The last time there was a British Coronation I was just a few months old, sleeping through it all in my cot in the Enniskiilen home where I was born in Riverside, Cornagrade.

A “mewling, puking infant” as Shakespeare described the first of the seven ages of man.

I’m not sure now if I’m in the sixth or seventh of those, but fair to say that all the other ages seem to have rattled past far too quickly.

The Latin phrase “Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis” means “Times are changed; we are also changed with them” and it seems appropriate to me and everything around me.

There’s no doubt I’ve changed through the experiences of life’s journey and in other ways circumstances of the passage of time have changed me; I wonder if we as a society have learned along the way.

If we consider the spectacle of Coronations in 1953 and 2023 as bookmarks in history at the beginning and end of a three score and ten years timeframe, it’s thought-provoking that some things change and some things don’t.


The television coverage was certainly very different. Like the vast majority of others, my parents wouldn’t have watched the Crowning of Queen Elizabeth. We didn’t have a tv, for a start.

On Saturday, while I didn’t watch it all, I certainly watched parts of history on a huge colour screen with a picture clear enough for me to see close-ups of, among other things, a grumpy 74 year old sitting in a gold carriage complaining. As we do.

There are other comparisons, socially and politically.

There were still food shortages after World War Two and it was only in 1953 that Britain saw the end of food rationing. Even so, Manchester United still found the bread to pay out £29,999 for the transfer of Tommy Taylor, then a record for a British footballer.

Sadly Taylor would be one of those to die tragically in the Munich air crash a few years later.

His transfer fee seemed exorbitant in 1953 but now it’s the amount of salary an average player picks up every week.

Who could have imagined that all these years later, putting food on the family table would again become an issue with many people relying on the generosity of others.

If the gap between rich and poor was bad in 1953, it would seem the only difference in 2023 is that it is wider than ever.

Human greed, no? The more things change the more they stay the same.

Politically, the difference is interesting. The leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, including this island were men; all men and all with a background in war and conflict.

The United States President was Dwight D. Eisenhower, known as 'Ike', a five-star general in World War Two. The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, who had symbolised the British War effort and was now back in 10 Downing Street despite being in his late 70s.

In Ireland, North of the Border the Stormont bastion of Unionist rule still held its iron grip on power under Prime Minister Sir Basil Brooke, who received the Military Cross in the First World War and became Viscount Brookeborough, with a seat in the House of Lords, the year before the Coronation.

In the South, the Taoiseach was Eamon de Valera, iconic figure from the Irish War of Independence but now leading Fianna Fail formed in 1926. By 1953, relationships between Britain and Ireland remained strained to say the least, and Dev in common with most Irish people cold-shouldered the Coronation of Elizabeth.

At the time, Sinn Féin was barely on the political landscape. Electorally inactive for most of the 1930s and 40s, they did contest seats in the 1950s with some little success; but even when they won elections their abstentionism meant they didn’t take them, even in the Dail.

Contrast all that with now. While Brooke’s Ulster Unionist party isn’t even the dominant force in its own community and battles for its survival, DeValera’s successors are in Government but are low in the polls and reliant on an alliance with their erstwhile Civil War enemies in Fine Gael to keep in power.

Sinn Féin meanwhile are on the cusp of ruling in Stormont and are consistently polling as the largest single party south of the Border. And, unlike De Valera, their leaders made a virtue of attending this Coronation.

Don’t tell me things don’t change.

There is nothing permanent except change, said Heraclitus.

Change is inevitable and it’s how we approach and embrace change that will define us.

Worldwide, any reading of that period now accepts that racism and misogyny were deep-rooted elements of 1950s society. Whereas nowadays it’s, er……..

The two men likely to contest the US presidency now include Donald Trump, who will have to juggle electioneering with a raft of legal battles which include allegations of sex offences and being instrumental in a rebellion against the legitimate election result.

A man who wants to make America great again; which one presumes back to a glorious past such as 1953 when the treatment of blacks as less than equal citizens extended to segregation on buses and in restaurants. And much worse.

In Britain, recent successors to Churchill include Boris Johnson (‘nuff said) and with the present incumbent Rishi Sunak, born in England of Indian descent, it would ostensibly seem that Britain has become more diverse.

But on one television station historian David Starkey claimed the Sunak-led Government wasn’t interested in the Coronation because the Southampton-born Prime Minister was “not fully grounded in our culture".

And also on GB News, Calvin Robinson pointed to Sunak, of Hindu background, reading the Bible at the Cornonation service and asked whether a “heathen” should really be doing a gospel reading.

I don’t know what the levels of tolerance and public discourse were like in the 1950s, but today it’s a bearpit. Just look at the British press treatment of Prince Harry.

His uncle, the sleazy Prince Andrew attended Westminster Abbey without much opprobrium in the press. No sweat, I suppose! But the screeching about Harry reached fever pitch.

Christine Hamilton highlighted the fact that everything about the service, including fashion, was British. But goodness me, Harry wore a suit designed by the French Christian Dior.

I wrote last week that those people in Northern Ireland who wanted to celebrate the Coronation should be allowed to do so and their Britishness respected. It’s good that they did.

But we should not ignore the fact, either, that times have changed and aside from the identity issue there are many other people uncomfortable at the display of gold and jewelled splendour which cost millions at a time when many people are struggling to pay the bills.

If all this privilege was deemed okay in the post-war austerity of 1953, it seems anachronistic in 2023 and one wonders how the British monarchy will remain relevant in a much-changed and divided United Kingdom in the coming years.

Despite the passing of years, the real divide remains between those people attracted to inequality, injustice, greed and prejudice and those who are empathetic and want a better way.

One final thought. I noticed that the TUV leader, Jim Allister was born in 1953. Perhaps when Queen Elizabeth was being crowned he was “mewling and puking".

In 2023, he was in the Abbey reciting his allegiance to Charles but according to his statement keeping one eye on Naomi Long and Michelle O’Neill.

Some things never change!