A New Website, Playlist and Queen Mary’s Crown: King Charles Mixes Tradition and Modernity in Plans for Coronation
King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, Nov. 22, 2022. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
A flurry of resources and reveals have come from Buckingham Palace in recent days, showing how King Charles III intends to blend tradition and modernity, old and new, for his coronation weekend, May 6 through 8. There is an official emblem, a website with recipes and ideas for British and Commonwealth subjects to celebrate along with the King and Queen Consort, and even an official Spotify playlist crafted by the royal couple!
But all that embrace of social media and technology was overshadowed on Valentine’s Day by a blast from the past, when the crown to be worn by Queen Consort Camilla on Coronation Day was revealed. The Crown of Queen Mary has been selected.
This is a deft move by both the palace and Camilla. It solves a knotty problem: the disputed Koh-i-Nor diamond at the heart of the crown worn by Queen Consort Elizabeth (later, the Queen Mother). The 105.6 carat diamond was gifted to Queen Victoria by the Sultan of Turkey in 1856. The giant stone has murky origins, and has been the subject of disputed provenance, with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan all demanding it back from the Crown over the years.
The choice of Queen Mary’s Crown is a great way to show Charles and Camilla’s commitment to recycling. It has been the practice, dating back to Queen Charlotte (1761), of having a new crown made for the Queen Consort. Queen Mary had expressed the hope that her crown would be used by future consorts. Fear not that Queen Consort Camilla will not have an upgrade or two: the design of the piece is being changed, with the number of arches being reduced from eight to four. The wattage will be spiked with the addition of the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds. These honking stones have been worn, in the main as brooches, by Queen Elizabeth, as part of her personal collection, which passed to Charles.
It had previously been announced that Charles would wear the St. Edward’s Crown, which has already been fitted to the new King’s specifications and sizing, and is currently back on display at the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are kept. St. Edward’s crown has quite a rich history. The original version, a holy relic, was named after Edward the Confessor. It was made in the 13th century but melted down during the English Civil War, circa 1649. The current version, made in 1661, is solid gold and weighs nearly five pounds. It was used to crown Elizabeth II, her father and her grandfather.
Also this week, the emblem of the coronation was revealed. Charles chose Jony Ive, famous for having designed the look of the iPhone, during his tenure as chief design officer for Apple. This is quite the deliberately hip choice, and the resulting design “speaks to the happy optimism of spring and celebrates the beginning of this new Carolean era for the United Kingdom,” said Ive. The design is clean and modern, wrought in an array of stylized red flowers — English rose, Scotch thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock — surrounding a navy crown. The white background adds the third colour of the Union Jack flag to the mix, in a subtle way.
The Spotify Coronation Celebration Playlist was introduced late last week along with the official coronation website. The release was timed to Feb. 6, the accession day of Queen Elizabeth. That sentimental timing is a way for Charles to keep his mother as part of the proceedings.
The playlist itself is quite a widely varied mix: from The Beatles to Ed Sheeran, from Kate Bush and Madness and The Kinks and Spandau Ballet to Harry Styles. It’s a survey of British hits in some ways fit for a sovereign who acceded at age 74. There was some online drama and criticism of the playlist — London’s The Big Issue, for instance, called it shallow and compiled by keywords (lots of songs featuring king in it), and its nods to nationalism, from Welsh Tom Jones to The Proclaimers from Scotland. Canada’s Michael Buble and Jamaican-born Grace Jones are the only Commonwealth nods. Some pundits quipped that the inclusion of “Come Together” by The Beatles, of course, was a nod to the division in Charles’ own nuclear family.
There will be a concert at the palace — acts TBA — which is becoming a tradition at major royal celebrations. And in addition to another “Big Lunch” concept to mirror the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year, King Charles has supported a volunteer campaign for the coronation weekend called The Big Help Out.
King Charles and his team have made an effort to keep the coronation focus, from a public perspective, on community and helping out. His efforts to show both some thrift — reusing a crown, scaling down the size and length of the ceremony itself — and adding in modern touches, such as an online toolkit and that playlist, however random it might feel, show that the new King is trying to match the mood of austerity and struggle in the United Kingdom this winter. He can hope that the rush of good weather and a long weekend off come springtime will result in a wave of goodwill for his big day.
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