Why are the British so fond of their monarchs?

Tens of thousands of Britons defied the rain on Saturday and lined the streets of London to watch the coronation procession of Charles III and his wife Camilla. The two monarchs were then anointed and crowned in Westminster Abbey. Commentators look at why the monarchy still generates so much enthusiasm.

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Večernji list (HR) /

An unrivalled spectacle

For Večernji list, the coronation was a perfect performance:

“The coronation of King Charles and his wife is above all a first-rate theatrical and musical performance with authentic performers, which could only be staged once in a historically incomparable setting - making the event even more exclusive. And making the results even more emotional and expressive, wrapped as they were in ecumenical messages of tolerance. There is no opera house or festival that can compete with the House of Windsor when it comes to mourning or celebrating before the eyes of the world, and in all the splendour that Britain's musical potential has to offer today.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

Guarantors of democracy

Diário de Notícias attributes the popularity of the British monarchy to the role played by kings and queens in the formation of democracy:

“The way democracy was constructed over centuries in the British Isles is astonishing even today. Democratisation was gradual, negotiated, without bloody confrontations, especially from the early 18th century onwards. And the monarchs played their part in this process. That alone explains the survival, indeed the popularity of the monarchy among the British to this day, because the republicans are a minority.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Stubbornly nostalgic

The British will never give up their monarchy, columnist Maïa Dunphy sighs in the Irish Independent:

“The British cling to their royals with the nostalgic tenacity of a child to a comfort blanket. Most nationalities have a similar patriotism for their own customs, idiosyncrasies and favourite citizens, but there's a unique bellicose jingoism to the English, and the royal family are their ultimate, prized, captive species. Whether they would avoid extinction if they ever had to survive in the wild remains to be seen.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Legitimate protest

The Spectator is furious that the demonstrations of anti-monarchists in London were broken up and several of their leaders arrested:

“If the coronation celebrations had been disrupted by street blockades, for example, that would have caused annoyance. It would have irritated citizens who revere the monarchy as much as representatives of the monarchy itself. But gathering in a public square to express republican views should be perfectly acceptable. That this is apparently not so, that the police are breaking up the gathering of the 'lowly plebs' for their crime of insulting the king, is appalling. It should outrage anyone who believes in freedom.”

Libération (FR) /

An extremely profitable investment

All the money spent on the coronation ceremony has been well spent, says Dov Alfon, editor-in-chief of Libération:

“As the sovereign of fifteen states, he is first and foremost the King of England for the millions of tourists who flock to Buckingham Palace, a source of endless fascination, while all other symbols of British power have long since disappeared. ... Those who see the global coronation event as nothing more than outdated folklore would do well to take a look at these figures: the royal family's net contribution to tourism is 1.7 billion pounds (1.9 billion euros) a year, according to the UK Treasury. That makes the coronation ceremony a very reasonable investment.”

Le Monde (FR) /

In the shadow of inflation and colonialism

The coronation is taking place in an unfavourable climate, UK correspondent Cécile Ducourtieux writes in Le Monde:

“The public is having difficulties coming to terms with royal privileges. Facing a huge rise in the cost of living, the people's priorities lie elsewhere. ... And in an attempt to correct the image of an institution closely linked to Britain's colonial and oppressive past, Charles III and William expressed their 'deep sorrow' for the horrors of slavery. But the fact that the monarch has yet to recognise how deeply the royal family was involved in the triangular trade makes their remorse seem hollow in the eyes of many Britons.”

The Guardian (GB) /

An expensive spectacle

The Guardian questions the usefulness of the coronation ceremony:

“It will not make Charles III the king. He is that already. He became king when his mother died last year, and after a smoothly performed and sensibly low-key accession process. ... It seems gratuitous to be paying £250m for a coronation during a cost of living crisis. ... This weekend's events are centred on a religious service in which Charles vows to uphold the Protestant religion, is anointed with holy oil and swears an oath which ... commits to making Britain 'a holy nation' under 'a royal priesthood'. Yet modern Britain is not a holy nation. Nor is it even a largely Protestant one.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Possibly the last coronation

The monarchy is increasingly being called into question, notes the Wiener Zeitung:

“With the death of the Queen, many Britons lost the sense of respectful reserve they held for their long-reigning monarch during her lifetime. Too expensive, too out of touch, ultimately useless: as the coronation of Charles III approaches, the voices of those no longer willing to pay for the royal pomp are growing louder. Outside the country, too - in Australia and New Zealand, for example - the idea of breaking away from the British crown and embarking on a future as independent republics is once again under consideration. ... Charles's coronation could well be the last.”

The Economist (GB) /

Britons love their traditions

It can hardly be said that the British have turned against the royals, The Economist points out:

“The British royal family might be anachronism incarnate; it might offer uncomfortable imperialist echoes and entrenched inequality. But it also offers chrism and crowns, scones and jam, and men on horseback with tubas. The proportion of Britons who want to abolish the monarchy has risen over the years - from 3% in 1983 to 14% now; among 18-34 year-olds the figure is over 20%. But this is scarcely the stuff of revolution.”

Times of Malta (MT) /

Rituals essential for state and nation

The significance of the coronation ceremony should not be downplayed, The Times of Malta insists:

“Pomp and pageantry, rites and ritual are often dismissed as anachronistic. Yet, all modern nation-states rely on such traditions and practices to periodically remind citizens of their historical past. Even the most ahistorical leaders - and our leaders are certainly pig ignorant of history - periodically engage in such rituals and commemorations to celebrate people, places and events that had a role in shaping the polity. Without such practices, the 'state' divorces itself from the 'nation' and its legitimacy will slowly erode.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Young Brits couldn't care less

Adevărul sees signs of social change:

“Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, apparently the last great symbol of a globally recognised monarchy, its popularity ratings have been in free fall. This trend is perhaps most marked among young people, which could be a serious sign of social change in the UK: only 12 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds think the monarchy is 'very important', compared to 45 percent of those aged 55 and over. ... The coronation ceremony is approaching and everyone is preparing one way or another to join in the celebrations with due pomp, but perhaps only because it turns out that despite the sordid reality we still need fairy tales about princes and princesses.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Britons' loyalty to the monarchy being eroded

The Church of England's request for its members to swear an oath of allegiance to King Charles III is causing annoyance and harming the monarchy, says the Irish Examiner:

“Many Britons feel that, rather than the public being asked to swear allegiance to the crown, the new king should be taking an oath of allegiance to his people instead. ... And, with the coronation ceremonies costing the British taxpayers an estimated £100m (€114m), many there feel the money would be better spent paying nurses, teachers, public servants, and those in many other sectors currently striking for better pay.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Anointment is outdated

The British have little truck with the religious elements of the coronation, Die Presse notes:

“What is striking is the religious nature of the ceremony, which is to be performed in Westminster Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The essential moment is not the placing of the crown on Charles's head, but the anointing, which represents God taking the monarch into service, and thus gives him legitimacy and authority. ... This makes England appear more Christian than it really is. The majority of Britons today have no religion. The Church of England, of which only just over ten percent of the population are members, has little formative power.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Presidential republics not better off

El Periódico de Catalunya says the monarchy still has its uses:

“The pomp and circumstance surrounding the coronation of the new king should not be interpreted as a political act of adhesion to the monarchy. The death of Elizabeth II marked the 'end of an era'. ... This consideration applies not only to the British monarchy, which is more solid than the Spanish one, but also to our own parliamentary monarchy, which faces the task of proving that it is an effective instrument and can moderate and arbitrate between institutions. ... There are many arguments in favour of the parliamentary monarchy. ... These include the risks faced by presidential republics like France today, where, without an absolute majority, President Macron is unable to come to terms with the National Assembly.”