Today is the coronation of King Charles III, and Britain (and the wider Commonwealth) are in celebration mood, months after losing the much loved Queen Elizabeth II. The British media has gone all guns blazing on the big event (which I am currently watching whilst typing this), and there is an additional bank holiday provided (for which I am thankful). However, I have been thinking about how this event will be viewed in years and decades to come by future historians; will they value it all?

Of course, many coronations throughout history have been special and important. The changing of royal houses were always particularly significant, such as the crowning of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day in 1066, or when Henry Tudor made himself king in the weeks following the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. But these events were important because the title of monarch itself was important: both the Normans and the Tudors brought about vast changes in politics and society, and as such, their coronations mark a divide or shift in English history.

However, the British monarchy in the 21st century is unable to exert such influence, principally because the past few centuries have seen its power eroded and transferred to Parliament and the people. By the late 1600s – after the events of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights of 1689 – a constitutional monarchy had been established which placed it under heavy constraints. As such, the throne that Charles sits on today is ceremonial and symbolic, rather than powerful.

What is the worth of this day in which he is crowned? It is unlikely to be historically significant. One could argue that Charles’ mother, Elizabeth, also reigned during an age in which the monarchy was politically neutered, but yet many still cite her coronation in 1953 as a significant day in the post-war period of Britain. However, I believe her coronation is viewed as notable for three key factors.

Firstly, it came in the aftermath of war and depression in a time when the country was still suffering with austerity rationing. The coronation in 1953 was a celebration that enlivened Britain, allowing the country to come together. Secondly, it was the first coronation to be televised in the new media age of mass produced TV sets; the BBC website claims that it was ‘the event that did more than any other to make television a mainstream medium’. Thirdly, the significance of Elizabeth’s coronation grew with each passing decade of her reign; she became important due to her longevity during difficult, changing times, and in becoming Britain’s longest serving monarch.

Charles is unlikely to match such achievements: despite the country suffering through a cost of living crisis, there is no wider feeling of coming together in celebration (this is evident with the anti-monarchy protests and the rise of republican feeling). As for the second factor, despite millions undoubtedly tuning in to watch the service, it will not be responsible for any important shifts in the media (unless Charles somehow urges forward a new rival to TikTok). And thirdly, Charles’ reign might yet become significant for some unknown future event, but it is highly unlikely that he will reign for a long period (he is 74 years old).

All of this places Charles’ coronation in the position of being a temporary spectacle, but I don’t lament such a lowly position, as it could be argued that such an event has no place in a modern society. An incredibly rich, privileged individual who is dressed in gold and finery is treated by taxpayers to a big bash which is estimated to cost between £50 – £100 million; how does this make sense when there is such economic deprivation in the country? Furthermore, how can we truly call ourselves a meritocratic democracy when we continue to place one family on such a pedestal? Are the republicans right in wanting to rid the country of the royal family?

I don’t agree with the argument which suggests that the British monarchy are a good thing because they generate tourism revenue. Firstly, I do not think that just because something is profitable then it automatically means that is a positive good. Secondly, millions of tourists flock to a variety of places, with some royal settings sometimes attracting fewer visitors. Furthermore, other countries which have removed their monarchy – such as France – still continue to attract tourists to royal sites, such as the Palace of Versailles. The buildings and locations are popular because they were once important in history, back when monarchs with actual power had a influence; not because of the presence of the modern royal family (despite the obsession of red tabloids in charting every event in Prince Harry’s life).

However, I do agree with the fear of what would happen to our political system if we removed the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II performed a stabilising role despite the political challenges of the past few decades, thereby serving admirably as a head of state. Removal of the monarch would bring about debates about what would come in their place: a new, democratically elected president? It could lead to a greater polarisation of our politics if one political party secured the presidency, and I wouldn’t have much hope for the country refraining from its populist impulses (President Boris, anyone?). Therefore, King Charles III may be a better option in avoiding such division.

The coronation is coming to an end. Time for me to turn to a Tudor history book; back in a time when the monarchy really meant something. Perhaps the reign of King Charles III will enter the history books, but it will take something of larger importance than being a ceremonial chief; I, for one, am interested in the potential constitutional crisis that would occur if the royal assent was refused for a bill of Parliament (the last time this happened was with Queen Anne in 1708). Now, that really would be historically significant.