King Charles III was crowned at London’s Westminster Abbey on Saturday in a lavish ceremony filled with the pomp and pageantry of a ceremony steeped in 1,000 years of tradition.
In a landmark moment before hundreds of people in the community and millions of viewers worldwide, the Archbishop of Canterbury slowly placed the 360-year-old jeweled St Edward’s Crown on King Charles, who sat on a 14th-century throne.
Fanfares sounded and the congregation shouted “God save the King!” as Charles became the 40th reigning sovereign, who was crowned at the Abbey after being bestowed with symbolic regalia, including the golden orb and jeweled scepters.
Charles, 74, automatically succeeded his mother as the new sovereign after her death last year, but the coronation is a ceremony where the monarch symbolically receives the crown.
At the traditional Anglican ceremony, the King also swore oaths to rule fairly and uphold the Church of England, of which he is the supreme head.
He was then covered by a screen for the holiest part of the ceremony, the anointing, during which Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby used holy oil consecrated in Jerusalem to encircle the king on his hands, head and chest to anoint.
During the formal two-hour service, Charles’ second wife Camilla, 75, was also anointed, crowned and enthroned.
More than 2,200 guests attended the service, including dignitaries such as heads of state, members of the royal family, foreign royals, charity workers and celebrities.
Among them were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General Mary Simon, French President Emmanuel Macron, US First Lady Jill Biden and celebrities such as Katy Perry, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Lionel Richie and Judi Dench.
Also at the Abbey were the heir to the throne and his family, Charles’ eldest son Prince William and his wife Kate and their three children.
Towards the end of the coronation, William, 40, knelt before his father, pledged allegiance to the king as his “liege man for life and limb” and kissed him on the cheek.
However, there was no formal role for Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, who was in attendance but arrived alone.
Harry, who has made headlines for the public falling out with his family, sat in the third row behind working members of the royal family. His wife Meghan and their children stayed at home in California. His older son Archie turns four on Saturday.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex leaves Westminster Abbey after King Charles III’s coronation ceremony. and Queen Camilla on Saturday May 6, 2023 in London. (Toby Melville, Pool via AP)
Prince Andrew, brother of Charles who was forced to step down from royal duties because of his friendship with the late US financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, also sat in the third row.
Neither Harry nor Andrew appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to wave to the crowd.
After the service, the King and Queen rode back to the palace in a procession of 4,000 military personnel from 39 nations in the four-ton golden state carriage built for George III.
A royal salute followed, as well as three cheers from thousands of assembled service staff, and then there was a scaled-down military aircraft flyby as the newly crowned King and Queen waved from the balcony of Buckingham Palace at the sea of people below.
MODERN TOUCHES TO A TRADITION ROOTED IN HISTORY
Despite the ancient overtones of the coronation rite, there have been some new additions to the service to showcase a forward-looking institution at a time when the monarchy is trying to appear relevant in an increasingly fragmented Britain.
In keeping with the theme of respecting the past while moving forward, the liturgy included “new and revised elements and texts that reflect this theme of serving others, as well as recognizing and celebrating the vibrant diversity of our nation today,” he said a Lambeth Palace spokesman.
King Charles also wanted a less extravagant coronation than his mother’s in 1953, with a shorter ceremony, a smaller guest list and a procession that ended quicker.
Reflecting a more modern monarchy, new additions include:
♔ For the first time, female clergy took part in the ceremony.
♔ Representatives and leaders of other faiths actively participated, including those of Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions.
♔ Gospel singers handpicked by the Freedom Choir performed a new composition “Alleluia”. The choir had previously sung Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding five years ago.
♔ After William swore allegiance to the king, the archbishop asked the congregation to swear “true allegiance” to the monarch. He also invited viewers at home to also pay homage, although that part of the liturgy was toned down after being criticized for being unmusical. Instead, the archbishop said the tribute was an invitation rather than an expectation and anyone watching could either have a moment of private reflection or say, “God save the king.”
Outside Buckingham Palace, tens of thousands of well-wishers ignored the pouring rain to gather on the streets in time for the royal family to make their balcony appearance. Many of the royal fans had camped out under tarpaulins and tents days in advance to be on the front lines of the story.
“When I was a young girl, I could see[the coronation of]Queen Elizabeth on TV in Hartford, Connecticut at a friend’s because we didn’t have a TV,” retired US teacher Peggy Jane Laver, 79, told Reuters . “That’s why I’m very happy to be there personally at the coronation.”
As the king and queen appeared on the balcony to greet the sea of people gathered outside the palace, the more minimal flyby saw the Royal Air Force aerobatic team zoom overhead, leaving a trail of red, white and blue .
The British King Charles III. and Queen Camilla, right, appear from the balcony of Buckingham Palace with members of the royal family including Prince William, third from left, after their coronation ceremony in London, Saturday May 6, 2023. (Marc Aspland/ Pool photo via AP)
“No other country could put on such a dazzling show,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a tweet, adding that it was “not just a spectacle.”
However, as the day drew to a close in front of the palace, some frustration boiled over as people attempted to leave the area but were prevented from doing so by the blockades as the crowd was slowly and deliberately asked to leave certain departure points.
“Let’s get out, let’s get out, let’s get out,” members of the crowd in the middle of Mall Boulevard began chanting to local police, with one woman shouting that she feared being knocked out and urging a doctor .
While the mall was filled with people celebrating the king, there were also people gathering not to honor the monarchy but to demonstrate against it.
Some anti-monarchy protesters saw “Operation Golden Orb” as an opportunity to protest against the monarchy – and the multimillion-pound coronation – during a cost-of-living crisis in Britain, which has left some people struggling to pay their food and energy bills .
On Saturday, hundreds of Republicans protested under the “Not My King” banners, and a handful of them were arrested.
Demonstrators hold placards as people gather for the coronation of Britain’s King Charles III. gather at Westminster Abbey in central London on Saturday 6th May 2023. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Pool via AP)
Anti-monarchy group Republic, which insisted it would continue to hold demonstrations on Saturday despite new anti-protest laws enforced just ahead of the coronation, said six of its members had been arrested, including its chief executive .
More than a dozen members of environmental group Just Stop Oil were also arrested, The Associated Press reported.
The arrests drew criticism from Human Rights Watch, which likened the arrests to “something you would expect in Moscow and not London.”
Ahead of the coronation, the Metropolitan Police Force said Saturday would be the largest single-day mobilization of officers in the city in decades.
The royal family has garnered significant international attention for everything from the death of Queen Elizabeth II, to royal weddings and births, to the coronation of the 40th sovereign.
However, polls are pointing to a drop in support for the royals, not just in the UK but also in Canada, with more than half of those polled saying it is time to reconsider our relations with the monarchy, or more than that Half of respondents from another company say they don’t support recognizing Charles as king.
Neil Edward, 72, a retired salesman who traveled from South West England to watch, told Reuters he felt a mixture of pride and nostalgia, along with a bit of sadness that the coronation could be the last major royal event which he participates.
“Without them, I don’t see how we would come together to celebrate big events like this,” he said.
With reports from The Associated Press and Reuters