WHILE the nation watched on as King Charles III was officially crowned, two south Essex dignitaries were full of pride as they had some of the best views available.

Former Basildon MP Angela Smith sat close to Sir Keir Starmer in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, while Rebecca Harris, Tory MP for Castle Point, walked behind the Royal Standard as part of the procession into the abbey.

The two leading politicians admitted they were full of nerves as the momentous occasion began on Saturday, but were left pinching themselves as the honour of being involved in the day sunk in.

Baroness Smith of Basildon, who is Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, joked about an early start after setting off from her home at 6am.

Lady Smith, who previously stood for election as a councillor in Southend’s Westborough ward before her win in Blair’s 1997 landslide, said: “It was a nice, jolly atmosphere in the abbey and I was close to the choir and those who wrote new music for the event.

“It was very interesting speaking to those who worked on creating the music. The songs were wonderful and sounded amazing in the stunning building.

“The procession was very impressive and everyone looked stunning including the new King and Queen.

“They didn’t look nervous exactly, but I think the importance of the occasion was not lost on them. It was quite clear to them how important it was and I think you could see it on their faces.

“It was a long day and we had to be seated by about 9.30am. It was a day to remember for many reasons, but I remember a man with a blow up crown on the busy bus in the early morning.”

Mrs Harris, a senior Tory party whip, took on the role of The Comptroller of the Household – which is traditionally held by the second-ranking member of the Lord Steward’s department after the Treasurer of the Household.

She said: “I was quite nervous and we had a few dress rehearsals but it was an incredible honour. It’s a role that often isn’t held by a woman so there was no rule book about what I should wear. I was worried about it and spent lots of time planning.

“I am still pinching myself about the whole occasion. Everyone was silent and taking it all in, except when praying or saying God Save The King.

The whole day and being involved was just astonishing. While walking down the isle I was thinking ‘do no trip or fall or hit something’.”