WHEN King Charles III is crowned today (Saturday May 6), there is bound to be a little peeking over the fence in Ireland at the strange antics of our neighbours.
You don’t have to be a fan of The Crown, or to have chosen a side in the Harry and Meghan versus the Palace debacle, to find the pomp and circumstance of the Royals fascinating.
Many will watch history unfold on TV, as the new king carries his six - yes, SIX - swords at various times, and follows odd and arcane traditions such as being anointed with oil by the 1349 Coronation Spoon - one of the few medieval royal trinkets which escaped Oliver Cromwell’s destruction.
Sure, some republicans with a capital R and lefties will view the celebration of monarchy and birthright with distaste, but most, I imagine, will allow the Brits their indulgence and tradition.
It will all be a far cry from the last British Coronation 70 years ago, when the wounds of the War of Independence had not healed and Éamon de Valera was anxious to put distance between the new republic and the old foe.
Just as it had done with the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, Ireland officially snubbed the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, with Dev taking umbrage at the fact the new Queen’s titles would include ‘Northern Ireland’.
Antipathy — indeed, hostility — to the event extended to the public at large. Pathé newsreels of Elizabeth’s coronation were not shown in cinemas in the Republic after a group called the ‘Anti-Partition League’ threatened to bomb any which ran them.
The threats led to questions in the Dáil, where Dublin TD Peadar Cowan - a one-time Communist who fought with the IRA in 1922 - was an unlikely critic of this bid to censor the royal ceremony. He insisted his opposition to the event “would not be weakened by looking at pictures of the British Royal Family in the cinema”.
Bomb threats were received by the Irish Times after it showed a news photo of Princess Elizabeth in its front office window in Cork — the offending picture was swiftly withdrawn.
The Dublin-based Anti-Partition Association ratcheted up tensions on Coronation day - June 2, 1953 - when 14 members of a picket, including Maire Comerford, its Hon Secretary, were arrested by Civic Guards as they held a protest at the British Embassy in Dublin.
An Inspector from Dublin Castle arrived at the scene and, after consulting the guards, the protesters were released and allowed to resume their protest.
Their placards stated ‘We Want our Country, not your Queen’, ‘Royal Title is Studied Insult’, and ‘the Queen Feasts While Thousands Emigrate’.
These were still febrile times for Anglo-Irish relations - that bastion of republicanism, Maud Gonne, had only died just a few weeks before Elizabeth was crowned.
But, in the austere 1950s, many Irish people undoubtedly would have liked to have seen the glittering royal tradition on the TV or in the cinema, and women in particular would have been thrilled to see one of their own lording it over the men for once.
In truth, there are stories of Irish people watching the events unfold in the homes of their Protestant friends in eastern areas of the country which could receive the BBC signal.
Moreover, there were actually two Cork people who played important roles in the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
One of them was a teenage soprano, David Gordon, who sang in Westminster Abbey that summer’s day in 1953.
Born in Belfast, he went on to be a ballet dancer and was integral to the setting up of the Irish National Ballet with the late Joan Denise Moriarty in Cork in the early 1970s.
David was asked by Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet where he taught, to travel to Cork to help establish the company and its repertoire.
He thought he would be staying just a few months but remained with the company as ballet master for the next 17 years and was an esteemed choreographer.
After the dissolution of the Irish National Ballet in 1989, he stayed in Cork and worked as a freelance choreographer and director of musicals.
David died of cancer in 2007 in hospital in Cork and his friends, sopranos Majella Cullagh and Mary Hegarty, sang at his funeral at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.
The other Cork person involved in the Coronation 70 years ago was Tony Murphy, who was one of four mounted police officers who rode behind the Queen Mother’s carriage on the day.
Tony, of Crookstown, attended Kilmurry school, De La Salle College in Macroom, the North Monastery in Cork, and UCC before emigrating to the UK, where he joined the Metropolitan Police.
Shortly after, he joined the Mounted Police and although the horses were huge, they provided few problems for him as he had spent his childhood riding horses on his mother’s farm at Desmond’s of Currabeigh. Tony died in 2008.
Relations between the UK and Ireland have been fraught at times since 1953, particularly during the three decades of the Troubles, and Britain’s ruling politicians since Brexit have been, frankly, appalling neighbours.
Still, our President Michael D Higgins is attending the Coronation next week, and many in Ireland will happily tune into the events across the water with interest, and perhaps a little bemusement.
When the Echo splashed on the Coronation in 1953 on our front page that Saturday, we reported that “Princes Charles sucked his thumb thoughtfully while the homage was going on, as though a little baffled by it all”.
Let’s hope he doesn’t do that next weekend!