Wednesday 17 May 2023

Gillian and the Coronation by Judith Skilleter, chapagne

Gillian is a monarchist. She has no time for all this republican malarkey. She reckons that something that has lasted for hundreds of years can’t be all bad. She loves the romance of monarchy and she even subscribes to the magazine Majesty.  Soon she will be witnessing the high point of any monarchy, the coronation of the monarch in a place of worship. And she can’t wait.

Gillian can remember Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. She was 11 years old and she and her mum and dad went to Mr and Mrs Elton’s house to see it on their television. Margaret Elton, their daughter, was Gillian’s best friend. Mr Elton had the grocer’s shop at the corner of the street and they had more money than anyone else in the street having both a television and a car. Gillian thinks it was a Morris Oxford or perhaps an Oxford Morris. She isn’t sure. She had a ride in it once when she and Margaret were going to the same birthday party. It was very swish. As for the coronation she thought it was a bit boring and it went on a bit and the picture was fuzzy. She would much rather have been playing outside but it would have been rude to suggest it and she had been told to behave by her mum. Anyway the Elton’s had cakes and something called Coronation Chicken in the sandwiches. It was a sort of fruity curry flavour. Gillian wasn’t sure about it but the egg sandwiches were OK.

By the time of coronation of King Charles III  Gillian’s interest in and fascination with the monarchy had increased a hundred fold and she  couldn’t wait to enjoy the spectacle in the comfort of her own sitting room watching her own big screen colour television. Friends had been told not to visit or ring until after the appearance on the balcony at Buckingham palace. She was determined to savour every moment of this momentous occasion. Given her age it was unlikely she would see another coronation.

The BBC programmes were starting early so Gillian set the alarm for seven-o- clock, had a quick shower and she was in front of the television by 7.45am with a tray (set the night before) with cereal and toast and a large mug of coffee. She didn’t usually get up so early and she knew she would be tired later on but this was a special occasion so the effort was made. She was surrounded by other treats to see her through the long viewing day. These, like her tray, had all been set out the night before – chocolate biscuits, bananas, toffees – and in the fridge was a bottle of prosecco to toast the new king and some smoked salmon sandwiches which she would consume when Charles had the crown placed on his head. It would be around her lunch time when this happened after all.

 “My goodness,” thought Gillian, “the guests must have been up for hours.” as she watched them queue to get into Westminster Abbey. “They have been there from just after 7-o- clock and the service doesn’t start until 11-o-clock. I hope there are enough loos, especially as a lot of the guests are elderly and elderly bladders can be a nuisance.” she muttered to herself.

At 10-20 am, after more coffee and  cups of tea followed by frequent visits to the loo, a toasted teacake and a glass of sherry and various things from her tray she was on the edge of her seat watching the uncrowned king and queen leave Buckingham Palace and head towards Westminster Abbey. There were tears in Gillian’s eyes; she felt so moved by the pageantry and colour and the amazing display by the armed forces. And she just loved the coach pulled by horses all the same colour. It was made in Australia she remembered.

The television kept showing other royals and dignitaries entering the abbey. “Humph, they didn’t have to queue at 7.30,” she mumbled in irritation at this obvious divide between who was who and who wasn’t who. But this irritation soon disappeared as she admired wonderful outfits approach the abbey door. “Lots of pink,” she muttered. “And all these kings and queens from Europe. It doesn’t seem five minutes since they were all here for the Queen’s funeral.” she said to herself.

The royal family were arriving. The Prince and Princess of Wales looked amazing, their children looked cute and given half a chance Prince Louis would misbehave Gillian reckoned. The York princesses were wearing sensible hats, unlike at William and Kate’s wedding.  “And isn’t Prince Edward’s daughter a lovely looking girl now, a real looker.” And yes, Prince Harry had arrived from America just in time. “What a clot,” thought Gillian. “He really is letting himself down, his family down and the whole country down as well.”

And then there was the music. The lady in the fabulous yellow dress was amazing, as was Bryn Teufel and the other male singer who looked as if he was having the time of his life. And all those wonderful choirs and orchestral music. Gillian really felt that all this wonder was just far too much to take in. especially when you are approaching 82 years old. She snuggled down in her chair to get a bit more comfortable and pulled across a stool to put her feet on. “That’s better,” she thought.

Charles and Camilla were now walking up the abbey aisle. They had arrived and didn’t they look the part. She thought Charles looked a bit anxious but then again who wouldn’t in that position. Camilla looked fabulous. “And that dress does not look as if it will crease – unlike Princess Diana’s wedding dress. But both regal ladies looked and had looked absolutely gorgeous, creases or no creases” she thought.

Gillian watched in wonder as the coronation service proper began – as Charles promised to serve. “And it all goes back a thousand years,” thought Gillian in amazement. “Well at least the coronation spoon goes back a thousand years.”   Gillian remembered that Oliver Cromwell had melted down most of the coronation marvels after the death of Charles I. “Git,” she thought – meaning Cromwell and certainly not the decapitated king. “Thank goodness we don’t do that in this day and age.”

The highlight of the ceremony was fast approaching; the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. The crowns were both sitting, waiting and glistening on the high alter.  They looked absolutely magnificent. Gillian snuggled down a bit more so she was properly comfortable to watch and fully appreciate the culmination of this historic spectacle.

The next thing Gillian remembered was the King and Queen, both crowned approaching the abbey door for the journey back to Buckingham palace.

She had fallen asleep and missed the best bits.

About the author

Judith Skilleter is new to writing fiction after a long career in social work and teaching. Her first children's novel The April Rebellion, has recently been published. Judith is a Geordie, who settled in East Yorkshire 45 years ago and is married with three grandchildren. 
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