Sara Martello, a tourist from Sicily, looks through the gates of Buckingham Palace.
“I changed my flights and added three days to my trip, because I wanted to be part of this unique event”, she says as she scans the forecourt of the Palace.
With thousands of tourists expected to come to London for the coronation, Sara is well aware that she will not be able to join the action on Saturday. “I’ll wake up as soon as I can and come straight to the Mall. My goal is to try to find a place from where I can see something, anything – but I don’t know if that will be possible!”
On Saturday morning, King Charles will travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in a golden carriage – for a ceremony to which only 2,000 select people are invited. For the rest of the tourists and the Brits who will be going to Central London for the day, there will be a big crowd to catch a glimpse of the new King.
But why is Sara – like many other Europeans – so fascinated by the British royal family? As a former English teacher, Sara explains that her interest is closely linked to her passion for Britain. She believes the coronation has come at a crucial time.
“I’ve been following the royals more closely lately, amid the ongoing divisions. Given the problems between King Charles and Prince Harry, I want to see if this quarrel will end and the family will be reunited.
The regular royal fans
Paris-based Emilie Perrot is a regular at royal events. She booked her tickets to London within an hour of King Charles’ coronation announcement last October.
In 2016, Emilie founded travel blog dedicated to capital. Before the big weekend, she is communicating with her blog readers via WhatsApp. Sharing updates and tips, the group plans to get together.
“After the Queen’s funeral we all went for drinks in a pub in London. It was an opportunity to come to grips with the moment and discuss our thoughts together”.
For Emilie, so much of Saturday will be about soaking up the atmosphere. “I don’t have a strict schedule for the day. I want to walk around, meet Brits and talk to them to understand what the day means to them.” She plans to roam the streets wearing her ‘London Lover’ T-shirt, a piece from collect clothing inspired by London.
Emilie’s former career in the French Navy influenced her interest in the royals. “I am fascinated by the protocol and ceremony surrounding the British Monarchy. It is a moment in history, which transcends being pro or anti-monarchy.”
Despite her enthusiasm, Emilie insists “I don’t want to be labeled a ‘royal fan’. I’m definitely not putting up my tent at 2am on a Saturday morning!”
The dedicated campers
For the most dedicated of royal fans making their way to the British capital around the world, it would be far too late to set up a tent on Saturday morning.
Dana Werner, from Connecticut in the USA, traveled to London especially for the coronation. She set up camp on The Mall – the road that connects Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square – on Tuesday.
“I have a mattress, a sleeping bag, winter clothes, hats, everything”, she says pointing to her tent. Dana is surrounded by other campers, many of whom have become her friends over the years.
“The first royal event I came across was Fergie and Andrew’s wedding in 1986. I hid there.”
“I love England and the royal family comes with it. I don’t follow other European royal families. I have to admit that I read the Unofficial Royal News every day and forward it to the British family.”
Fans about to leave for London
Irene Sondergaard, who lives on the outskirts of Copenhagen, will leave her husband and children behind on Friday night to catch her flight to London. “My husband was like ‘you go’ and offered to look after our children for the weekend!”
“My sisters and I are very interested in the royal houses of Europe. Sadly, they couldn’t come as well but I knew I had to, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity”, she says.
Although her sisters are unable to join her, Irene hopes to bring home some souvenirs. “I’ve seen that Fortnum and Mason’s has a collection of crown memorabilia which I’ll be checking out if I have time!”
According to Visit Britain, the coronation weekend will be worth around £1.2 billion to the UK economy.
However, a contrasting survey commissioned by the UK tourism trade body concluded that only 16% of business contacted had a boost in business from the King’s Coronation and the Eurovision Song Contest ( which will take place next week).
For Irene, the details of the royal ceremonies are fascinating “I want to see Charles’ golden car the most, but I also love the magic of the outfits, the jewels, the setting.”
This will be Irene’s first British Royal event, but her soft spot for the British royal family comes from the connection between the British and Danish royal families, as both branches are descended from Queen Victoria II and King Christian IX.
Although Irene does not label herself as a staunch royalist, she sees the royals as important role models “they have no power today but I like that they are people of the state that you can look up to. I also know that they are not perfect at all, they also have their scandals and divorces.”