A night to remember on the Mall as coronation crowds countdown to big day

JOE PALMER joins the thousands of partygoers camping out near Buckingham Palace

At 6.30pm on the eve of the King’s coronation, the weather is taking a pleasant turn as I move with the babbling crowds pouring steadily across St. James’ Park.

The Mall is already paved with a caravan of hundreds of tents strung together with union jack bunting and draped with flags from all corners of the commonwealth and beyond.

Every third camper is wearing an outlandishly patriotic costume and the atmosphere is quintessentially British with bottles of bubbly being popped and everyone generally revelling in the fleeting sunshine.

Over the next few hours the campers routinely break into renditions of ‘God Save the King’ and cheer for the passing vehicles carrying the King, the First Lady, and the portaloos.

Filipo Pasquali is a 26-year-old teaching intern from San Vito Romano near Rome.
He arrived a couple of hours before I did and has been soaking in the garden party-esque atmosphere with a British friend.

He says: “I booked a flight on the same day the coronation was announced.

“It’s weird because I’m actually quite left-wing, but I think the British monarchy are good because they aren’t involved in party politics.”

As the evening rolls on to 9pm, campers visiting from overseas are treated to some good old fashioned British drizzle and the smell of damp grass mixed with alcohol makes the atmosphere feel more like a festival.

coronation crowds
THE LONG WAIT: keeping warm and dry overnight

True to form for the British public, the atmosphere remains jovial despite the rain.

The song the campers are singing changes to fit the festival vibe, and the campers visiting from America glare at the campers singing along with a portable speaker blaring ‘American Idiot’.

Sharon Annett, a 39-year-old primary school teacher, from County Down, Northern Ireland is flying the flag of the Northern Irish national football team over her family camping spot.

She and her family made the trip for the Queen’s funeral last year.

She says: “We booked to travel over just as soon as it was announced.

“We just really love the royal family, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to fly the family over again.”

The temperature at the Mall starts to drop around midnight and many of the older campers reluctantly put layers over their union jack suits and dresses.

The rows of tents are populated with torch lights and fairy lights, some of which wind themselves around cardboard effigies of the King.

CAMPSITE FULL: every space taken by the campers. Credit: Pablo Rovetto

Queues for the toilets and for food are long, but fortunately the rain has eased off.

Groups of younger people have started appearing, playing music and dancing with some wearing plastic masks of the King.

Jen Hunt, a 60-year-old NHS configuration manager from Banstead, Surrey is camping out with her daughter.

Jen says: “I don’t think we’re gonna sleep very much at all to be honest.”As day breaks at around 5am, campers start to rise with blurry eyes and are asked to pack up their tents by the stewards.

There is a mounting atmosphere of excitement as a tannoy announces the day of King Charles’ coronation.

Featured image: James Sladden

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