I always get inordinately excited about the Met Gala. I spend hours the next day going through the photos of the Gala, choosing my favourites, insulting the worst dressed and pretending like my opinion at all matters or that anyone asked for it. This year, however, the Met Gala happened to be in the same week as another event of enormous grandeur and splendour: the Coronation. It occurred to me that both are more similar than they may seem, though they took place thousands of miles apart.
They both have star-studded guest lists. Well, the Coronation had quite an eclectic assembly of people, as though the King had forgotten to invite enough people. It gives the impression that he went through his contacts and texted whoever could come. Lionel Richie? Yeah, he’ll get on with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Emma Thompson? She was great in Nanny McPhee, put her in the front row. Penny Mordaunt? Everyone else said no- so let’s have her.
Another thing crucial to both ceremonies is what we call pomp and splendour for the Coronation and campness for the Met Gala. The Coronation became a red carpet for the press. ‘What colours were in?’ ‘Ooh, did you see what the king was wearing?’ ‘I want one of those royal girdles for myself.’
I am personally not well acquainted with fashion. I have a rotation of the same clothes that I hope no one notices. My idea of fashion is wearing the same pair of jeans for a week, with a shirt and rolled-up sleeves. Anna Wintour I am not. However, I don’t think this is a prerequisite to judge the clothes either of the Coronation or of the Met Gala. As Simon Cowell would frequently say on the X factor: ‘you’re the one trying to have a singing career, not me’. They’re the ones trying to look fashionable, not me (evidently).
Both events are undoubtedly controversial for reasons that at points overlap. Both are controversial for their unapologetic extravagance in a time when the country has the dark cloud of inflation looming over it. Despite the supposedly pared-down ceremony, it can seem insensitive and unfair that the king gets to ride in a golden carriage with gold trappings and jewels and riches. The Met Gala, similarly, looks like a scene from the Capitol in the Hunger Games, with everyone wearing opulent gowns whilst most are struggling to make ends meet.
It’s a sensitive issue. I understand that argument and I understand that people, quite fairly, take issue with the ostentation of each event. One is perhaps more unfairly criticised than the other. The Met Gala last year raised $17.4 million for charity; the Coronation cost the taxpayer tens of millions for security and the procession.
However, other arguments for the existence of the royal family aside, I think that the coronation provides the country with a moment of aesthetic splendour. It may not seem worth it in the moment, but the unusualness of the event occuring in the 21st century causes such great pleasure. It is almost like buying a ticket to a ball – you can’t easily justify spending so much on a single night of your life. But it is a moment that most people won’t ever forget.
The Coronation is a moment of great campness, like the Met Gala. It is a moment that is extravagant for extravagance’s sake. It is like inviting people to your house for a dinner party and putting out the fine china, the crystal glasses, the things you would never dream of using on a normal day. Although, if the King was crowned in a college, it would probably get shut down by the porters before he even had got the crown on his head. Yet the event provides us with joy from the fact we get to see something aesthetically pleasing, something that hasn’t happened for over half a century. There is something valuable in that.
This country is beset by an inequitable distribution of wealth. However, the monarchy is the wrong place to direct your vitriol. They provide the country with occasions that will never be forgotten, occasions of enormous campness. When was the last time Elon Musk put on a concert for everyone?
Perhaps the Monarchy would have softened some of this vitriol by giving away part of their estate. The Royals don’t pay inheritance tax – what if they gave the same amount away to charity? Or what if the Queen in her will had left everyone in the UK five pounds? I think that would have made them a lot more popular. Caesar left everyone in Rome 300 sesterces in his will – if he could do it, why couldn’t she?
I also know that this argument won’t change any people’s minds. People’s hatred for the royals sometimes seems to be innate, similar to a distaste for marmite or sardines. But hopefully it can explain part of the joy that people from every corner of the country gain from the Royal Family.
Image Credit: UK Parliament/ CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr