The coronation ceremony is bound to annoy the culture warriors
The clickbaiters are already out in force looking for ways to be angry about the coronation of King Charles. Over the weekend the Telegraph reported that ‘refugees and the NHS’ would be ‘at the heart of a diverse celebration’ designed to include the ‘faces and voices of Britain’.
Reading more closely, it appears that such gestures are, in fact, really just some choirs that might be involved in one performance on one day in a three-day ceremony. But from a ‘trad’ point of view it doesn’t matter — the point is that the woke gesture has been made.
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From one perspective, we might wonder why Charles is bothering. For if the traditionalists and the harrumphers are now angry about supposed ‘woke’ changes, those already angry at the monarchy for existing are hardly likely to be mollified by homeopathic gestures toward identity politics. But if Charles’s proposals read like inexcusable wokeness to some, and inexcusable, stuffy tradition to others, that probably means he’s doing it right. Even if the monarchy feels like the most fragile of bulwarks against the disintegrative power of digital-era politics, it’s also, now, more or less the only one we have.
The culture warriors will likely always be slightly disappointed by whatever the King does, for the probably insurmountable reason that his rule remains constitutional, rather than absolute. Nothing short of reversing the Glorious Revolution will ever be “based” enough for the truly dedicated internet trad. By the same token, nothing short of full dissolution will mollify those for whom a hereditary monarch — even one with a purely ceremonial function — is a grotesque offence against pure egalitarianism.
But neither the extremely online Jacobites, nor their purse-lipped Guardianista republican antagonists, are a significant proportion of the actual British population. And when I think about how small-town Bedfordshire is likely to react to the coronation, I struggle to imagine arguments about its level of wokeness being more than a minor detail. On the contrary, thinking about local life here my sense is that ‘fairly traditional but not stuffily so, with some gestures toward modern-style inclusivity plus a big party and some pageantry’ is probably about right.
And in a sense this illustrates the impossible task Charles has ahead of him: that is, serving as whatever the opposite of culture war is. In an age where every incentive of press and online discourse is to seek out and amplify disagreement, his job is to maintain a laser-like focus on what we still have in common. And that, inevitably, is going to annoy the extremists and partisans all round.
So much the better. It’s easy enough to bemoan culture-war disintegration, and considerably more difficult to inhabit a role whose central purpose is resisting it. Here’s hoping Charles is able to continue serenely speaking past the internet loudmouths on all sides, to the vastly greater body of ‘normie’ Britons. To the extent that he can do so, he will continue to be our King.