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Coronation exemplifies how small our world is

By Ian Morrison | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-05-12 10:24
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Britain's King Charles III receives The St Edward's Crown during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London, Britain, May 6, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

The commonly used English phrase "it's a small world" has become quite a cliche, but events in the past few days have truly made me appreciate its real meaning.

The event in question was the recent coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla in London on Saturday.

I was one of the many hundreds of millions of people who witnessed this amazing spectacle, and like the overwhelming majority of the spectators of this once-in-a-life-time event, I was viewing it on television.

This meant that I literally had a front-row seat to a ceremony which has been virtually unchanged for centuries, the significant moment of the crowning of Britain's new king and his queen consort.

The coronation of a new monarch is a significant moment in the life of many British people, marking the official confirmation of the nation's head of state.

But it is something that, until the 20th century, very few of us actually saw. Until that time, the opportunity to see this impressive event was confined to a select group of people, such as members of the royal family, aristocrats and the nation's leaders.

All that was changed by the profound developments in mass communication in the 20th century, particularly the advent and development of cinema and television.

In fact, the first time that an "ordinary" person in Britain could have seen, or heard, the moment of the crowning of their new king was in 1937, with the coronation of King George VI, the grandfather of the current British monarch.

In that year, film cameras were allowed inside London's Westminster Abbey to record the event for cinema newsreels for the first time. It was also the first time that the coronation ceremony was broadcast on the radio, by the BBC.

But, although most people regard the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to be the first "televised coronation", part of the event in 1937 was actually broadcast by the BBC Television Service in its first major outside broadcast since it started regular transmissions in November 1936.

Although the television cameras were not permitted access to Westminster Abbey, the fledgling broadcaster covered the coronation procession and the impressive military parade, which took place as the newly crowned king returned from the Abbey to the royal residence at Buckingham Palace.

At the time, the television coverage was only seen by around 10,000 people, as the BBC only broadcast to London and its surrounding areas. So in many ways, 1953 was the true game-changer as TV cameras were allowed into the Abbey and virtually the entire ceremony was witnessed by millions of people from the comfort of their own homes throughout the length and breadth of Britain.

However, what was truly amazing about the coronation of King Charles III was that this was the first time that this centuries-old ceremony had a really global audience witnessing it as it happened.

Even in 1953, communications technology had not reached a sufficient stage of development for the live and simultaneous broadcasting of television to other parts of the world, as it was several years before the launch of the first satellites which offered the ability to do this.

The fact that I could sit on my sofa, many thousands of kilometers away from those events in London on Saturday and see the crowning of my new king as it actually happened really brought this fact home to me.

It made me truly appreciate that we are now really living in such a "small world". 

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