LONDON, May 6 – It’s a rainy spring morning. And around the cobbled streets of Marylebone, I haven’t found a single person who seems invested, much less excited, about the UK’s first coronation in seventy years. The stores catering to the mega-rich seem to be conspicuously ignoring it, as if afraid of cheapening their allure. Pub crawlers and cab drivers want to talk about The Donald more than The King.
In many ways, it’s a consequence of the monarchy’s decision to scale back the event in light of the economic malaise everyone feels. Inflation is rampant — food prices up 33%; heating bills through the roof — and you see an alarming number of stores with bullet holes in their front windows, not top mention shattered glass.
Patrician culture is still alive and well in the UK. But its stewards are feeling the pinch. The website for tickets to Kensington Palace asks if you want to add a ten percent donation to your $25 admission. At the restored home of a revered Victorian-era painter, you’re asked to contribute to a fund to purchase one of his works from Christie’s.
The BBC is doing its best to gin up enthusiasm. Experts with “sources in the palace” keep popping up on The Beeb to parrot the Royal Talking Points: Camilla’s newfound favorability and how relaxed Charles’ seems to be. But it all seems a bit strained, especially when the occasional dissenting voice creeps in to talk about patrician billionaires siphoning public dollars for their own narcissistic spectacle.
Watching the coronation is a little like watching the Macy’s Day Parade, if it was hosted by the Church of England. No one is lip syncing Frozen. But still feels over the top in a geriatric, cruise ship kind of way. Just 31% of those younger than 35 say they intend to watch the event, as an increasing number of young Britons express their indifference to or dislike for an institution they say has no relevance in their lives.
Fortunately, the feud between Harry and William is providing a little edge. William has been out there, steady and stoic in public, pouring pints in a pub and working the rope lines. But Harry upended his family, again, by talking a commercial flight from L.A. to London. They’re the Liam and Noel Galligher of Buckingham Palace — with William playing Noel’s solo part at MTV Unplugged.
There are big screens broadcasting the event all over town. But we’re going small, watching on TV before we go to Madam Tussaud’s to see more waxy royals. It’s an event being here. But one best enjoyed in private, so one one sees you actually enjoying yourself.