Bristish expats flock to Melbourne pubs to toast the new king

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On a drizzly Saturday evening in Melbourne, Paul Millwall’s heart had never yearned so much to be back home in England.

The 53-year-old, who has waited his entire life to see a coronation, settled on the next best thing, opting to watch the historic proceedings unfold at old-fashioned British pub the Charles Dickens Tavern in Melbourne’s CBD.

Kev Baker, Sallyanne Oakley and Paul Millwall settle in at the Charles Dickens Tavern to watch the coronation of King Charles.Credit: Chris Hopkins

“Well, it is the Charles Dickens pub so where else would you watch it?” said Millwall, who dressed for the occasion in a Union Jack shirt, and brought along his matching umbrella and tablecloth.

“We are living history right now. I bloody wish I was home. I’d do anything to be there.”

Millwall arrived at the pub on his own, but within minutes had found two other British people to share pints and bowls of hot chips and gravy. Their eyes were glued to a television broadcasting the coronation of King Charles III.

“This means everything to me,” he said. “It is a very rare thing because normally a monarch would not last five to 30 years. What we have experienced with Queen Elizabeth is something that is going to live on in history forever.”

A few tables away, Phil Dunkley and wife Suzie, who were in Melbourne from Perth for the weekend to see friends and watch the Sydney Swans play football on Sunday, serendipitously walked past the Charles Dickens Tavern, and felt compelled to go inside and have a wine.

“I’m a Pom so it’s a bit of a heritage thing for me,” Phil said. “It makes me think of my mum.”

While not all Brits and Australians support the monarchy, and some recent polls suggest support for the royal family is at an all-time low, Suzie, a self-proclaimed royalist, said she had always had a soft spot for Charles.

“He has waited his whole life this. It was his destiny from birth,” she said. “People have their opinions about the royal family, but I think he was quite misunderstood as a prince. I feel very chuffed to watch this tonight. He is a part of our history and culture.”

Admiration for the royal family was the theme of the night at the Kelvin Club in central Melbourne on Saturday night.

About 120 people rang in the new royal era at a private event held at the club by Australian Monarchist League, where attendees dined on a UK-themed menu, which included beef Wellington and a Mountbatten-Windsor themed cake, cut by a historic sword owned by Lieutenant Colonel David Sydney Wanliss from the 5th Battalion.

Australian Monarchist League spokesman Alessandro Rosini said the coronation dinner had sold out two weeks before the event, adding that guests included serving members of the military and former government officials.

“The interest was huge,” the 21-year-old journalism and political studies university student, said. “We had an extensive wait list, but we literally couldn’t fit anyone else in.”

Among the attendees was Geelong woman Antonia Kerr, who wore her favourite sparkly coat and black pearls. On Friday, she got her nails painted in the colours of the British flag.

The mother-of-five said her family had a special affection for King Charles. His last visit to Geelong Grammar School, where he was once an exchange student, occurred when her youngest son, George, now 34, was still a student at the school.

“He made a real impression on George, so we’ve got a special fondness for Charles as a family,” Kerr said.

“I think he’ll make a brilliant king. There have been so many controversial events that have happened in history and he never once been reactive. He’s got that ability to rise above.”

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