King Charles III and his wife, Camilla, were crowned during a grand coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6th, 2023. The couple, escorted by around 200 members of the British military, began their procession from Buckingham Palace to the ceremony in a golden carriage drawn by eight horses.
During the grand and religious ceremony at Westminster Abbey, King Charles III was formally crowned as monarch of the United Kingdom and 14 other countries. Although Charles had ascended to the throne on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II last September, his coronation was the traditional crowning of the monarch. This marked the first time since 1953 that a coronation was held at the historic site.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby placed the St. Edward’s Crown, a 360-year-old symbol of monarchy, on Charles’ head during the most significant moment of the day. Welby declared, “God Save the King” in a service that reflected the fact that Charles is not only head of state but also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
They were surrounded by over 1,000 soldiers, sailors, and Royal Air Force personnel. At Westminster Abbey, Charles and Camilla were welcomed by church officials and support staff before the formal ceremony began. One of Charles’ first speeches emphasized his intent to “serve, not to be served” and follow in the footsteps of the “king of kings.” After taking on a series of oaths, Charles was presented with symbolic items such as swords and spurs from various historical periods before putting on the heavy crown.
The coronation was completed with the oath of allegiance pledged by the highest members of Britain’s clergy and Charles’ son, Prince William. The ceremony, which was steeped in history and tradition, has been modernized in certain ways. During the service, when acknowledging the various faiths observed in the UK, the archbishop said the Church of England “will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths may live freely.”
One modern innovation saw the King become the first monarch to pray aloud at his coronation. Charles asked to “be a blessing” to people “of every faith and conviction.” This prayer was considered the most sacred part of the ceremony. The King was also anointed with holy oil by the archbishop and presented with the coronation regalia, including the royal Robe and Stole, during the investiture part of the service.
For the first time in coronation history, the archbishop invited the British public and those from “other Realms” to recite a pledge of allegiance to the newly crowned monarch and his “heirs and successors.” This invitation caused criticism from the media, and the Church of England then revised the text of the liturgy to offer a choice between saying “God save King Charles” and reciting the full pledge.
Music played a central role in the proceedings, with five new compositions commissioned, including an anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The newly crowned king and his wife rode back to Buckingham Palace in a grand coach drawn by six horses, accompanied by the Household Cavalry, after which a much larger parade took place featuring 4,000 members of the armed forces, 250 horses, and 19 military bands.
The ceremony also featured a reading from the Bible by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and gospel music, which was a first for a coronation. Following the coronation, Charles’ wife, Queen Camilla was crowned in her own, shorter ceremony with Queen Mary’s Crown, making it the first time in recent history that a new crown wasn’t made specifically for this occasion.
The weather was wet during the proceedings, which saw tens of thousands of well-wishers gather in central London despite the rain. The rain appeared to have little effect on the proceedings, which concluded with the customary balcony appearance by the King and family members, who watched a flypast of military aircraft.
The two-hour-long ceremony saw the monarch proclaim his faith and devotion to his subjects, invoking integrity and humility, and the whole nation. Charles’ coronation is a historic event that upholds the traditions of the British monarchy, representing a modern touch with the introduction of the pledge of allegiance and modern hymns. Charles will continue to work towards building a better future for the United Kingdom and its allies.
Royal ceremony witnesses global dignitaries and renowned personalities
Thousands of royal fans camped alongside the 1.3-mile (2km) route that extends from London’s Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British monarchy, to Westminster Abbey, the coronation church since 1066, to catch a glimpse of King Charles III’s procession. However, the London Metropolitan Police Service had to close all the viewing areas along the processional path due to overfilling.
The size of the congregation, about 2,300 people was much smaller than that in 1953, when temporary structures had to be erected at the abbey to accommodate more than 8,000 people on the guest list. The abbey doors were opened just before 8 a.m. and guests, including top British officials, faith leaders, and international representatives, were expected to take their seats more than an hour before the ceremony began. The event was attended by hundreds of VIPs, hinting at the logistical challenges presented by a ceremony of this magnitude.
The guest list was comprised of notable British public figures and politicians like Rishi Sunak’s living predecessors as Prime Minister. Other attendees included UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt. Heads of states from approximately 100 countries and dozens of members of foreign royal families also made their way to London for the service. Notable international attendees include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel.
US President Joe Biden was absent from the ceremony, and Jill Biden led the US delegation, sitting beside Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska. Several celebrities graced the occasion, including singers Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, musician Nick Cave, actresses Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Joanna Lumley, and Judi Dench, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and broadcaster Stephen Fry.
The last to arrive, just before the King and Queen, were Prince Charles’ siblings and children, including Prince Harry, who travelled from the United States to the UK without his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and their two young children. It was also Prince Archie’s 4th birthday. After the ceremony, Prince Harry did not join the family for the start of the traditional balcony appearance, and CNN revealed that he did not receive an invitation to join the family for this moment. Similarly, Prince Andrew was not present on the balcony due to his ties to Jeffery Epstein, a convicted pedophile. The prince announced that he would step back from royal duties in 2019 and, in January 2022, was stripped off his military titles and royal patronages after a judge ruled that a sexual abuse civil lawsuit filed against him by Virginia Giuffre would proceed. The case was later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Challenges and Controversies Surrounding the Coronation of King Charles III
The Coronation ceremony of King Charles III has been a subject of controversy despite the grandeur of the occasion. While the British monarchy and its supporters relished the event, several citizens disapproved of the millions of pounds spent on the ceremony, calling it an insensitive use of taxpayers’ money, especially during the economic downturn.
The biggest challenge of the event was security, since security for such large-scale events is one of the costliest aspects. Given this, the London Metropolitan Police Service, ahead of time, announced that the coronation day would be the largest single-day policing operation in decades, with over 11,500 policemen on duty in the city. The event also faced unwanted anti-monarchy demonstrations, and a few protesters were arrested in Central London on Saturday morning, before the event commenced. Republic, a campaign group that vehemently opposes the monarchy, deemed the concept of the “homage of the people” on the coronation day “offensive, tone-deaf, and a gesture that holds the people in contempt.”
Earlier this week, the enforcement of a controversial UK public order bill, which has faced wide criticism, raised eyebrows. Since the Queen’s passing last year, there has been an increase in instances of anti-monarchists turning up unexpectedly at royal events to voice their objections to the monarchy. The new rule, signed into law by King Charles III just before the coronation, gives the police greater authority to take stronger legal action against peaceful protesters.
Despite the grandeur of the event, some people had criticized spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the ceremony amid an economic crisis. The security costs, which are usually the costliest part of large events, were also a concern, with over 11, 500 police officers on duty across London.
After returning from his coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, King Charles III and Queen Camilla were welcomed by hundreds of military personnel in ceremonial uniforms on the vast lawn at the rear of Buckingham Palace.
They then appeared on the long balcony at the front of the building, where thousands of supporters had gathered to catch a glimpse of the newly crowned King and Queen. Despite raining heavily, the couple was joined by select members of the royal family as the audience looked on.
While the Air Force jets roared overhead, leaving behind a trail of smoke in the national colors of red, white and blue, Charles raised his eyes but did not look up, seemingly preoccupied with managing the delicate balance of his crown.
Headlined by popular artists such as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Take That, the “Coronation Concert” was held at Windsor Castle on Sunday evening, and people were encouraged to volunteer in their communities on Monday, the final day of the long holiday weekend.