Still going strong since 886, when Alfred the Great declared himself king of the Anglo-Saxons, British royalty is nothing if not the mistress of re-invention. For 1100 years, the English have been doing monarchy like nobody else, and nothing defines that intent and purpose quite like a coronation. Of course, there hasn’t been one of those in 66 years, but that isn’t stopping Paul McCreesh, master reconstructor of epic musical events from 16th-century Venetian coronations to the 1846 premiere of Mendelssohn’s Elijah. His latest labour of love, An English Coronation 1902-1953, is a fantasy football version of the best bits from over 50 years of pomp and circumstance, lovingly recorded in Ely Cathedral with drums, trumpets, a period orchestra, a vast choir and acclaimed actor Simon Russell Beale doing duty as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Paul McCreesh. Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

Looking back, it was the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 that really caused the British establishment to have a good think about what they wanted such events to say, partly because of the dimly remembered, somewhat disastrous coronation of the new monarch’s long-lived mother Queen Victoria. Dogged by a lack...

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