Britain's King Charles III and Queen Camilla wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following their Coronation in London on May 6, 2023
Britain's King Charles III and Queen Camilla wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace following their Coronation in London on May 6, 2023 Photo: EPA/Neil Hall

London Calling – A right Royal celebration!

King Charles III was crowned in a ceremony of pomp and circumstance on May 6, 2023.

There were some 2,200 guests, including many heads of state, celebrities and charity workers at Westminster Abbey to witness the ancient ceremony. An average of 18.8 million viewers watched on TV in the UK alone, whilst the estimate for the worldwide TV audience is in excess of 280 million.

Meanwhile, people had camped out on the Coronation route for days in advance. Bedecked in Union Jack clothing, these hardy people endured unusually cold weather as they waited patiently and with great stoicism. When the big day finally arrived, the crowds surging into London had swelled to around one million people.

More than 6,000 men and women of the UK and Commonwealth Armed Forces and 11,000 police officers took part in the ceremony as steady but fairly light rain fell. This follows the two most recent Coronations in history, those of Queen Elizabeth II and prior to that, her father King George VI, both of which took place in the rain!

The capital was looking at its festive best with Union Jack flags across all the major routes and The Mall was resplendent with flags from the home countries and the Commonwealth. Shops decorated their windows and the King’s favourite grocer, Fortnum & Mason produced everything from cakes and jam to musical biscuit tins and Coronation tea sets. The front of the famous store in Piccadilly was festooned with a huge decorative peacock representing some of the extraordinary fauna from Commonwealth countries.

Charles III was the 40th sovereign to be crowned at Westminster Abbey, with the first being William the Conqueror in 1066. Prince George, aged nine, was the youngest future King to play an official role in the Coronation.

The Coronation produced a welcome £1 billion (€1.15 billion) boost to the hospitality industry in the UK which is still reeling from the dual effects of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic. An estimated 65 million pints of beer were pulled on the day – roughly enough for every man, woman and child in the country!

Sadly, rain continued into the next day when many local communities had arranged some 3,000 traditional street parties around the country. But Brits are used to rain and most still went ahead. At the Coronation Concert on the Sunday evening, the Prince of Wales paid a touching tribute to his father saying “Pa, we are all so proud of you”. The royal family and some 20,000 people in the grounds of Windsor Castle listened to the likes of Take That, Lionel Ritchie, Katy Perry and Andrea Bocelli whilst a TV audience of some 12.3 million watched at home on BBC TV.

A long time ago in a galaxy far away….

A great new exhibition space in South Kensington has opened to one of the largest Star Wars displays in years. ‘The Fans Strike Back’ has hundreds of Star Wars figures and life-size models. The sets are designed as scenes from the movies providing the perfect opportunities for a selfie with Darth Vader or Chewbacca!

The sheer amount of memorabilia and merchandising from the films is breathtaking and has taken some 40 years to assemble from private collections. There are additional opportunities to have a professional photo taken with a green screen providing your favourite backdrop or to enjoy a unique Virtual Reality galaxy experience – space travel without the danger!

An absolute must for any fan of the films and accompanying mini-series.

His Master’s Voice

The famous record store HMV has had a rocky ride over the last decade or so, but music fans have welcomed the proposed reopening of the original London store in Oxford Street, scheduled for later this year.

The shop first opened with the help of Sir Edward Elgar in July 1921 and has been an icon to the music industry ever since. This is where Brian Epstein turned a Beatles demo into a vinyl record in 1962, Blur played a rooftop gig in 1995 and where The Spice Girls turned on Oxford Street’s famous Christmas lights.

The shop last closed as a record store in 2019, but the Canadian owner of the brand, Doug Putman, has now signed a new lease, meaning the great shop will reopen later in 2023.

More merchandise like t-shirts, games and accessories will feature alongside more traditional fare, but the good news is that the logo is little changed. Nipper the dog still pokes his head into the horn of a gramophone in an inquisitive way. Quite right too!

Gilbert and George

Famous art duo Gilbert and George have opened a new gallery in Spitalfields, East London, to showcase their work over the decades but also to serve as a space for art scholarship and research.

Some of their vast back catalogue of works, stretching back to the 1960s and often in the form of stained glass, have been variously called ‘beautiful’, ‘funny’ and sometimes ‘weird’. Much will be on display in what was an old brewery in Heneage Street, just around the corner from their famous home on Fournier Street.

The opening exhibition is called ‘The Paradisical Pictures’ and will display Gilbert and George’s interpretations of Heaven.

The fine, green, wrought iron gates to the street are alone worth a visit. A swirling pattern of twisted metal surrounds the cipher of King Charles III, and it is believed that this is the first such representation on a cultural centre in the UK.

Leighton House – far from the madding crowd

Wandering the streets of London provides seemingly endless opportunities to find something new – however much you think you know the place!

Just such a find is Leighton House near Holland Park, west London. This was built as a private studio-house for Frederick Lord Leighton in 1866 and it is home to one of the most beautiful interiors in the Capital.

Leighton was an artist and eventually became President of The Royal Academy. He wanted somewhere fitting to showcase his extensive art collection. Rich colours were sourced from all over the world and the result is magnificent and stunning. And the best thing about it – there are very few other people there!

By Richard Lamberth

Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides consultancy services to leading businesses in insurance and financial services, property and media sectors. He has four sons, two dogs and enjoys a busy family life. He likes swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.
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