4 May 2023

Royal refuseniks

The Coronation is headline news and union jacks are ubiquitous. Coronation-themed merchandise adorns every supermarket checkout and we’re bombarded by images of crowns, regalia, golden coaches and angelic choristers.

As the country prepares for another royal spectacle, we must accept that not everyone will be an ardent supporter of these events. Some people simply do not feel enthused by national, royalist or patriotic celebrations and it is their right to opt out.

People who do not enjoy joining in these exuberant celebrations are often unfairly dismissed as killjoys or condemned for being unpatriotic. But we should bear in mind that we all have different ways of socialising and celebrating, and some of us are self-contained introverts or avowed individualists, who find mass partying intimidating and depressing.

There is no rulebook that dictates how we should feel on these big national occasions, when everybody supposedly comes together in a mood of jubilant conviviality. An inability to feel stirred or excited by these events does not indicate that a person is nurturing traitorous feelings of antipathy, merely that they are resistant to communal emotions, mass celebrations and esprit de corps.

There should be room for everybody to behave as they choose on these occasions; it just takes good manners and a spirit of tolerance and acceptance:

For people who are trying to ignore the Coronation:

• If you are surrounded by fervent Coronation-celebrants, and perhaps can number some of the most ardent royalists amongst your close friends or family, you may find yourself in the horns of a dilemma. You may be forced to admit that refusing to participate enthusiastically will really hurt the feelings of people you care about, and therefore accept that you need to make a conscious effort for their sake and join in the celebrations with good grace. That means eating heartily, participating in the party games, chatting convivially and keeping any feelings of negativity or grumpiness to yourself.

• If you enjoy the communal aspect of the celebrations (street parties, neighbourhood barbecues etc) but wish that they were not associated with the Coronation, weigh up your options carefully. If you do decide to attend, keep your negative feelings to yourself – don’t spend the entire day haranguing your neighbours about why you hate this type of event while enjoying the hospitality and helping yourself to large servings of Coronation quiche. As with all social occasions, you should only consider attending if you are confident that you can fulfil your obligations to be a sociable guest.

• If you feel that toeing the line is beyond you, act decisively and don’t attend – a non-show is far preferable to putting in a moody and dispiriting appearance. Politely decline the invitation, and if it at all possible, explain the reason why. If you admit that this is not something you’re comfortable with, then you are taking the burden of your non-appearance on yourself, and your host will not feel hurt or rejected. This is the polite thing to do.

•Avoid the whole issue by going away for the Coronation weekend. If you have an unbreakable “prior engagement”, you can opt out with a clear conscience. Choose your destination carefully, or you may find your escape is sabotaged by Coronation enthusiasts!

How to Handle a Party Refusenik

• Don’t force conviviality on refuseniks. If you’re aware that somebody is making a big effort to attend a party, allow them to navigate the celebrations on their own terms, and don’t turn into a manic cheerleader, who’s always propelling them into the social fray. Part of being a good host is embracing the idiosyncrasies and foibles of all your guests.

• If a refusenik turns down your invitation, with or without an explanation, accept it. If you concede that some people are simply happier having a quiet drink with a couple of friends or ignoring the whole event altogether, you will be able to enjoy your own celebrations, free from any anxiety that others are missing out.

• Never try to persuade a refusenik to change their mind, which will inevitably prove futile and disappointing.


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