The land of my birth is getting very excited about the coronation of King Charles III, which will take place on Saturday May 6th. On this date, the 74-year old Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor will be formally proclaimed as king by the description: ‘Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith’. Quite a mouthful, but normally he is just called His Majesty The King.
I must admit that I am still trying to adjust to having a king rather than a queen, since the death of Charles’ mother Queen Elizabeth II, last September. As is tradition, the coronation of a new monarch is at least several months after that monarch’s accession to the throne. However, as the oldest person to ever assume the British throne, Charles has no time to waste, especially as he spent 60 years as the heir. I am also still trying to adjust to the fact that his wife since 2005, Camilla, will be crowned alongside him as Queen. Initially becoming ‘Queen Consort’ when Charles ascended to the throne, Buckingham Palace has now confirmed that she will be proclaimed Queen at the ceremony. This is not something that was anticipated during the 1990s when Charles divorced Princess Diana, admitted to adultery with Camilla and dealt with the aftermath of Diana’s tragic death. I believe it is a good thing that the late Queen Elizabeth II lived long enough for the scandal to calm down. To be fair, it is reported that Camilla has been a very positive influence and support for Charles and that she has done a lot of charity work since their marriage.
Of course, there is much speculation about the decision that Charles’ youngest son Prince Harry will attend the coronation without his wife, Princess Meghan, although it is not surprising given the distressing revelations made by King Charles’ second son in his biography, Spare. I am pleased that Prince Harry will be there to support his father, but very much hope that his dramas will not overshadow events on this important, symbolic and historic day for the British nation.
I realize that growing up in England, and with my love of history, I seem to know a lot about royal traditions, and this was brought home to me when a young American asked me recently when the new king would be “coronated”. Traditionally this is not a verb in the UK, as we say “crowned”: a coronation is the noun which describes both the symbolic and religious ceremony during which a sovereign is crowned and the physical act of placing a crown on a monarch’s head. While it would take a book to write about all the traditions surrounding coronations and the plans for May 6th, I thought I would share a few highlights here:
- Coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey, across the street from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, for almost 1,000 years since 1066.
- Before the ceremony, the royals arrive in procession from Buckingham Palace and many thousands, perhaps millions, of people are expected to be in London to watch this spectacle.
- The ceremony starts at 11.00 A.M. GMT (6.00 A.M. ET).
- The rituals of the coronation service are extensive and include a recognition of the monarch while he stands behind a 700 year old Coronation Chair, an oath, an anointing with holy oil, the investiture which means the king is presented with the Royal Orb, representing religious and moral authority; the Sceptre, representing power; and the Sovereign’s Sceptre, a rod of gold topped with a white enamelled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy. The culmination of all this is when the Archbishop places St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head and then he is formally enthroned and homage is paid to him by bishops and peers of the realm, including his eldest son and next in line to the throne, Prince William, The Prince of Wales.
- In addition to the Royal Family, those invited will include the prime minister, representatives from the Houses of Parliament, heads of state, and other royals from around the world: US President Joe Biden will not be able to attend the event, but First Lady Jill Biden will go on his behalf.
- After the ceremony, more members of the royal family will join for the procession back to the palace and then the King and Queen will be joined by family members to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to conclude the day’s ceremonial events.
- There will be a concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday May 7 featuring Katy Perry, Take That and Lionel Ritchie.
- There are many traditional street parties or “Big Lunches” planned across the country for regular people to celebrate the coronation with their friends, family and neighbors; some menus will feature the special ‘coronation quiche’ recipe released by Buckingham Palace.
- The British people will enjoy a public holiday on Monday May 8 in honor of the great event although members of the public are invited to take part in “The Big Help Out,” a national initiative which encourages civic participation by supporting charitable organizations across the UK.
This focus on community, combined with a trimmed down event from the coronation of the late Queen, 70 years ago, is meant to demonstrate a more modern approach by the royal family.
I say goodbye this week with a quote from the last monarch to be crowned in England in June 1953, King Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II. “… I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendor that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God’s Grace and Mercy, be given to reign and serve you as your Queen.”
God Bless America and God Save The King!
– ENDS –