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Camping out in a thunderstorm: England gets ready for its new monarch

The strangeness of the monarchy is already on full display in London.

ANYONE LOOKING FOR some portentous weather ahead of the coronation of King Charles III would have been thrilled with the thunderous downpour in London today.

For the thousands camped out on either side of Westminster’s Mall to watch tomorrow’s procession, the storm meant putting on their Union Jack rain macs and umbrella hats, or hiding in their tents emblazoned with the rain-sagged face of their new monarch. 

Before arriving I had seen some online footage of hardcore monarchists doing synchronised dances and singing songs. I don’t know if the weather is to blame, but there were no such performers on show today.

Nevertheless, the scene was not short on spectacle. 

Demographically speaking, the campers tend towards those who are into their second half-century on this earth. There are young people, and children, but they are largely in the company of older relatives. With the exception of a few faces, the overwhelming majority are white.

There was one man dressed in full regalia, ringing a town cryer bell at seemingly random intervals and chanting “God Save The King” – a call that was repeated by those sitting nearest to him. 


Some people – despite enduring the elements – don’t seem to care about the monarchy all that much. One woman tells me that it’s her birthday tomorrow and that this seemed like the best way to party.

Indeed, the scattering of cans, beer bottles and magnums of Cava do suggest an atmosphere that is more about celebrating for its own sake. The tents and puddles and alcohol give the campsite a festival vibe, like Oxegen if the line-up was curated by Nigel Farage.

One London-based Spanish woman I spoke to, wearing a matador-style outfit, explained her presence to me thusly: “I love hats. There are beautiful hats, and for me it is a reason to wear this hat.” It was a pretty nice hat, and yes, dear reader, I forgot to get a photograph of her hat, so you’ll simply have to imagine it.

There were blown-up images of royal family Top Trump cards that ranked in categories such as ‘Reign’, ‘Children’, and ‘Military Might’ (Camilla Parker Bowles scores a 2 on ‘Military Might’, in case you’re curious). 


The walk between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace is a short but newly inconvenient one, particularly if you're someone who relies heavily on jaywalking. Steel barriers run the length of the streets allowing for crossing only at certain points, rendering the area extremely congested. Some footways are closed entirely.

A makeshift stadium has been built in the Buckingham Palace courtyard, and the neighbouring St James' Park has been kitted out with massive screens and food trucks, akin to a fanzone for a Champions League final.

It is a massive security operation that has been costed somewhere in the region of £100million. When I asked attendees if they felt this was an enormous outlay in the context of a cost-of-living crisis, I was met with disinterest.

"Has to be done," said one fellow, while another group of older women looked at me sort of sympathetically for even troubling myself with such a concern. "We're not thinking about that," one of them said.

Others were more boisterous in their defence of the crown. When I asked about the ostracisation of Meghan Markle, one young man asked me snippily if I knew that Prince Harry had once turned up to a party dressed as a Nazi. 

Another defender of the new king said: "He's going to take it in a different direction. There are one or two relatives he needs to sort out." Before I could ask him exactly who he was referring to, he laughingly added: "Another accident in a tunnel, maybe." 

There was but one protest to be seen along the Mall. A display of a 'non-colonial crown,' made from British materials, accompanied by a small wall of text that explained the ugly and bloody history of some of the artefacts that will be used in tomorrow's ceremony. Its two guardians told me that the crown was a "subtle protest," and I'd be inclined to agree with that characterisation. 

Stormy as today's weather was, it's likely that this afternoon represents a calm before what is sure to be a more fervid atmosphere on Saturday.

Monarchic pride and protests can be expected to reach a higher pitch between 11am and midday tomorrow, when King Charles rides along the Mall to greet tent after tent bearing the image of his own soaked face. 

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