The British put on a great show, so it’s said…

I was reminded the other day that we’re approaching A Big Event over here in the UK – our new King is having his Coronation in about 10 days – but I feel absolutely no excitement, indeed I feel no interest whatsoever.

Those fervent fans in the Princess Diana camp would probably say that it’s because she’s not there, yet more will say it’s because Camilla will be there instead. Others have stated that its too soon after the hoopla of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration last year.

Me, I just can’t get excited about a man who’s so spoiled and indulged that he has someone whose job it is to put toothpaste on his toothbrush for him. I mean, seriously…

In my lifetime, there’s been one or two Big Events: multiple royal weddings, most of which were celebrated at Westminster Abbey, although a couple were celebrated more “quietly” at St Georges Chapel – the church within Windsor Castle, plus a significant number of jubilees as we counted up the years The Queen has been on the throne.

Most of them have been televised, but I mostly tuned in to check out the frocks, then got on with my life. I’ve never been one to get involved in these Big Events. I did not queue, either to see the flowers laid in memory of Diana after her death, or to line the streets to see her funeral cortege, nor to view the Queen’s body lying in state after her death.

One notable exception is the show of fireworks on the eve of our new King’s first wedding to Diana in 1981 – that I actually attended live. Mostly because I lived in London at the time, and a friend of mine lived within walking distance of the park where they were taking place. The crowds were so large that public transport was overwhelmed, so I was glad to already have an offer of a bed at my friend’s home, as I’d have never made it back to my own afterwards. As I was there, it was presumed that I’d stay to watch the wedding on tv with my friend and her house-sharers the following day – that absurd meringue of a dress which looked like a dishrag after being crushed into the ceremonial wedding coach – the designers of the dress clearly had no idea about royal wedding protocol, and none of the royal courtiers thought to tell them… Hmm, was this my first sight of a pattern which would go on to repeat and repeat?

But apparently us Brits do “put on a good show”. We’re good at the uniforms and the processions, the pomp and the ceremony. It’s all practised within an inch of its life, and everything goes smoothly on the day, for no-one would dare spoil it.

All that aside, in the current economic climate, I have to ask – is it truly appropriate to spend millions? There were those who questioned the fuss made in order to get the crown to the state opening of Parliament last year, so it could sit on a chair beside (the then) Prince Charles, because his mother wasn’t well enough to attend in person. For it had it’s own royal vehicle, it’s accompanying vehicles, road closures and security… and presumably to get it back to its permanent home afterwards, as well.

I’ll be honest, I’ve oft wondered how much longer the UK royal family has any worth. There’s so many hangers on, and I while do applaud the King for trying to streamline – when his younger brother (the disgraced one) is still receiving a generous living despite his dubious past, when he himself pays no taxes and so gets richer and richer, there’s simply not enough evidence of the crazy monolith being modernised for my taste.

For example, in Norway, the King walks across the square from the royal palace to buy his own newspaper (or that might be a cover for buying cigarettes 😉 ). During a visit to Oslo, Himself looked around to realise he was stood alongside the King during a bathroom break in a restaurant’s toilets. No fuss, no bodyguards, no drama. While I don’t expect that the UK royal family to go from where they are now to where the Norwegian royal family are, the gap is vast and it could do with a lot of narrowing – in my not so humble opinion.

What do you think of British Big Events? Is it just me feeling jaded? What’s your view of the UK royal family – good for gossip and keeping the paparazzi in work, they’re the source of the big bucks for the UK tourist industry, or a waste of space and a big yawn?

© Debra Carey, 2023

23 thoughts on “The British put on a great show, so it’s said…

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  1. I have almost zero interest in the royal family or the shenanigans. That being said, if there’s a good movie or mini series about them I will watch (the Queen!) loveKates wardrobe and her kids are too cute, but otherwise it’s just background noise…

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  2. Yup, totally with you on all that LA. What continues to amaze me is the number of – to be fair – British people, who still talk about younger members of the royal as being “just like us” or describe them as “normal”. Um, no! It’s a remarkable piece of cognisant dissonance.


  3. Gosh, Debs, I wish I didn’t now know that someone puts the toothpaste in Charles’s toothbrush! As a Canadian, still with a constitutional tie to the British monarchy, I feel exactly the same way you do. The whole institution seems like a complete anachronism these days. It’s too bad it couldn’t somehow have been completely overhauled upon Queen Elizabeth’s death. The wealth, especially in these tough, tough times in the UK, is simply indefensible and unsettling. I don’t know anyone who’s planning on watching the coronation or who would have any interest in a member of the royal family making an official visit to Canada. It’s all part of history. Sigh.

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  4. Jane, I honestly can’t remember how I found that out. Some documentary or other. I know he didn’t received much – if any – in terms of warmth from his parents, but still – he really is the most indulged human being. That’s the problem with the bubble they live in, it’s so far away from any form of normality.

    I agree with you, the Queen’s death was the perfect moment for a total overhaul. But Charles has been waiting in desperation for his turn, and for Camilla to get the big gong. As you say, sigh. Big, big sigh.

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  5. I would probably watch the coronation if I wasn’t traveling mainly because my daughter was a history major and studied British history and would want to experience it.

    I was in London after princess Diana’s death and I do have pictures of the flowers. I watched the funeral on tv with my family member who was living there are the time

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  6. I’ve never quite understood the British royalty. I did watch the Princess Diana wedding on television, but only because I had a newborn that was wide-awake in the middle of the night and I stumbled across it. On a side note, it’s hard for me to believe that daughter is now in her 40s!

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  7. People do like a good show–coronations, military parades, the opening of the Olympics. So what’s the purpose of a coronation? To show that the monarchy is a great thing? the symbol of a great country, so the citizens can feel proud of their country and other people can respect the country and its history and culture? I suppose all those things have some value. I’m not opposed to ceremonies to mark occasions.

    But regarding the bigger point, I’m not sure that kings and queens are such a good thing anymore.

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  8. Okay, the toothpaste anecdote is a new one for me — and I follow this stuff! To answer your end-of-post query, Debs, I’ve always enjoyed the details and pomp of British royal life. I’ve read nearly all of Sally Bedell Smith’s biographies, Will Swift’s excellent history on the Windsors and the Roosevelts, and even Tina Brown’s last book. But one underlying thought that never escapes me: how does the British public actually put up with all of this? For the life of me, I could never support such an enterprise if we had an equivalent in this country (the Bush’s, Trumps, and Kennedys notwithstanding!). I love all of the intrigue, but am grateful it’s not my tax dollars sustaining it! 😉

    Himself has quite a story there, btw. – Marty

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  9. My other half is a keen historian who feels – and I tend to agree with him – that the British monarchy are a bit of an anachronistic irrelevance. They don’t actually *do* anything, or cause anything to be done or not done. They don’t have a role in government, nor can they influence the direction our country takes. Their last important role was in the Commonwealth, but that is slowly winding down and becoming less and less relevant as time goes on. With a role that is solely ceremonial, it seems like a lot of money for just the pomp.

    But I’m grumpy, and it is unusual for me not to be on the side of history as seen through the eyes of the man in the street which is my normal preference.

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  10. Oh I know what you mean Christie – my daughter just celebrated her 40th birthday and I cannot believe my baby is that age!

    When I lived in Commonwealth countries, I was always puzzled by the sight of pictures of the Queen all over the place and the perceived connection to Britain. I now think there was a genuine connection felt with the Queens herself, because she had always openly displayed her feeling of connection to the Commonwealth and the people therein. But now that she’s gone, it’s just a role being played – and I think it’s not just people here in the UK who are seeing it, but those in the Commonwealth countries are too.


  11. Yup, that’s my view too Nicki. They’re really a bit of an irrelevance, and one that the country can ill afford at present. It’s bad enough we have to put up with this shower currently in government.


  12. I was fortunate to spend 3 weeks in London a few years back, my only time in the UK, and somehow, being there, I was just struck by how weird the whole monarchy thing is. It felt omnipresent; there were references to the Queen everywhere. And I couldn’t stop wondering: What does the royal family actually do? And how weird that they don’t really do much but…be royal? I could see that they have an economic impact, but wondered how much even that trickles down to ordinary people in any kind of positive way. (The wealthy in my country love to think that the ways in which they are indulged trickle down to us commoners. Hah!)

    I’ve never watched any of the events, but I have a vivid memory of Diana and Charles’s wedding. I was 16, and I had a work friend who got up in the middle of the night to watch the event. “It’s so romantic!” she said. I thought both she and Diana were crazy. Diana was only a few years older than we were, and she was marrying that weird-looking, old man! I knew I’d never be ready to make the kind of commitment she was in only a few year’s time.

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  13. Honestly Marty, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. It’s all jolly lovely, but not with my money. And my money is seriously being stretched now, so why would I want that bunch of over-indulged individuals wafting around. I’m getting grumpier by the minute I tell you 😀

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  14. Clearly we Brits have been deluding ourselves about our royal family for a very long time. The attachment to the Queen was one thing, but there’s been simply too many examples of the royal family having feet of clay, being over-indulged, nothing special *at all*. Really a plan needed to be in place for winding the whole thing down post QEII’s death. But Charles was so palpably desperate to become Queen and to make Camilla Queen (consort) that it didn’t happen. But it soooo needs to happen, and soon.

    I think we’ve all become clear that trickle down economics doesn’t work, no matter how much the rich try to persuade us poor folk that it does.

    As for Diana and Charles – I also never got why anyone thought it was in the least bit romantic. So darn weird…

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Yeah, the whole Prince of Pegging thing recently really makes it hard to see even the next generation as anything other than folks like most other folks. And in fairness to the real people that members of the royal family are, I think the expectations of living the way Queen Elizabeth did (duty above everything else) is messed up, too. Seems like there’s an attempt to have it both ways in the generations after QEII: To have the freedoms that everyone else does AND be special. I don’t think that’s possible, especially with the media we have today.

    From my outsider perspective, it’s hard to see this institution continuing as it has, but also hard to see it going away (any time soon, at least). What do you think could create that kind of change?

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  16. Rita, you’re right. QEII was a one off and, in my opinion, her sense of duty wasn’t healthy for those around her. It’s interesting that her sole daughter is the hardest working royal, but noteworthy that she made sure the burden wouldn’t be passed on to her children by deciding they wouldn’t have titles. Of course, they still live hugely privileged lives, but it was a step in the right direction.

    I believe the problem with the institution changing is that those in it are determined to protect their lifestyle – and I’m not talking here about the members of the royal family themselves, but about those in their entourage. Chipping away at them is key, but I’m not sure what it would take to turn things around – especially when you see how Prince Andrew continues to live a most privileged life.

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  17. I agree that Britain puts on a good show, spectacular even, but I also wonder about the cost of it. Seems like, to use a good old American saying, that the monarchy is all foam, no beer.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ally, I’d not heard of either of these sayings (and they’re wonderful btw) but I think they’re absolutely bang on target.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Being American, it’s hard to understand any of the hoopla surrounding the Royal family. I mean, the title of king is pretty much ceremonial and nothing else, right? And if so…what’s the point?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. D’you know Mark, it’s been really interesting receiving comments on this subject from people who live outside of the UK to get an idea of how the whole thing is seen. I know I’m not typically British in that my experience is much more Commonwealth than someone who’s lived in the UK all their lives, so I’ve always thought I have a skewed view. But, yes, what is the point… other than to allow some hugely privileged individuals to live a weird life so the media can gawk at them.

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