Pomp and Circumstance: Smyrna residents mark coronation with tea and talk on the monarchy

·5 min read

May 5—SMYRNA — A day before King Charles III's coronation, several dozen Smyrna residents gathered for an English tea party and a discussion of the monarchy's role in modern life.

Clad in colorful fascinators, Smyrna residents sipped tea and sampled cakes, scones and cucumber sandwiches.

Amy Dunigan, a history professor at Kennesaw State University, specializes in the cultural and political history of Britain.

"Cheers," Dunigan said to laughs. "This is my first time sipping out of a china teacup while giving a lecture. Also my first time feeling uncomfortable for my lack of a fascinator."

She spoke about the rituals and traditions of the coronation, as well as its importance as a publicity exercise.

"Tomorrow is absolutely a really significant event for many, many Britons. It's a moment of spiritual significance," Dunigan said. "... It's a moment of celebration and national identity and all these things.

"But it is also a high-stakes PR event. And the way that it plays is going to be extremely significant in helping to shape the narrative around what this monarchy's role is in the 21st century."

Dunigan outlined the proceedings scheduled in London Saturday. There will be a collection of "fancy accouterments of power" — swords, scepters, an orb and a five-pound crown. Special oil will be painted in crosses on the king.

Several changes have been made to modernize the ceremonies. For instance, the Archbishop of Canterbury will acknowledge the multiple faiths of the U.K., not just the Church of England.

And during the homage, only Prince William will kneel before Charles and pledge allegiance, rather than the traditional hours-long succession of British peers.

"In a country with a hefty percentage of people who don't even support the monarchy, this was perceived as being rather tone deaf," Dunigan said of the old homage.

'The kingdoms are over'

Attendees had differing feelings about the royal family. Omprakash Chanbna told the MDJ he was interested in the lecture because he wanted to know whether the coronation has "some relevance in today's time."

"The kingdoms are over, and now we are living in different, democratic societies," he said.

Chanbna isn't a big fan of monarchs.

"The government is for the people, by the people. So monarchy, it doesn't fit in today's environment. ... But it's still interesting to see," he said.

Vera McCabe grew up in Burnt Oak, a suburb of London. She and her husband, who's also English, came to Cobb County 54 years ago. Her husband, an aeronautical engineer, worked for Lockheed Martin.

McCabe is a fan of the royals, and likes the new king.

"I mean I love the queen, because I grew up with her, and I think she's been one of the most wonderful monarchs of all time," McCabe said. "But I think if people just look at what he's done and see what he wants to do, he just wants to do things for the environment. I think that's so good. Because we need that for our children coming on."

Smyrna residents Irene Coletta and Kathy Fitzner attended together. Fitzner is interested in genealogy, and has a lot of British heritage.

Coletta's not a supporter of the monarchy, but said it's Britain's choice.

"It's their way of living. It's a lot of money," Coletta said. ".. I don't quite agree with it. ... A lot of people do, a lot of people don't."

Coletta likes Charles, and also cited his support for protecting the environment.

Fitzner didn't have strong feelings about the monarchy, but said it's fun to watch.

"We're so far removed over here ... it's mostly entertainment and fun for us," she said.

Dunigan spoke about the cost of the coronation amid difficult economic times for Britons.

"It is just steeped in ritual and religious significance and majesty and all these things. It's also extraordinarily expensive. It's going to cost the British taxpayers about 100 million pounds, which is about $125 million," Dunigan said.

What's more, there's no constitutional requirement for a coronation — Charles became king the moment Queen Elizabeth died.

"So this is actually sort of unnecessary," Dunigan said.

Britain, she added, is the only European monarchy that still has a formal coronation. The nine other monarchies on the continent have been trimming down the pomp and circumstance.

A YouGov poll found only 9% of Britons care a great deal about the coronation, and 24% care a fair amount. A majority care not very much, or not at all.

The poll also found that 62% of Britons want to continue the monarchy and 25% want to get rid of it.

More worrying for monarchists, Dunigan said, is when the numbers are broken down by age.

While 79% of those 65 or older want to keep the monarchy, only 36% of those ages 18-24 do.

The institution, she said, is anachronistic in modern life.

"But that anachronism is perhaps best thought of as a feature, rather than a bug," Dunigan said.

During a Q&A portion, one woman noted that the royal family does a lot for charitable causes.

McCabe, as well as Paul Edson of Smyrna, said that the tourism generated by the monarchy benefits the U.K.

"It does get a lot of people coming to our country ... How many people have gone over there just to see it?" McCabe said.

McCabe herself remembers being in London for Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

"When you see it, it is most beautiful, it really is. Because I love the royal family, I think they've done a wonderful job."

Other coronation events in Cobb include:

A viewing party at the Queen's Pantry in east Cobb (4235 Merchants Walk Drive) at 6 a.m. Saturday;

Repeat screenings of the coronation, with cake and drinks, at The Corner Shop on Marietta Square (114 S Park Square).