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MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Coronation, a timely deal – and a nation with reason to cheer

Charles has become King after a lifetime of travel, training, thought and experience, and with a great store of accumulated wisdom

Millions will remember with affection the 1955 portrait of the late Queen by Pietro Annigoni, which seemed to many to symbolise the freshness, hope and majesty which the then newly crowned monarch had brought to the country and the world.

When it first went on display, the crowds pressing around it were ten deep. In a time when modernist art was enjoying a sort of triumph, its cool, classical realism was refreshing, and in step with the idea that monarchy steadily endures – while fashions first blaze, then fade, alter and vanish.

Who knows how many tens of thousands of copies later found their way on to the walls of homes, offices, embassies, ministries, workplaces?

Those who grew up with it, when the world was younger and simpler, can now look at it and be reminded of just how exhilarating and inspiring the beginning of a new reign can be.

The Government’s plan to distribute a new photographic portrait of King Charles may provide a similar opportunity. It will be no Annigoni. 

Charles has become King after a lifetime of travel, training, thought and experience, and with a great store of accumulated wisdom

But in these feverish times of fast-changing governments and crises queuing up to happen, the King’s well-worn solidity, steeped in tradition and experience, will be a useful corrective.

Our new King is not like the nervous young woman, by her own account ‘green in judgment’, who ascended the throne so long ago. 

He has become King after a lifetime of travel, training, thought and experience, and with a great store of accumulated wisdom. As he showed during his visit to Germany, he can confidently represent this country in a way no politician could.

This modest but convincing success bodes well for the Coronation, an event which is almost bound to be a pleasant surprise to a country which has, for some time, not been very much at ease with itself.

To all but the crabbiest, this is a beguiling prospect. No other country does this any more. 

A thousand years of freedom from invasion or dictatorship have left us alone in the world with this astonishing ceremony of continuity, magnificence and faith, not just a piece of pageantry but a real and significant ritual, binding monarch, people, faith, law and custom.

It is a reason to be cheerful. In fact, the moment may well have arrived to cheer up as a nation. 

Bit by bit, but assuredly, we are recovering from the restrictions and costs imposed by Covid, spending, travelling, reforging lost or neglected social links. Growth figures are beginning to improve. 

With expanding confidence we are exploiting our freedom to trade, granted by our release from the European Union.

By joining the Indo-Pacific bloc we have gained full access to a market bigger and more likely to expand than the creaking, bureaucratic EU. 

This is unlikely to be the last such deal we make. The world is now open to us, our goods and services, in a way that it has not been for half a century. 

Meanwhile there appears to have been an outbreak of calm good sense in our governing party.

Rishi Sunak is increasingly assured and convincing, and his Cabinet is beginning to tackle those issues where Tory government can make life better for millions (and where Labour has little or nothing to say).

Even the strikes which at one stage seemed to be spreading into almost every industry and service appear to be losing their momentum and ferocity, as the spirit of compromise finally prevails. 

And it is – at last – spring, with a distinct possibility that it might stop raining for a day or two. 

With just over a month to go before the new King is crowned, we have reasons, as a country and a people, to be cheerful.

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