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June-July 2023

Dear Friends,

I’ve just been watching the Coronation of King Charles on the television. Like most people, I was greatly affected by it and it brought back memories of his mother’s Coronation seventy years ago. I was born in 1934. My head swims when I see that date, and the older I get, the more I see from my past, and I can’t help measuring today’s experiences with those that I had in 1953.

The two Coronations are like book-ends containing seventy years of my life (as do the dates of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, approximately). I was in the Army in 1953 on the permanent staff of the Depot of the
East Lancashire Regiment in Preston. My glorious position was that of Lance Corporal in the Orderly Room and the RSM told me that I’d been on the short list of the chaps who were being selected to line the route when our young and beautiful Queen Elizabeth was crowned. Five men were going from our unit, and I was very relieved when I heard that I wasn’t finally selected, because the chosen men had to do
special drills and go on practice marches wearing rather heavy dress uniforms.

The fact that I was due to be demobbed on the 6th June and the Coronation was on the 4th might have had something to do with my not going. That was a close shave for me then, especially when it rained on the day. But now, with the wisdom of my years, I think that if I really had been chosen, what a memory it would have been to cherish, with or without the rain.

When I saw the film of the 1953 Coronation, I was struck by how small and frail the Queen looked among all those tall people in the Abbey when she was robed and crowned. (My computer insists that word should be “robbed”!) I felt the same way again when King Charles was crowned and I couldn’t help thinking that he would have welcomed a cup of tea and a quiet sit down. One of my most vivid memories of 1948, when Baby Charles was born, was of a theatrical function with Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip present, and right at the very end Bud Flanagan of the Crazy Gang dared to yell out: “Good old CharLAY!”

This was a common street call at the time. “Woo!” said the crowd and the Queen-to-be was amused. The news kept us well advised of Prince Charles’s passage through life, including his early school years in the strict school at Gordonstoun (with the brief encounter with a cherry brandy) and his special bonding with Wales. Then came the Royal Navy, a host of other things including the celebrations of youth and the sadness of his marriage to Diana Princess of Wales. The King is well on in years now, but, because of his mother’s and his grandmother’s great age, twenty years might still lie ahead of him. He’s had plenty of time to get used to the idea of being King, with the result that he slid so gently and so well into the role of reigning Monarch.

He may never again publicly mention talking to trees (it’s been scientifically proven to work), but he has already revealed that he is a sensitive person who is not afraid to discuss things of the spirit. Republicans and materialists are entitled to their beliefs, and the King would fight for the freedom that we all enjoy in this respect. When I was very young I would listen to American programmes on the wireless and watch countless American films. I even picked up an American accent, dreamed of finding an American sweetheart like Vera Ellen and marrying her; and I had leanings towards being a republican. But when I reached the age of eighteen, I “put away childish things” and discovered that our beautiful new Queen would not govern the country: the Prime Minister and his Cabinet did all that. But the reigning monarch does something more, something fine and wonderful: hence the King’s main work will be to inspire – materially and spiritually – and I believe that he is already doing that supremely well, and I love him.

God bless our King! Yours sincerely, Rev. Roger Tarbuck