I am not a monarchist.
When the alarm of my phone buzzed at 5:30 this morning, I would be lying if I said I was enthused to hastily get myself down to the Mall for the King’s Procession.
However, my mood softened as the day went on.
Over the tannoy of my local train station, the words of the new King played. Charles personally thanked those commuting in to celebrate the day.
A young girl near me, no more than 12 years old, made an audible squeak of excitement.
Although day light had barely broken, an older gentleman had already burst into a rendition of God Save the King alongside the train tracks. The sound of small cans of M&S gin being cracked open greeted me as I entered the carriage.
I began getting into the swing of things.
Arriving at Waterloo, I saw the first signs of what the day would bring.
Soldiers marched off carriages in unison. The day saw the largest movement of military personnel using public transport since Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. Sniper nests were visible on the top of skyscrapers. Union Jacks hung off the station’s grand Victorian windows.
Following signs that read ‘this way to procession’, I was struck by the many languages around me. I heard fragments of Turkish, Polish German and French. I got the opportunity to practise my broken Spanish with one man who had only moved from Madrid to London six months earlier.
The man told he wanted to be see history in action. I asked him what he thought of the new king – he told me that he did not care. He was going to the procession to take photos for his mother back home.
Getting to Mall, the crowds had already started to gather. The atmosphere was jovial although a small group of protestors ironically cheering every rubbish truck that went by was greeted swiftly with boos.
I managed to carve myself out a space near a tree. I sat there for the next five hours as the rain began to pour. Smells of fish and chips, fried onions and sausages, were a constant as I tried to talk to some of the spectators.
Broadly, people told me they had been impressed by Charles’ short reign as a king. The overwhelming sentiment was that no one does ‘this’ better. The pomp and ceremony, the traditions and the patriotic songs.
As things got underway, I was tempted to agree with them.
As proceedings began, the crowd became a sea of smart phones. Everyone seemingly wanted their little piece of the Royal family to take home.
As the Archbishop declared Charles king, roars of affirmation went up. This was followed by repeated calls of ‘God Save the King’.
Many families were there. Some had come with crowns, others comedy union jack suits. I could see a band of people praying as the church service concluded. It’s easy to forget, I thought, that Charles is the head of the Church.
One man passed me a glass of Prosecco as we waited for a glimpse of the carriage. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a group of youths attempting to climb the walls of the various diplomatic buildings to get a better vantage point.
Then it happened. Drums began to beat, horns rang as the royal carriage appeared. I got a view of the King smiling, red faced, at his new subjects. The main attraction however, based on the throngs of people that had suddenly amassed at the barricades of the street, was Will and Kate. ‘She waved at me’, ‘she waved at me’ I heard someone shout behind me.
Ignoring the early start and smell of fried food that will take weeks of get out of my coat, I was happy to have gone.
Despite the idea of a hereditary monarchy being antiquated, in my view, the people I spoke to seem draw a sense of stability from their presence. They had come to be reminded of that constant in their lives.
Who would I be to take that away from them?
Featured image: BBC