Adjusted the size of the crown.
Soldiers are ready for the biggest military parade in Britain in 70 years. The golden royal carriage is ready to roll. The time for the show has arrived.
The Coronation of King Charles III
King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on Saturday in an event filled with all the pomp Britain can muster. Clergymen will present him with medieval symbols of power: the rod, the scepter and the orb. Brass bands and soldiers in bearskin hats will parade through the streets. And presumably, the new king and queen will end the day on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the cheering crowd.
But don’t be too dazzled. There is a purpose behind the pageantry: to strengthen the foundation of the crown and show that the people of Great Britain still support their monarch.
A Celebration and a Test
Robert Lacey, royal historian, likens the event to a US presidential election and inauguration ceremony rolled into one: a celebration and a test of how the public sees the new sovereign. “Obviously, the king is not subject to voting, so these big public rituals are the closest royal people get to that kind of test,” said Lacey.
Its fundamental purpose is to attract the loyalty and interest of the British people to show it by crowding outside Buckingham Palace and waving to the balcony.
The Challenges Ahead
However, while television screens around the world will be full of flag-waving supporters, Charles’ coronation comes at a difficult time for royalty. Opinion polls show that support for the monarchy has weakened over time. Britain is gripped by double-digit inflation that is eroding living standards, and causing some to question the cost of the coronation.
The royal family is torn apart by controversy over Charles’ youngest son, Prince Harry, who is making claims from his Southern California home. They want the monarchy’s links to the trade in enslaved Africans and its role in the former British Empire, which ruled over vast swathes of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, to be re-examined.
Reflecting Modern Britain
The coronation of Charles and Camila will feature many elements of past coronations, like hymns, prayers, and the anointing with oils, all designed to remind the world of the history, tradition, and mystery embodied by the monarchy.
But the festivities have been adjusted to better reflect modern Britain, where approximately 18% of the population claims to belong to an ethnic minority.
For the first time, religious leaders representing Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh traditions will play an active role in the ceremony. The music will include pieces written and performed by artists from each of the UK’s four nations and from across the Commonwealth.
Facing Family Drama
Unfortunately for the king, the coronation will also spotlight the family dramas that have rocked the House of Windsor. The one that stands out the most is Charles’s strained relationship with Harry and his wife Meghan. After months of speculation about whether they would be invited to the coronation, the palace announced that Harry would attend, but Meghan would stay in California with their two sons.
If recent royal gatherings are any indication, the focus now will be on seating assignments inside the abbey, and whether Harry speaks with his father and Prince William, the heir to the throne.
The Value of a Neutral Head of State
One of the monarchy’s strengths is that many see a benefit in having a neutral head of state in times of instability, said Kelly Beaver, the firm’s UK chief executive.
At a time when Britain is facing various pressures, from inflation to climate change to the war in Ukraine, the king has “a real opportunity to step up and show leadership,” he said. Charles has a lot to gain,” he added.
All this—the history of the monarchy, the changes in British society and even the family drama—will be on people’s minds as they watch the coronation unfold.
For Lacey, this is how it should be. In a way, people will process all of these things when deciding whether to cheer or stay away altogether, just like voters on Election Day. “One of the interesting things about the coronation and its symbolism is that it’s not just a celebration,” said. “It gives the British a chance to look and think what matters to us.”