Everything Communicates - Even a Coronation

May 12, 2023

If you didn’t tune in for the King’s coronation, you probably still know the highlights of the event thanks to every media outlet around the world and millions of people on social media breaking it down for you.

It was a moment in history and the first time a coronation for the British royal family has taken place in the digital age. The coronation is largely symbolic, as the king’s reign commenced the moment the former monarch passed, and is meant to be a joyous celebration steeped in tradition.

But as public sentiment towards the royal family in Britain, and other Commonwealth countries, is starting to sour - tradition is not what’s going to save them.

According to a recent YouGov Poll there is still broad support for keeping the monarchy, with 58% preferring it to an elected head of state, but this was largely with older generations. Only 32% of 18-24 year olds backed the monarchy with 38%, preferring an elected head of state, and remaining 30% unsure. 78% of young people said they were "not interested" in the royal family.

Staying relevant, particularly to new generations coming through, is crucial to the British royal family’s survival.

With all eyes on the king’s coronation, it was an opportunity to show young British people that he’s a modern monarch, who cares about people and planet.

So an extravagant celebration during a cost-of-living crisis should have been a no go. Instead, breaking tradition and going for a small, ‘no frills’ affair would have been a powerful statement from the king - because everything communicates.

What do I mean by this? Everything a brand does (or doesn’t do) communicates a message about something - and the royal family is one of the world's biggest brands.

So how did they show up and communicate?

Yes, there were some attempts by the palace to show the king is progressive and in touch with the issues of today:

  • Conservative MP, Penny Mordaunt held the Sword of State during a coronation ceremony, the first woman ever.
  • No new crowns were made for the coronation, with the king opting to use his mother’s and the queen being crowned with a special headpiece previously designed for Queen Mary. Charles reused golden vestments and Buckingham Palace announced that the reuse was made "in the interests of sustainability and efficiency." Thrifting, the royal way.
  • As part of the king’s ‘scaled back’ affair, he only invited 2,000 people. Mmm… Practically nobody.

But costs aside, there were still many moments in the lead up to and during the coronation that didn’t sit well with the public:

  • Plans to invite the public to swear an oath of allegiance to the king were met with harsh public backlash and resulted in the language being changed for the ceremony.
  • While efforts were made to include religious leaders from multiple faiths, the ceremony was a deeply religious affair that reinforced the king’s own religion, which is at odds with religious diversity among the population and a growing rise in secularity.
  • Anti-monarchy protesters were detained the morning of the coronation and later released with no arrests made, sparking outrage on police behaviour and what it means for democracy.

If everything communicates the palace really missed the memo, with many media and public criticising the event - reported to have cost up to £100 million - as unnecessary and out of touch.

Rather than forgoing a new crown “in the interest of sustainability’ how about forgoing the coronation and letting that £100 million be used to develop sustainable solutions to the climate crisis?

Instead of looking to the past and following tradition, the king should be paying attention to the now. To the future. The antics of Prince Louis at the Queen’s Jubilee won the hearts and minds of the public for his realness and he stole the show once again at the coronation.

The king could have had a five-minute ceremony on the palace balcony with Prince Louis crowning him and the internet would have lapped it up. He wouldn’t have been just the king, he would have been a grandfather sharing a touching, authentic moment with his grandson.

If the coronation was the royal family’s attempt to show relevance and win back young people, I think we can safely call this a failure.

There is opportunity everywhere, in everything to communicate with your audience. Don’t miss it or misjudge it - like poor old King Charles.

Words by Jade Glashoff.