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- 01 Aug 2023
United Kingdom: King Charles III takes the throne
At the age of 74, the constitutional monarch formally took the throne as the titular ruler of the United Kingdom.
The crowning of Britain's King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on Saturday brought together ancient tradition and technology. Millions of Britons and many more people across the world watched the two-hour spectacle. At the age of 74, the titular ruler of the United Kingdom and 14 former commonwealth nations officially ascended to the throne. Compared to his mother, Charles' ascent to the throne is very different. In 1953, when she was 25 years old, the former British Empire was shedding its colonial past, and Britain was taking on a more prominent position in the globe, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned monarch.
About 70 years later, on a typical English spring morning that was damp and cloudy, the monarch and the Queen Consort, Camilla, arrived at a crowded Abbey that had hosted its first coronation in 1066, looking solemn as they rode in a stage carriage drawn by six "Windsor Greys."
His extended family, friends, volunteers (one of the King's favorite causes), as well as heads of state and government, were there. Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar and his wife, Sudesh Dhankhar, attended the festivities throughout the weekend to represent India. First Lady Jill Biden of the United States and French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron also attended. The coronation on Saturday was also attended by the prime ministers of the "realms" of the Commonwealth, whose head of state is the British monarch.
In particular, Prince Harry, the King's younger son, had flown in from California to witness the coronation despite recently having a falling-out with his family over claims about how they treated his wife Meghan Markle, and the release of his memoirs.
The ceremony was profoundly historic in many ways, but it also clearly displayed elements of modernity and variety. The British Prime Minister is a South Asian man for the first time. Hindu Rishi Sunak recited a passage from the Bible. The South Asian and Muslim First Minister of Scotland showed up to the occasion wearing a kilt. The festivities began with a Welsh song and featured a Black gospel choir and female bishops.
A few of these various components were created to match the King's preferences. Instead of the traditional title for British monarchs, "Defender of the Faith," Charles had preferred the term "Defender of Faith" in the 1990s. The King was presented with coronation regalia by people who represented the various religions practiced in Britain in order to convey this feeling.
The Archbishop of Canterbury anointed the King with holy oil prior to his coronation, as has been customary for generations. "God Save the King" chants were heard as Charles was installed on Edward the Confessor's throne, which has been used for every coronation since 1300. The people were then given the opportunity to do the same if they so desired after several members of the church and royal family swore loyalty to the King. Recent days have seen some debate over this new aspect of the coronation, with detractors pointing out how out of date it is with today's society.
The monarch as a tool of service was one of the coronation's major themes. The actual situations, though, are more complicated. While 60% of adult Britons polled by YouGov in April said they supported the monarchy, just over a quarter (26%) said they would prefer to have an elected head of state. "Our Head of State is a very important position, and it should be decided democratically and not depend on which uterus you happen to come out of," a protester and Republic member named Stephen Purse told The Hindu. Graham Smith, the group's leader, and several protesters were detained on Saturday.
On Saturday, Camilla, the Queen Consort, was also installed into the monarchy following a protracted and turbulent but finally successful journey. Officially, she wore Queen Mary's Crown, which was first worn in 1911, for "sustainability and efficiency" reasons, but according to reports, she also did so out of consideration that wearing the crown while wearing the Kohinoor diamond, which is viewed by many as a symbol of a painful colonial past, would be offensive, foremost to those in India.
There will be community and volunteer events, a concert in honor of the coronation, and other festivities over the next two days. Monday has been designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom.