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Kirstie Clements: What’s a coronation without sartorial fizz?

Post the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, and as we see the British monarchy continue to fray around the edges, there is an increasing feeling around the world that the institution is an indulgent anachronism.

When you consider that the current members of royal family are actually pretty ordinary, all there is left to maintain interest is the arcane pomp and ceremony that surrounds them.

And so, on May 6, we have the coronation of King Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla in Westminster Abbey, an event that is probably the pinnacle of pomp, with crowns crusted with rubies and diamonds, robes of ermine and golden coaches.

The ceremony will showcase some of the most dazzling jewels in the world, including the 530.2-carat Cullinan diamond that adorns the Sovereign’s Sceptre, which made its last poignant appearance at the late Queen’s funeral.

On 2nd June 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II waves to the crowd from the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Photo: Getty

Over 2000 guests have been invited from around the world to this better-late-than-never event, including royalty and heads of state as well as (do we still call them common?) people, some of them are most likely staring into their wardrobes right now thinking “What on Earth should I wear?”.

Strictly speaking, the coronation is a white tie event, a dress code above black tie in its formality. A white tie dress code indicates that the event is hugely VIP and that the calibre of guests are titled, royal or have important social standing.

For women, that means a ballgown, and for men it would include an evening tailcoat, a white waistcoat and white bow tie, as we saw so inelegantly demonstrated by former US president Donald Trump when he met the late Queen in 2019.

Apparently, this is also the time to break out the tiaras, as sparkling tiaras are traditionally worn to celebrate coronations, a notion that had previously escaped me.

This is not to be confused with donning a crown, say, for example, Queen Mary’s crown, which contains more than 175 carats of diamonds and will be worn by Camilla. Garrard was the official Crown Jeweller from 1843 to 2007, and made the crown for Mary in 1911 for the coronation of her husband, George V. For her father-in-law’s coronation, Catherine, the Princess of Wales, will likely wear a Garrard tiara.

But the event might be a bit more smart-casual this year, as Charles reads the room and decides that this blatant show of wealth and privilege might be a little on the nose to a post-Brexit Britain struggling with rising costs of living. According to the UK Telegraph, those attending the coronation have been asked by Buckingham Palace to dress down to “match the atmosphere of the pared-back ceremony”.

President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II make a toast during a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace. Photo: Getty

“This means the usual coronation attire donned by members of the House of Lords (special coronation robes and coronets) may be swapped for standard business attire or “parliamentary ermines” , i.e. low-key ermine.

As much as I would prefer to see the guests in the glittering 1950s ballgowns that were prevalent at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, I expect this May 6 will see semi-formal daywear and hats, not far from what we normally see at a royal wedding.

Without all the finery, it might be a bit of a sartorial fizz. Hopefully when William takes the throne, he doesn’t suggest athleisure as an option.

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