A Londoner's guide to the Coronation
How to navigate King Charles III’s big weekend in the capital — logistically and politically
Morning — it’s weird being in London for big historic events like the Coronation. In theory, a front-row seat is just a tube journey away. In practice, the capital becomes a bit of a nightmare, as it fills up with the rest of the nation. For anyone currently weighing their options, we’ve got a full guide to where the action will be on the day — from screenings to the protest — after your Thursday briefing below.
Plus: an ancient London treasure gets protected status, while hoodies have been banned from a borough’s shopping centres.
Support us and consider sharing the Spy with other Londoners using the button below.
What we’ve spied
✍️ A petition to save the Brixton Academy has hit more than 75,000 signatures. Famous musicians including Blur guitarist Graham Coxon and Ed Simons from The Chemical Brothers are among those joining a growing campaign to save the venue. Last week it was revealed that the Metropolitan Police wants to permanently suspend the venue’s licence following the fatal crowd crush in December. See last Thursday’s Spy for further reading.
🧱 Three sections of a huge Roman wall in the City of London have been given protected status. The wall, built in the third century AD along the Thames, has been recently unearthed by the Museum of London Archaeology. The new stretches have been added to the National Heritage List for England, which means they have been designated as nationally important sites and given protection from any future development.
🛴 E-bikes and scooters have already caused 50 fires in London this year alone, leading to two deaths. Data obtained by the Guardian shows the number of battery-related injuries in London is on course to be more than four times higher this year than it was in 2020. A witness to one particularly severe east London fire said that a battery was on charge overnight when it started spitting and “behaving like a rocket”. Despite efforts to put it out with blankets and water, the fire spread to the flat and ultimately killed one of its inhabitants.
🍺 Six London pubs have been put up for auction, fuelling fears they’ll end up as flats. The six pubs are currently owned by a private equity company, which seems to think it can make more money elsewhere. Included on the list are the Duke of Clarence in Camberwell, the Royal Oak in Islington, the Lord Southampton in Kentish Town, the Victoria in Tottenham, the Durham Arms in Romford and the Baring in Islington, which notably was credited in the Michelin Guide for having “far more imagination and ability than usual gastropub fare”. The auction puts the pubs’ futures into doubt, with some speculating they’ll be turned into flats.
🚫 Hoodies have been banned in east London shopping centres. The new ban affecting Romford shopping centres is apparently aimed at preventing antisocial behaviour, but it hasn’t gone down well. “It’s the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” said one local. The decision was backed by Havering councillors and local Metropolitan police officers.
Navigating the Coronation in London
Is it worth going to watch in person? Well, there’s technically nothing stopping you. Viewing areas along the main procession route are opening to the public from 6am, on both sides of The Mall and around Whitehall. The King and Queen are setting off from Buckingham Palace at 10:20am for Westminster Abbey via Trafalgar Square for the coronation ceremony at 11am. They’ll be returning by the same route at roughly 1pm. It’s a significantly shorter route than Elizabeth II’s, which also passed through Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch and Oxford Circus. There’s a video featuring TV historian Dan Snow from the Department for Culture breaking it down, and a map below.
It’ll be absolutely chock-a-block though – big queues are expected and many are already camping out. You might have seen some of the viral clips of the supposed first spectator to turn up — John Loughrey from Streatham, south London — who set up camp on The Mall last Thursday. The viewing areas are getting closed off as soon as they get full — in fact it’s worth paying attention to the government’s website, as, like for the queue for the late Queen’s lying-in-state, they’ll probably publish updates about capacity.
Also, be warned that some of the nearby tube stations won’t fully open. St James’s Park station will be closed entirely and Hyde Park Corner station will be exit only. If you exit at Victoria, you’ll likely get directed to a nearby screening site, given so many of the surrounding roads are being closed. If you want to grab a spot at The Mall, recommended stations are Waterloo, Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus and Green Park. For Whitehall, it’s Embarkment, Westminster and Charing Cross.
Where else can you watch it? There’s firstly the official screening sites, the biggest being at Hyde Park. That’ll have four screens, first aid points, water refill stations, toilets, and food and drink kiosks. There are also smaller screenings at The Green Park and St James’s Park. They’re all free, and there’s more info on The Royal Parks website.
There are plenty of unofficial screenings too – here’s a few of the biggest first come, first served options the Spy has spotted
Grosvenor Square: Open from 10am to 8pm on Saturday, also with live music from 3pm to 7pm. Also open from 12pm until the end of the Windsor Castle concert on Sunday
Battersea Power Station: Open from 11am to 8pm, Saturday to Monday, and billed as a huge street party, featuring Elton John and Spice Girls tribute acts
Wembley Park: Open from 10am to 4pm, with free live music and performances, plus entertainment for kids
St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield: The church is screening the ceremony live, with attendees participating in the ceremony as if present in person
Personally, the Spy reckons any London pub with a TV is a solid option. Even Wetherspoons have TVs with the BBC, and the chain has confirmed its pubs will be screening the Coronation. Speaking of, there’s a weird Tesco (?) pub popping up today and Friday in Farringdon.
Any other logistical bits to know?
It’ll likely be a huge faff driving or cycling in central London, as loads of roads are closing, so probably best to avoid
TfL has said its full network should be up and running over the weekend, though it’s also said it may close stations if necessary
There’s going to be a ton of security — in fact, it was revealed yesterday that the Met is even planning to use live facial recognition on the crowds (see Spy, April 6, 2023, for more info on the Met’s tech). All in all, a record 11,500 police will be in London guarding the Coronation against disruption — making it the biggest security operation in British history
On that note…
Also turning up to the Coronation on Saturday are anti-monarchy protestors, if that’s more your cup of tea. Campaign group Republic is gathering at Trafalgar Square from 6am, and plans to protest along the route, with activists encouraged to wear yellow to match placards reading ‘Not My King’.
There’s been a bit of back and forth though about how welcome they are. Earlier in the week it was reported that activists had been sent official warning letters from the Home Office, reminding them of the government’s new protest law. The rules, given Royal Assent on Tuesday, now mean tougher punishments for disruptive tactics like blocking roads or locking on to objects and buildings.
But Republic says it isn’t planning any disruption, and on Wednesday the government’s security minister publicly stressed the group will be allowed to peacefully protest at the Coronation. It’s fair to say though that, compared to the rest of the UK, London is slightly more receptive to the republican argument. Just yesterday, YouGov released a new poll that found more Londoners view the institution of the monarchy negatively than positively, at 46% and 43%. That’s a marked contrast from the rest of the country – 58% of British adults view the monarchy positively, versus 32% negatively.
Londoners are more positive about King Charles personally though, with 52% saying they view him positively versus 39% negatively. That might be why the Spy couldn’t find a huge selection of republican events on offer in the capital this weekend, other than the Republic protest. The best we’ve come up with is an alternative party at a church in Newington Green, Hackney, which in 1776 saw its minister publicly side with American revolutionaries in the face of George III’s attempts to defeat independence. We suspect most other republicans in London will be taking a more apathetic approach this weekend.
Thanks for reading London Spy! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.