As dawn broke in London on the day of the coronation of King Charles III, sunshine was in short supply but spirits were high as thousands of well-wishers made their way to the procession route in the hope of catching a glimpse of the gold coach carrying the king and queen consort.
While weary republicans may feel like there have been as many royal events as London buses in recent years, the tens of thousands who braved forecasts of pitiful weather were adamant that being present to celebrate Britain’s first coronation in 70 years was a truly unmatched occasion.
Alison Marshall, who travelled from Bolton with her two kids, her sister and her sister’s children, said that even a 14-hour wait to pass the Queen’s coffin hadn’t put them off plans to come to London for the coronation.
“I just think it’s good to keep these traditions alive and pass it on to your children and hopefully they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives,” she said.
By 9am there had been only gentle spots of rain, but being from the north-west, Marshall had come prepared. “We’re used to rain,” she said. “We’ve got ponchos.”
Fans thronged through the royal parks, past first aid points, water refill stations, toilets, and food and drink stands as the sun struggled to get through the clouds.
They carried cool bags and hampers, folding chairs and umbrellas. They begged very stressed-looking security personnel to let them in certain areas in the hope of getting a decent view of King Charles and Camilla, the queen consort.
“We didn’t get coffee,” said Anne Nieto, who had travelled from Calgary in Canada with her husband, John, to be at today’s festivities. “We didn’t even have time for a cup of tea before we left the hotel.”
When asked if it was worth it, she looked surprised. “Of course,” she said. “It doesn’t happen very often does it and we just want to be part of it.”
Husband John had, despite the coffee error, come prepared for emergencies, and pulled a small flask of rum from his bag. “We’re waiting until 10,” he said. After a pause Anne added: “Maybe. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, isn’t it.”
Twenty-nine thousand police officers have been deployed to London and Windsor for the coronation. Around the ceremony, men and women in uniform – many wearing badges of honour and pristine white gloves – were everywhere along the procession route. The 1.42-mile route was also flanked by 1,000 members of the military from the army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
By 9am there had been no royal footmen, no refrains from marching bands and only the promise of a glimpse of the horse-drawn diamond jubilee state coach, but onlookers seemed happily resigned to the wait.
“I hope it’s worth it,” said 31-year-old Wenyao Lin. “Well, we’re here now so it has to be,” said her companion Songtao Hu, 38.
As well as wanting to be part of history – the reason given almost uniformly for being along the Mall – the couple also wanted to show their support to the new monarch.
Even among these Carolean-era enthusiasts, it is clear that the love of the royals – and a penchant for pomp – is more of a motivation than a particular adoration of the new king.
“You know, when he was a prince, people kind of gave him a tough time,” says Hu, a management consultant. “But I think he’s doing his best. He’s had a bit of time to prepare for it, but the Queen was a difficult act to follow.”
Lin also feels some empathy towards Charles’s situation. “If you come from an Asian culture, your parents keep saying you’re supposed to be better than them,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to do.”