diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Today is the King's 75th birthday.

It seems hardly possible, I remember him appearing on Nationwide to celebrate his 30th, but here we are.

To celebrate I thought I'd go out and visit somewhere named after him as King. Except there aren't any, not yet.

His mother had a hospital, a bridge, an Olympic Park, a reservoir, a conference centre, an airport terminal, a parliamentary tower, a concert hall and a railway line, to mention but a few. But she ruled for 70 years so had plenty of time to accumulate infrastructure. Charles has only been in the top job for 14 months and that's not been long enough to get a nominative tribute of suitable importance through the planning process. We're still in Coronation year, for heaven's sake.

There are of course several Prince of Wales somethings, including an Arctic island, an Antarctic glacier, a Welsh bridge, an aircraft carrier, a Westminster cinema and an Ecuadorian stream frog. Charles was PoW for over 50 years, so plenty of things that weren't quite queen-worthy ended up with his title instead. But I wanted to find something regal, not princely, and as yet there are no Charles III Anythings that fit the bill.

I thought instead I might track down a Charles III postbox, because there must be some by now. Edward VIII appears on over two dozen pillarboxes in the capital and he only managed 325 days, whereas Charles is already on 432.

But apparently there aren't any CIIIR boxes, not in London nor anywhere else in the UK. The only red postbox so far with the new royal cypher is on the Isle of Man, inside Postal Headquarters in Douglas. It's on a box used to drop off parcels, and it's not raised metalwork, merely some kind of transfer, which perhaps explains how IOMPO managed to get it in place before the Coronation. Our own Royal Mail is rather further behind, possibly because it still has a stock of ERIIs to get rid of. So postboxes were another Carolean dead end.

Instead I considered plaques with his name on. Charles must have unveiled dozens by now, so perhaps I could find one of those. The place to track these down is in the Court Circular, the comprehensive formal listing of royal engagements. Scattered throughout the audiences and receptions are numerous visits to officially open things, plus trips to community organisations so chuffed to see a royal that they're sure to slap a plaque on the wall.

I found several likely locations. In the last year Charles has opened a bridge on Deeside, a shed in Aboyne and a distillery in Wick, but those are hardly local. He's also visited a cheesemaker in Lincolnshire, a theatre in Armagh, a song contest in Liverpool, a high containment laboratory in Surrey, a library in Colchester, a cereal factory in Manchester, a gurdwara in Luton, a supermarket head office in Bradford, a hospice in Norwich and the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford, but those seemed rather a long way to go for a day trip.

What I wanted was somewhere in London which might have a plaque with Charles III on it.

The closest the King has been to my house, officially, is "Units 12 and 14 of the Thomas Road Industrial Estate" beside the Limehouse Cut. He came in February to visit the Felix Project, a charity which distributes food to London’s hungry, where he toured the depot and kitchen in the company of Sadiq Khan and the Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London. But he didn't unveil a plaque, he unveiled a community freezer, which is both totally on-brand for an eco-monarch and no use whatsoever for my purposes.

Then in March he officially opened the new London HQ of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Bank Street in Docklands. This time there was definitely a plaque, but when I zoomed in on a photo it didn't say Charles III it said 'His Majesty the King' so that was no use either.

So I turned to my other local visit which was a short walk from Maryland station. In February the King came to open "a new frontline medical teaching hub at the University of East London, Stratford Campus, Water Lane, London E15, to mark the University's One Hundred and Twenty Fifth Anniversary". News reports confirmed there was a plaque and this time it did say Charles III, so I went round.

I hoped the plaque might be outside but it wasn't. The approach road had a delivery/security vibe so I guess it's not really somewhere you'd commemorate a royal visit. I then nipped into reception, which resembled something between a library and a health centre, again spotting nothing. I didn't explore further because wandering round inside a university at my age is a bit creepy, plus the plaque might have been located a lot further inside the building, and essentially I was wasting my time.

I'd Googled lots of other royal visit locations in the capital and searched for potential plaques but again found nothing. The majority of visits didn't seem to involve unveilings, some plaques didn't name the King, and this appeared to be yet another dead end. Sorry, a lot of today's post is just me saying I looked for something Charles-specific but never found it.

Then I remembered that the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London had updated their uniforms to include the Carolean cypher rather than still walking round with EIIR on their tunics. Needlework is a lot easier to change than stone or metal.

I headed to the outskirts of the Tower to see if I could actually see a Beefeater, because I could then end this ridiculous birthday quest. But they tend not to come outside very often, plus the monogram on the gates was still very much Elizabethan, and this had also proved to be a futile visit.

But Googling on my phone to check, I discovered there was in fact a proper royal cypher inside the Tower walls. The front of the Jewel House, where the Crown Jewels are kept, used to have a big EIIR on the front but in April they switched it to say CIIIR instead. When you're responsible for the regalia which services a Coronation, I guess it makes sense to switch monarchs as promptly as possible.

So I went home, picked up a gas bill and a £1 coin, and headed back to the Tower of London. The booking office took my money and gave me a ticket, the lady at the front gate scanned me in, and very shortly afterwards my quest was finally successful.

Below the clock, above the front doors, King Charles III's royal cypher is plainly seen. It's a 'C' through an 'R' with three 'I's inside, as announced in September last year, and manages to look both classical and modern. It won't be the only mention of the new monarch in the capital but it is the only one I managed to find after what looked like being a fruitless quest.

So a happy 75th birthday to our barely-mentioned monarch!
(and you may now be able to guess what tomorrow's post is going to be)

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