Seniors are supposed to be the most loyal supporters of the monarchy. So it should have spent a shiver of alarm down the spine of Palace spinners when a new poll this week found that the over-55s had the least interest of all Britons in attending street parties or other community events to celebrate the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla.
The poll by Redfield and Wilton Strategies found that those who said they were least likely to attend community parties were older voters, aged 55 - 64 and 65+.
Maybe they were just afraid of catching COVID or a cold? Well no—astonishingly, those same demographics were the most likely to have hosted or attended such parties to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee last summer, according to a report in the Daily Mail which commissioned the research.
The only possible conclusion is that they just aren’t that into Charles and Camilla.
Of course, a poll is just a poll, but it has added to the gnawing sense that the coronation is failing to capture the imagination of the nation.
While British newspapers keep faithfully churning out stories about details such as the vegan oil that will be used to consecrate the king and queen, many small business owners and parents with school age children are deeply irritated that due to an extra coronation public holiday, there will only be four working days in the 10 days between Saturday 29 April and Monday 8 May.
One central London art gallery owner told The Daily Beast that they, along with many others, wouldn’t be opening for the intervening days, saying: “It will be dead. Everyone will be out of town. After all the disruption of the last three years, we really didn’t need another Christmas—in May.”
Of course, there has always been a strangely abandoned feeling to much of London on big royal days. While the Mall—the pink road that unfolds from the front of Buckingham Palace up to Trafalgar Square—is always packed for the funerals, jubilees, and royal weddings that stud British life, the fans squashing in to the ceremonial streets are largely out-of-towners. Resident Londoners with the wherewithal to do so have always tended to make the most of the few days off and flee the city.
But Charles and Camilla seem to have a bigger problem; straightforward, old-fashioned unpopularity.
Although Charles got a bit of a bounce when he became king, he is still desperately unpopular compared to his mother.
It’s worth looking at the list, compiled by pollsters YouGov at more length: in the U.K., Kate Middleton is the most popular royal with a 68-percent approval rating followed by Prince William on 67 percent, then it’s Princess Anne on 64 percent, then King Charles on 56 percent, Zara Phillips on 48 percent, Prince Edward on 47 percent, Sophie on 44 percent, Harry on 40 percent, and then Camilla on 39 percent. Bringing up the tail end is Meghan on 29 percent and Prince Andrew on 12 percent.
That most modern of metrics, celebrity endorsement, also tells a story. The big coronation concert, which was once upon a time supposed to have featured a reunited Spice Girls as its grand finale, is now notable for the long list of British artists who have reportedly declined an invite to perform: Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles, Elton John, Robbie Williams, and Adele are all among those who don’t appear to be ready to move heaven and earth to be associated with the new king.
One veteran promoter told The Daily Beast: “These things are always difficult to program. There is never any budget so artists have to really want to do it. But King Charles and Queen Camilla is a tricky sell. They aren’t exactly the wokest names to be aligned with.”
The promoter said they did not know if reports that Take That (minus Robbie) had agreed to perform were accurate, saying, “It’s a bit of mystery who is playing right now.”
Buckingham Palace declined to respond to enquiries from The Daily Beast on what the poll results meant, or who might be playing the coronation concert.
However, despite the best efforts of palace spinners over the past 20 years to make us love them, it’s quite apparent that there has not been a less popular king and queen in over 200 years. You have to go back to George IV, who ruled from 1820 to 1830, to find one.
There are dozens of reasons as to why Charles remains stubbornly unloved by the general population but underpinning it all is, arguably, a complete lack of mystique. From his betrayal of Diana to the tampon tape to his endless written and spoken complaints about his difficult life—never has a king been such a known quantity. We think we know what he thinks about almost everything. We knew, by contrast, that we knew almost nothing about what his mother thought about anything. Such is the power of never giving an interview.
Friends of the couple dutifully resist the notion that they are unpopular or that the coronation is shaping up to be a very expensive flop, with one personal friend of them both telling The Daily Beast: “Charles has been greeted by throngs of adoring crowds wherever he goes. Camilla is working away quietly at very unsexy causes like tackling domestic violence. The coronation is the hottest ticket in the world right now, so I don’t think it’s at all fair to say they are not popular. Any politician would kill to have their popularity ratings.”
Asked what could be behind those new poll results which suggested just 30 percent of people saying they would attend a coronation street party, the friend said, “Thirty percent of the country is about 20 million people. Twenty million people attending street parties seems like quite a lot of people to me. The Mall will be packed, I’m sure.”
Well, maybe it will. But the reality is that it is hard to find many people outside the royal orbit who are truly excited about the coronation. The queen ran the Buckingham Palace balcony like a pro; the aged, dotty-looking relatives trooping out were the climax of every show, and she, the brightly decorated bauble at its core, was the point around which the great soap opera all revolved.
Charles always said he wanted a slimmed-down monarchy, and got what he wanted by booting most of the family off the balcony, and now he is piloting a modest coronation.
It is instructive to imagine what the mood would be like now if the monarchy had listened to Diana and implemented her wish, expressed to Martin Bashir in her famous Panorama interview, that the crown skip a generation and go directly to William.
Then the monarchy would really have had jubilation and street parties on their hands—instead of a pair of septuagenarians who desperately want to appear avuncular but can’t seem to help radiating an aura of spiky entitlement.