Last Saturday, my alarm went off at 5am. I’ll be honest, I’m not usually a morning person, but as I threw on my suit and wolfed down my breakfast, I was beyond excited.
Today, I would be attending the Coronation of His Majesty the King. The Parliamentary authorities allocated just 17 spots for Labour MPs. We all had to enter a ballot – and as luck would have it – I was successful.
We had to be seated at 7:30am in Westminster Abbey. As a self-confessed history buff, the Abbey has always held a special place in my heart. However, on Saturday it felt particularly magical.
From my vantage in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Gallery, I could see the point of Coronation, as well as the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor.
While hymns and music filled the Abbey, you really could feel the weight of a thousand years of history and ritual bearing down on this moment. As I sat waiting for King Charles III and Queen Camilla to be crowned, I thought of what would be happening in Tameside. There would be street parties, celebrations in Victoria Park, and local people would be coming together to mark this historic occasion.
This, to me, is the power of our monarchy. It’s not just about putting a crown on someone’s head. It’s about recognising the vibrant and astonishing history of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Overseas Territories.
There is no better demonstration of this than the ‘Coronation Chair’, an ancient piece of furniture which has been the centre piece of Coronations for 700 years. When King Charles III was crowned, it was on the very seat that Henry IV, Elizabeth I, and 38 other monarchs had sat on during their ceremonies.
The back of the Chair is covered in scribbles and engravings, not ancient messages from monarchs gone by, but graffiti from Westminster schoolboys and tourists in the 18th and 19th Centuries (thankfully security protecting the chair is now a bit better!). This Chair connects Kings and Queens from centuries ago with mischievous Georgian schoolboys and tourists right up to you and me.
It speaks to the unique nature of our history, and why this ceremony was so important. It was a profound honour to represent Tameside at this Coronation, and something I will treasure for the rest of my life.
So too will I treasure the feeling of community and joy it brought to so many local people across Tameside. Long live the King!