

“What a magical celebration for The King, The Queen, our country, and the Commonwealth.

“The day was such a reflection of dedication and service to our country” …

The Princess’s choice of pictures which she shared online yesterday, did not go unnoticed by fans.

One person wrote in the comments: “Thank you for showing Prince Harry in your photos. He’s been iced out for the most part, so it’s nice to see your support.”

Another said: “Thank you for your support to Prince Harry and his family.”

Returning to the Abbey, it took a while for Harry’s car to arrive.

On Monday, news outlets told us that the prince did not go directly to Heathrow to catch his commercial flight back to California.

The Telegraph reported, ‘Prince Harry went to Buckingham Palace after the Coronation but didn’t see his family’:

The Duke of Sussex visited Buckingham Palace during his brief trip to Britain for the Coronation, slipping in and out of the monarchy’s headquarters briefly without seeing the Royal family.

The Duke spent less than half an hour at the palace after the end of the Westminster Abbey service on Saturday, The Telegraph has learned.

From there he travelled straight to Heathrow Airport while his family were still occupied with public Coronation duties.

It is understood that the visit was for logistical reasons. It allowed him to take a moment out of the public gaze following the two-hour Abbey service.

He did not join the Royal family for official Coronation portraits and is not known to have seen or spoken to his relatives.

Dan Wootton’s GB News show had more. Someone said that the car from the Abbey took him only to the Palace, implying those had been the instructions given to the driver. The ‘logistics’ involved him getting another car to the airport. Whether the Palace supplied that or Harry made his own arrangements is unknown.

The Prince and Princess of Wales

The Wales came across as a regal couple, which will stand them in good stead in the years to come.

The Princess looked beautiful in her Royal Victorian Order mantle and regalia. She wore Princess Diana’s pearl earrings, by the way:

Neither she nor the Duchess of Edinburgh (Sophie Wessex) wore tiaras but rather fancy fascinators instead.

David Starkey remarked on GB News:

I didn’t quite understand but on the other hand, it was a tiny nod to the supposed informality and modernity.

“Although quite what is modern about a head dress made of silver bullion, I really do not know.

The Telegraph explains the Princess’s attire in ‘What the Princess of Wales’s Alexander McQueen Coronation gown is really trying to tell us’:

Like generations of royal women before her, including Elizabeth II, the Princess of Wales chose to incorporate rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock motifs representing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland respectively into the design of her gown. These were included by the Alexander McQueen atelier using silver bullion and thread work embroidery.

In a break with coronation custom, the Princess of Wales wore a headpiece instead of a tiara. Created by milliner Jess Collett in collaboration with Alexander McQueen, the Princess’s headpiece is made with silver bullion, crystal and silver thread work three-dimensional leaf embroidery. This simple, rather than bejewelled, choice of headwear alludes to the flower crowns worn by Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honour at her 1953 coronation

The Princess of Wales’s jewellery choices were a sentimental nod to the past and female figures whose influence is no doubt important to her. The dazzling George VI Festoon Necklace was made in 1950, commissioned by King George VI for his daughter the then Princess Elizabeth. Her pearl and diamond earrings belonged to Princess Diana who made the Princess of Wales title which Princess Catherine now holds into a globally recognised name.

The inclusion of daffodils, which represent the Welsh element of the Princess’s Coronation gown, is a design decision of which Sir Norman Hartnell, the creator of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation gown, would likely have been envious.

He wrote in his autobiography, Silver and Gold, of his wrangling with the Garter King of Arms after he was informed that he must use a leek rather than a daffodil to represent Wales on the late Queen’s coronation dress.

“‘A daffodil!’ exclaimed Garter. ‘On no account will I give you a daffodil. I will give you the correct emblem of Wales, which is the leek.’ The leek I agreed was a most admirable vegetable, full of historic significance and doubtless of health-giving properties, but scarcely noted for its beauty. Could he not possibly permit me to use the more graceful daffodil instead?, Hartnell recalled in the memoir. ‘No, Hartnell. You must have the leek,’ said Garter, adamant.”

On another historical note:

The last Princess of Wales to attend a coronation was in 1902, when the-then Princess Mary wore a pearl encrusted gown with braid detailing to the crowning of her father-in-law King Edward VII.

One hundred and twenty one years later, the Princess of Wales has set a new template with a dress which will be remembered as one of the most important of her lifetime.

Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams had nothing but praise for the couple:

Prince Louis, age 4 — the same age as the King was when he saw his mother crowned in 1953 — only had to leave the Abbey once. Young Prince Charles left the ceremony after the Communion portion of the service. Louis was given a break then returned for the conclusion of the ceremony to sing the National Anthem, which he reportedly did with gusto.

This video has clips of the prince at the coronation ceremony and at the flypast, interspersed with other photos of him:

In the procession back to Buckingham Palace, the coach with the Wales family was the one immediately behind the King and Queen’s Gold State Coach. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh (Wessex) and their children followed the Waleses in the next carriage.

The Wales children certainly enjoyed the opportunity to wave at the crowds:

Andrew Lloyd Webber

On the afternoon of Coronation Day, The Times posted ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber on the making of his coronation anthem’:

It was over dinner at Highgrove, the King’s Gloucestershire estate, just before Christmas that Charles asked Andrew Lloyd Webber a favour. Would he be interested in writing an anthem to be played at the coronation? The only stipulation was that it must be “joyful”.

Lloyd Webber, 75, leapt at the “incredible honour” and dropped everything so that he could sit at his piano and write.

The result is Make A Joyful Noise. The song is an adaptation of Psalm 98, which starts “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things”.

The peer, who is best known for writing more than 20 musicals including Cats and The Phantom of the Opera, is distributing the music and lyrics to churches across the country this weekend.

He hopes it will be sung by “people at any occasion where they feel they just want to sing”.

The track has also been recorded by boys from the Westminster Abbey Choir School and the abbey’s adult choristers, with proceeds to be donated to Age UK and the Royal British Legion at the King’s request.

Rain did not dampen spirits

It rained for a significant part of the day, but those outdoors remained resourceful and resolute.

A soldier in one of the marching bands had to empty his tuba of rainwater:

Later that day, The Telegraph had more in ‘”This is why we’re proud to be British” — rain-soaked crowds hail Coronation celebrations’:

Royalty. Regalia. Rain. It’s what Britain does best.

And so it was with good humour, stoicism, and a phalanx of sturdy umbrellas the London crowds flatly refused to let the weather dampen the celebratory mood as they witnessed the biggest set piece of its kind in 70 years …

Outside the heavens continued to open. After the first hour the quips about Charles’s “long rain over us” and cries of “turned out nice again” from the depths of ponchos and umbrellas ought to have been wearing a bit thin. But no.

“This is why we’re proud to be British,” said Janet Singh, 37, who was with her family on The Mall. “There is no other country on earth where you can see such a dignified display of tradition and pageantry.”

The cost to the taxpayer

The taxpayer pays for state occasions, which is why the Government oversaw and advised on the coronation.

This is how much Operation Golden Orb — the code name for Charles’s coronation — cost in terms a Briton can understand. What did it cost in comparison to the NHS?

To better understand, the NHS spends a whopping £2,000 every 0.4 seconds.

The cost of the entire coronation of His Majesty King Charles III would fund the NHS for 5 hours:

The Queen’s funeral was much less expensive. Its cost would have funded the NHS for just over 23 minutes:

Still, a coronation comes along only once in a lifetime these days. I am not sure whether I will live to see William crowned as his father’s successor.

Not the first ‘modern’ coronation

The Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson informed us that Charles III did not have the first modern coronation.

That distinction belonged to Edward VII in 1902. Interestingly, I did not hear any of the historians or Royal experts bring this up in their commentary:

In fact, monarchy has always used coronations to ensure its survival, with guest lists cannily reflecting the broader shifts in society. In 1902, amid the maharajahs and county councillors (newly included that year to bring in more plebs), were the occupants of what was called “the Loose Box”, in which sat Edward VII’s, ahem, “female friends”. At least King Charles spared us a harem. In keeping with a more democratic UK, he gave a generous allocation of tickets to the youth groups that he has so brilliantly supported and to normal folk who have got the kind of humble gong that means they have done something rather than been somebody …

In 2023:

the so-called innovations of the ceremony worked, better than anyone could ever have imagined. The Kyrie in Welsh sung by Bryn Terfel, Mount Snowdon in human form. The Ascension Gospel Choir, soul food personified. It was touching to have the Prime Minister, a Hindu, read the Lesson and even more so to observe his wife, Akshata Murty, joining in with Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven. The gifts given to the King by leaders of other faiths felt like a generous addition to a Christian service, not a subtraction. This was not the narrow, divisive multiculturalism that causes so much harm and offence; here was Great Britain being greater for being proud of everything we share. Everything that makes us us.

Pearson also told us more about the anointing screen:

The moment when King Charles was anointed will long live in the memory. The King undressed to reveal a simple white shirt, then was hidden behind a screen with a Tree of Life embroidered on it with an inscription along the bottom: “All will be well and all manner of things shall be well.” The screen was very William Morris, very Charles Windsor: Hearts and Crafts.

The balcony appearance and flypast

There was only one glitch with the procession. Shortly before it turned into The Mall, a horse got spooked, reared up and backed into the crowd:

The Telegraph reported that no one in the crowd was injured, although a police constable was seen limping at the scene. Her fellow officers gave her assistance.

The Wales children took in the procession:

The procession continued along The Mall to huge cheers and Charles was seen waving to fans.

The Prince and Princess of Wales followed with William waving and Prince George was seen looking curiously at the thousands cheering.

Prince Louis had his face pressed close to the glass while Princess Charlotte looked calmly on.

The last stage of the procession was the journey down The Mall then around the Victoria Fountain in front of Buckingham Palace:

When the procession arrived at the Palace, the King went to the gardens to give a Royal salute to the troops on foot and on horseback who took part.

Understandably, it took some time for them to regroup and walk to the back of the Palace in an orderly fashion.

Meanwhile, fans of the Royal Family were no doubt pleased, as this gave them more time to surround the Victoria Fountain and get a better view of the upcoming balcony appearance:

At this point, no one knew if the flypast would take place. Earlier in the day, various types of British aircraft, some of them from the Second World War, took — or tried to take off — from several places around Scotland and England. They would then co-ordinate and fly over the Palace in formation.

At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, the flypast was postponed until around 5 p.m. that day.

For her son’s coronation, it was decided that the flypast would go as planned, after 2:30 p.m., but only with helicopters and the incomparable Red Arrows.

This video shows the Royal Family’s balcony appearance, the flypast and the second appearance from the King and Queen to the enthusiastic crowd. Prince Louis clearly enjoyed himself:

This is a splendid photo of the Red Arrows over Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower:

Here’s a video of the flypast in full:

On the balcony were the King and Queen, their pages, the Queen’s companions, along with the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, their children Lady Louise Windsor and James, the Earl of Wessex. Princess Anne and her husband were also present as were the Duke of Kent, Princess Alexandra and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

Sunday papers

Below are the Sunday papers’ front pages.

Even The Observer (The Guardian‘s Sunday edition) led with the coronation:

They showed more respect than The Star:

The Sunday Mirror had a superb photo:

The Sunday Express‘s photo shows the King’s crown off beautifully, as did the Sunday People‘s:

The Sun‘s was breathtaking:

Speaking of crowns, Saturday’s Sun showed a close up of his and hers:

The Sunday Telegraph‘s front page photo was the worst. What were they thinking?

This union appears to have been written in the stars for many years:

The Times had the same photo but to lesser effect.

And, finally, even in independently-minded Scotland, the King clearly has fans: ‘Charlie is my darling’. These two ladies travelled to London to see him:

And so ended a beautiful and memorable Coronation Day.

But what sort of monarch will King Charles be? Find out tomorrow.

End of series

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.

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