Happy Coronation Weekend, everyone! I’m pre-writing this so I don’t know how the Coronation went, so feel free to discuss in the comments if you watched it. If you actually attended the service, my fascinator’s off to you!
So much has been written about the modern Royal Family (or current Royal Family would be a little more accurate: despite Charles’s forward thinking on things like the environment and muticultural Britain, most of us are not expected to engage in very strange and obscure traditions, some of which date back centuries, and I for one do not possess feudal lands dating back to Henry VIII.) I’m going to end my précis about Charles at his Investiture as the Prince of Wales, which occurred on July 1, 1969, when Charles was 20. This was a little abnormal because normally the first-born male heir gets it pretty quickly upon the Ascension of the Sovereign to the Throne (there will be frequent, almost Trump-like, usages of capitalization throughout this post) but in Mom’s case, she was a very young Sovereign and Charles was only a toddler, so she held off. She gave him the title in 1958 but the full-blown ceremony didn’t happen until over a decade later.
The man now officially styled as
His Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch, our Sovereign Lord, Charles III, now, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter
was born 14 November 1948, as the Brits would put it. He’s the oldest of four, which include a sister, Anne,
the one who really should be Queen because she puts up with no bullshit, and two younger brothers, Andrew and Edward. There’s a haunting suspicion that his father’s favorite child was Anne, and his mother’s Andrew, and that neither of them ever felt he was really up to the job. I mean that’s fine, I come from a family of engineers, there was never any doubt that I would ever be an engineer, I barely know how to change a light bulb, but when you’re the oldest in a hereditary monarchy if you try to pursue a different path, like Charles’s great-uncle King Edward VIII did, it’s not a happy outcome.
When Charles’s maternal grandfather, King George VI, died at the relatively young age of 56 in 1952 Charles, at the age of three, became Duke of Cornwall and, in the Scottish peerage, the titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. So that’s fun. Better yet, the Duchy of Cornwall is not the County of Cornwall, but rather a disparate slew of income producing lands in the Southwest. That’s always handy. Just ask the current Duke of Westminster, who owns the underlying leases of a good chunk of central London.
In 1956, when he was about 8, he started attending school. This was a first for an heir apparent: traditionally, they had been privately tutored in Buckingham Palace. Then he went off to Cheam, where Dad had gone, and then to the famously brutal Gordonstoun, in the northeast of Scotland. This period is depicted in The Crown, Season 4, which was a massive image rehab attempt. You conclude the season with great pity and affection for Charles. Then they released Season 5, the Diana years, and Charles’s popular perception took a direct hit once again. It does do a good job though of explaining the Camilla thing, how she was this jolly Home Counties girl, interested in everything he was, sporty, horsy, lots of friends in common, but alas already married to another man. Less than a century previously Charles’s great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII, another one who had to wait decades as the Prince of Wales, had many, many mistresses, and was an enthusiastic gambler, and ate, drank, and smoked himself into an early grave, and his wife put up with it, so why couldn’t Diana, when the only thing he had was just one married side piece? Alas it was the 80s, and then 90s, and the famous British stiff upper lip was sagging, and Diana had her own ideas about a modern Royal marriage. Charles, for all his sustainable gardening and prescient interest in climate change, was a little retrograde in this respect.
Charles graduated from Gordonstoun and now, with a second break with Royal academic tradition, headed straight off to Cambridge rather than doing a military stint. Mom and Dad were also planning the formal Investiture for Charles to become the Prince of Wales, and there a lot unrest in the late 60s, about everything it seems, so Mom thought (who knows what she really thought about the Welsh) it would be good for Charles to do a kind of semester abroad at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, where he studied Welsh and Welsh history. This, too, is depicted in The Crown, Season 4, and again Charles is the most sympathetic character, earnestly trying to do the right thing under hostile and adverse circumstances, but he went a little “too native.” At his Investiture speech he addressed the people of Wales in Welsh, a language none of the other Royal guests spoke, of course, it wasn’t Greek or German, and he made some vague allusions to the Welsh people and the Welsh nation. At the time, the point was to reinforce the notion of a United Kingdom. But here again Charles was ahead of the curve, because about 30 years later Tony Blair pushed through the concept of “devolution” to the four nations of the United Kingdom, which is why there are now four Parliaments that have real power, with the one in Westminster being the primus inter pares.
So there we are, or where Charles was, in 1969. At the time he was very attractive and a polo-playing playboy and, you know, the heir to the throne, and his glamour quotient only increased during the 70s, because it took so long for him to get married. And then he eventually did. For more on that, you can read one of the several hundreds of biographies.
When QEII was crowned a Coronation dish was created, Coronation Chicken. I wrote about this a while ago. (Almost two years ago to the day, it turns out.) Charles and Camilla chose as their Coronation dish the Coronation Quiche. Vegetarian, healthy, lots of spinach, very King Charles III. It was, of course, widely slammed in Britain. One Twitter commenter said, “A quiche?! It’s 2023, not 1973.” There is a huge egg shortage in Britain right now so this was also seen as tone deaf. To the twitterati I would say, as I’m sure Camilla has, “fuck off,” because I love spinach, I love quiche, and I love the concept of 1973. Here’s what I’ll be making on Coronation weekend.
2023 Coronation Quiche in Honour of His Majesty King Charles III
- 125g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 25g cold butter, diced
- 25g lard
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Or 1 x 250g block of ready-made shortcrust pastry
- 125ml milk
- 175ml double cream
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon,
- Salt and pepper
- 100g grated cheddar cheese,
- 180g cooked spinach, lightly chopped
- 60g cooked broad beans [fava beans, in America] or soya beans
- Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl; add the fats and rub the mixture together using your finger tips until you get a sandy, breadcrumb like texture.
- Add the milk a little at a time and bring the ingredients together into a dough.
- Cover and allow to rest in the fridge for 30-45 minutes
- Lightly flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to a circle a little larger than the top of the tin and approximately 5mm thick.
- Line the tin with the pastry, taking care not to have any holes or the mixture could leak. Cover and rest for a further 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. [375°F in the real world]
- Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper, add baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes, before removing the greaseproof paper and baking beans.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C. [325°F. Honestly, with Brexit and Europhobia, isn’t it time to abandon this celsius nonsense and go back to the old ways? If it was good enough for Churchill…]
- Beat together the milk, cream, eggs, herbs and seasoning.
- Scatter 1/2 of the grated cheese in the blind-baked base, top with the chopped spinach and beans and herbs, then pour over the liquid mixture.
- If required gently give the mixture a delicate stir to ensure the filling is evenly dispersed but be careful not to damage the pastry case.
- Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until set and lightly golden.