First of all, I must apologise as my posting has become a bit erratic in the last few weeks. I’ve missed two or three Sundays and, except for what was just a ‘supplementary’ post not made up for it during the week. I just haven’t been able to give the blog the time I have wanted in order to write what’s on my mind. Mea Culpa.
Rather than write nothing again, since there are things on my mind, I have now sat myself down (as I write these words it’s currently 4:15pm on 8th May 2023) with a cup of tea and will just write, write, write until I have to leave my desk at 5pm.
Coronations Past and Present
So, there was only one news story in Britain this weekend – the coronation of Charles III. Last Friday, I took a walk round Parliament Square, Horseguards Parade, and along The Mall to get a taste of the atmosphere. Parliament Square was full of tourists passing this way and that. In Horseguards Parade I saw a man speaking to someone on his phone (I think he might have been live streaming himself) moaning about the iniquity of monarchy. He seemed to believe that Charles has far more power than he actually does, which is to say, none. I suppose the King could be said to have what we call nowadays ‘soft power’ but it really isn’t the same thing. On The Mall I saw all the truly dedicated fans of royalty and spectacle camped out and ready for the processions on Saturday. The atmosphere on The Mall was a happy one. If you spent all your time on social media, you’d think that the people of Britain were frustrated left-wing republicans. In the real world, they are quite different.
After returning home, I got to thinking about Alexander and the idea of coronation. When he became king of Macedon, it doesn’t look like he had one. At least, none of the sources say that he did (excluding Curtius. We don’t know what he said of Alexander’s accession as we are missing the first two books of his History of Alexander). Given that the Macedonians liked their kings to be as much like them as possible, I guess that even if he had had one, it would have been nothing like Charles – full of grandeur.
We know from the reliefs of him that the Egyptians regarded Alexander as their pharaoh, but did he have a coronation there? Again, we aren’t told. Alexander only spent a few months in Egypt so maybe there would not have been enough time to organise one. And again, when he became Great King, no coronation is ever mentioned. You could say Alexander’s victory at Gaugamela was really his coronation at Great King of the formerly Persian Empire.
My favourite part of Charles’ coronation was his investiture – the point when he was given various garments and objects that symbolise different aspects of his kingship. I wrote about this in a blog post for my British Catholic Blogs blog here. I love the idea of things having a meaning beyond what they actually are, or are used for.
As I mention in that BCB post, we live in a world that has rejected meaning. I say ‘we’ but I really mean Britain. This may or may not apply to other Western nations and beyond; I am not qualified to say. That aside, Alexander, by contrast, lived in a world that was heavy in meaning. It is why he had Aristander on hand to read the omens and portents. What do you think it would be like to live in a world where the most random events could be taken to mean something good or bad? I’m tempted to say it would be quite scary but I suppose for the ancients it was quite normal. The reason I say scary, though, is because although the omens could benefit you, they could also lead to something as bad as torture or death. At the very least it is all a haphazard way to live. My one consolation is that when I look at the bad omens that Alexander received in his last days – as related by Curtius – I am pretty sure that the latter is doing a fair bit of retconning in order to show Alexander in as bad a light as possible.Well, it is nearly 5pm so I had better stop. I hope this post finds you well, and I look forward to writing again soon!
King Charles III at his Coronation: Sky News