We live in different worlds, Charlie and I, but I believe we’ve always had a bond. As I long ago wrote in a letter addressed to “Bonnie Prince Charles” (I thought his first name was Bonnie), “In social studies class, our project is to select a foreign pen pal, and I am hoping that you’ll be mine. I think we have a lot in common. It won’t take long, one letter or postcard a month for the rest of the term.” To my surprise, he never wrote back. I figured he got so many requests, he could not answer them all. I was never angry, just disappointed that we’d never become friends. That memory flooded back Saturday when I avidly watched as the coronation service and costume parade made its way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace over the course of four hours.
We are only two years apart in age, and both were training to join the military. Had it not been for the Vietnam War, I might have joined the Air Force; Charlie, meanwhile, was being groomed for the Navy.
Had we become pen pals, I’d have asked him what other kid’s groups he belonged to. “I’m in military school, the Boy Scouts and Civil Air Patrol, what are you doing?”
Had we become pen pals, I’d have asked him what it’s like to be a little kid living in such a big castle. And I’d have shown him photos of me as a baby, and asked him who he thought was cuter. As I watched the carriage carrying the heir apparent, Prince William, and his three children with Kate Middleton, I wondered how they coped with being royalty. Which is what I wanted to ask Charlie, had we become pen pals.
I was thinking that, unlike me, who’d never seen a coronation before, he must have been somewhere at his mom’s back in1952, the last time such an event was organized. I wondered: Did he like his mom, the Queen, or would he have enjoyed being King sooner?
What I really wanted to tell him is that I loved the metal soldiers of British regiments that I bought every time I could save enough money. I’d go to FAO Schwartz and buy a box of them that I’d then use in simulated battles. I’d have asked him if he had any, and if he wanted to trade any duplicates.
The great part of the coronation was the pomp and circumstance, especially all the uniforms from all corners of the Empire. I have seen the changing of the guard in London. I suppose Charlie didn’t need the toy soldiers anyway because he had the real things underneath his window.
I of course have my issues with empire, colonization and the hypocrisy of the constitutional monarchy, but the coronation was something else. I watched it on NY1, the local channel, with commentary by the local anchors, who also report from the Halloween Parade in New York, and felt like I was watching that kind of spectacle. I hope Charlie could enjoy himself on that level (I’d have asked him that if I could). And one last thing: Had we become pen pals, I’d ask him if wearing the five pound crown for such a long time gave him a headache. I certainly felt for him. God save the King!