Pomp and ceremony
After a lifetime as heir to his late mother Queen Elizabeth II, Charles III has finally met his date with destiny and been crowned king.
A coronation ceremony steeped in ancient ritual and brimming with bling at a time when the monarchy is striving to remain relevant in a fractured modern Britain.
In displays of royal power straight out of the Middle Ages, Charles was presented with an orb, a sword and sceptre and had the solid gold, bejewelled St. Edward’s Crown placed atop his head as he sat upon the 700-year-old oak Coronation Chair.
In front of world leaders, foreign royals, British aristocrats and stars, Charles declared: “I come not to be served but to serve.” Inside the medieval abbey, trumpets sounded and the congregation of more than 2,000 shouted “God save the king!” Outside, thousands of troops, hundreds of thousands of spectators and a smattering of protesters converged.
Much of the two-hour Anglican service would have been recognisable to the 39 other monarchs crowned at Westminster Abbey since 1066.
But while many of the intricate rituals and ceremony to recognise Charles as his people’s “undoubted king” remained, the king sought to bring other aspects of the service up to date.
Female bishops and choristers participated for the first time, as did leaders of Britain’s non-Christian faiths, while its Celtic languages – Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic – featured prominently.
A gospel choir sang for the first time at a coronation while a Greek choir intoned a psalm in tribute to Charles’s late father, Prince Philip, who was born on the island of Corfu.
As king, Charles is supreme governor of the Church of England and has described himself as a “committed Anglican Christian”.
But he heads a more religiously and ethnically diverse country than the one his mother inherited in the shadow of World War II.
As such, he sought to make the congregation more reflective of British society, inviting ordinary members of the public to sit alongside heads of state and global royalty.
In attendance were the leaders of many African states, including those that are members of the Commonwealth.
It began as an organisation of countries that gained independence from Britain when its empire collapsed during Queen Elizabeth’s rule.
Britain’s Royal Family was at the centre of the Empire the and Queen Victoria even declared herself the Empress of India in 1876.
Some of the few remaining states who still have the British monarch as their head of state now say they want to move on.
Jamaica and Belize both signalled this week that they are moving toward becoming republics, while Australia, Canada and others may eventually follow suit.
Barbados has already done so, removing the Queen as its head of state in 2021.
And many Britons are also increasingly republican: polling indicates waning support for the monarchy, particularly among younger people.
Charles’s eldest brother Prince Andrew is particularly disliked by Britons and was booed as he headed to the abbey.
He was sidelined by Charles due to his friendship with the late convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein
Another royal exile, Prince Harry, who has criticised the family since leaving for the United States in 2020, attended the coronation on his own.
Britons struggling with the soaring cost of living have also questioned why taxpayers should stump up for the coronation, with the bill estimated to be over 125 million euros.
Even before Charles and Camilla left Buckingham Palace for a rainy procession to the abbey, police arrested dozens of protesters using new powers rushed onto the statute book to crack down on direct action groups.
The anti-monarchy movement Republic — which wants an elected head of state — said six of its organisers were detained, while climate activists Just Stop Oil said 19 of its number were held.
Nevertheless, dozens of Republic activists held aloft banners on the route of the procession route, declaring: “Not My King.”
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International voiced concern at the arrests. “This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London,” HRW said.
London’s Metropolitan Police has some 11,500 officers on the streets in one of its biggest ever security operations. It had warned the public that it has an “extremely low threshold” for protests.