And through poetry comes the chance to reflect and create. Thomas Hardy’s poem The Coronation, written the year after George V’s 1910 Coronation, depicts the imagined conversation between past monarchs in the crypt of Westminster as they discuss the preparations above. This could serve as a stimulus for creative response, with students imagining the conversations of past and present participants in historical events.
Poems by James Mansfield, undiscovered until 2014, include A Prayer for the King's Majesty, in which the then poet laureate reflects on George VI's Coronation in May 1937. A modern poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy, reminds us that the crown is ‘not lightly worn’ in her poem The Crown written for the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation. Such texts provide openings for both for analysis and creativity, with teachers using poetry as a springboard for discussion.
Most significantly, however, events such as the Coronation give rise to discussions of identity. What does it mean to be a citizen of ‘this sceptred isle’? What does the Coronation of a new Monarch have to do with the lived experience of the students in our classrooms?
Writing for NATE, Lesley Nelson-Addy, Furzeen Ahmed and Harmeet Matharu call for a diversification of poetry in the English curriculum, including consideration of such collections as Daljit Nagra’s British Museum in which Nagra considers his identity as a British Asian and how institutions such as the British Museum and the BBC have guided him on his journey to understanding his culture. As Nelson-Addy, Ahmed and Matharu suggest, in considering the anthology,
"At KS3, students could reflect on their own experiences and consider how the religious or the spiritual has enhanced their life or the life of a family member. They could do research about religious or spiritual elements in their lives or their family’s lives that means something to them. Once they have done this research, they could write their own poems about religion or spirituality."
The formal investiture of King Charles III of his regal powers in a religious Coronation ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey is a significant event in the country’s history and could be used to frame reflections from students on significant events and places in their own history.
The coronation of King Charles III is an opportunity for English teachers. As we inhabit the ‘days of the King’, teachers have a role in making events accessible for students. In the English classroom, drawing parallels and encouraging discussions around fictional representations of kingship and the reality of the Coronation and the modern monarchy could prove productive.
But perhaps the Coronation might best serve as a stimulus for creative explorations of identity and the importance of place for students growing up in culturally diverse post-pandemic Britain.