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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > September 2017 > Crowning vainglory

Crowning vainglory

Charles will be sorely tempted to overhaul the coronation. He should resist

The coronation ceremony is more than a piece of antique flummery. It is an enactment of the kind of nation we think we are. Getting the performance right is also the most important way the next king can secure legitimacy, something which is going to be especially important during the next transition, which could be—as Emily Andrews argues on p20—uniquely risky for the monarchy. The public is not in love with the idea of King Charles (see our polling on p29); he cannot afford another televised disaster like the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. So what should he do?

The first thing is to know your country—and know your history. That sounds easy enough, but the two halves of that don’t combine smoothly. If you watch the ceremony from 1953, then it’s obvious that we’re not that nation any more: the past is another country indeed. The Queen’s coronation was a profoundly Christian assertion of the feudal order of the British state, centred on the aristocracy paying homage as they kneeled—in order of precedence— in front of the new monarch.

The coronation of the next monarch cannot escape some change. Where once we had a visible social order that corresponded to real power and wealth, we now have a House of Lords which is a parking lot for discarded politicians. We now defer to celebrity, not heredity. The last coronation was televised, if only in black and white. The next one will be livestreamed round the world through a thicket of hashtags. The Royal Family is now a celebrity business, in which importance is measured by the magazine covers it can command.

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In Prospect’s September issue: Emily Andrews, Andrew Brown and Tom Clark assess what the reign of King Charles might look like. Andrews profiles Charles and questions whether he will be able to keep his opinions to himself. Andrew Brown look at the coronation—the world is a very different place now from when the last one took place. Tom Clark explains the results of our poll, conducted by ICM, into people’s view on Charles taking the throne—it turns out fewer people than ever before want the heir to become our monarch. Elsewhere in the issue Nick Cohen details his battle with the bottle and shows that Britain has a problem with drink that it doesn’t want to talk about, and Toni Morrison Also in this issue: Toni Morrison on America’s stubborn race divide, Brian Klaas on how Europe should deal with Trump and Jessica Abrahams explains everything you need to know about fourth wave feminism
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