King Charles III coronation highlights: a celebration medieval and modern

LONDON — After the longest wait ever, King Charles III finally sat on his Coronation Chair, above the Stone of Destiny, while a heavy golden crown was fitted upon his head at Westminster Abbey, and bells tolled and the people shouted, “God save the king!”

It was a globally broadcast spectacle that combined the medieval and modern, that paid homage to ancient rites as it sought to be inclusive and diverse, and somehow rich with pageantry and slimmed down at the same time.

That was all a lot to ask.

The commentators on the BBC were effusive, but they always are about historic royal moments. We will see what ordinary Britons think. Many, especially the youth, are apathetic about the constitutional monarchy, and a golden carriage is hard to square with a cost-of-living crisis.

The coronation of King Charles III: Memorable moments in photos and videos

It was a drizzly, spongy day, the skies were fish-belly gray, and crowds along the parade route held umbrellas above their heads or were wrapped in clear plastic, as they joined in an “homage of the people,” in unison declaring their allegiance to the new king.

A planned flypast by 60 aircraft was scaled way back, “due to unsuitable weather conditions,” the Ministry of Defense explained. Instead there were a few helicopters and the Royal Air Force aerobatic team known as the “Red Arrows.”

Inside Westminster Abbey, the scene of every coronation since 1066, the new king vowed he came “to serve, not to be served.” But then he was served — a lot.

Items of arcane but priceless regalia were handed to him: orb, swords, ring, gloves, scepters, spurs. Lots of golden things presented by lots of people. The newspapers have been obsessive in their detailed descriptions of every item.

The service was shortened to two hours, down from three in 1953. Still, it was very churchy, which might have surprised some who had tuned in for the pomp. It was about Charles, but was also very much about Jesus. In this performance, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, had more speaking lines than the new king.

But Charles had a hand in all of it, playing both leading man and director. It was at his urging that his role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the Protector of the Faith would be explained as seeking “to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely.” Representatives from the Jewish, Sunni and Shiite Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahai and Zoroastrian communities were there to honor him.

The service also featured some great music — including a stirring prayer, for the first time sung in Welsh, and a new composition by Andrew Lloyd Webber, entitled, “Make a Joyful Noise.”

Prince Harry, fifth in line to the throne, was a guest, seated in the third row. At one point his face was obscured by the red plumage atop his aunt Princess Anne’s tricorn hat. His wife, Meghan, remained in California. Soon after the service, the tabloids reported he was headed back there, too — seemingly without a resolution of his ongoing feud with his father.

Prince Harry, solo, stayed on the sidelines of the coronation

His brother, Prince William, the heir, played a prominent role. He knelt before the king and, in an “homage of royal blood,” promised his fealty “as your liege man of life and limb.” He then rose and kissed his father on the cheek. That was a tender moment.

The 74-year-old Charles often looks ruddy and dashing in his Savile Row blue pinstripe suits. Here, he was dressed in heavy silk robes, trying not to topple a heavy crown, and had to march stiffly down the aisle holding two scepters.

He looked weighted down. The Times of London wrote, “King Charles looked stilted and anxious — majestic, if not joyful.”

He was grandfatherly, his eyebrows were old-man bushy. He is not a young virile king, ready for battle. But Britain might hope he will be a wise and judicious king in his golden years.

His wife, Queen Camilla, was also anointed and crowned, but that part of the service took only a few minutes, and looked rushed, an add-on.

Coronation celebrates Queen Camilla and a long-maligned romance

She did appear very human, fidgeting with the crown after it was placed on her head, like she was unused to such a headdress.

The royal kids looked cute, yawning and distracted.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the youngest children of William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, were photographed holding hands inside the abbey while standing behind their parents.

The first coronation to be broadcast on television was for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Hers was in grainy black and white on the BBC. The 2023 coronation for Charles was for a hi-def monarchy. The colors were sharp, the red tunics redder and the blue dress on the Windsor Grey horses popped.

A lot of the crowd in Central London watched the show on big screens or inside pubs.

Danielle Lacey, 30, a tram driver from Manchester, arrived early Saturday morning. But by that time access to the Mall — the main road leading from Buckingham Palace — was shut, so she headed to a nearby park with a screen.

She was unsurprisingly positive about the monarchy. The royals “bring in a lot tourists. Most people like the royals. We are one of the old countries that has kings and queens,” she said.

She was more reticent about the king. “I know that not a lot of people like Charles,” she confessed. “I neither love him nor hate him. He’s trying to save the planet, so that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

The “Not My King” protesters were out getting their message across — they want to abolish the monarchy and replace the king with an elected head of state. Their numbers were small compared to the throngs of people there to celebrate the monarchy, but several hundred marched.

“Down with the crown! Down with the crown!” they shouted as they held aloft bright yellow signs.

Amber Dowell, 40, who works for a charity, was among them. “Inherited monarchy is basically a celebration of wealth and privilege. I personally don’t believe anybody is born better than anyone else,” she said. “My hope is he will be the last king.”

‘Not My King’ protesters detained by London police amid coronation

But even with growing apathy, many people doubt much will change during Charles’s reign.

The monarchy isn’t going anywhere, said Philip Tiwome, 43, an engineer from London, who was walking near the palace with his 5-year-old daughter on his shoulders. “It’s so ingrained in our DNA, it won’t disappear overnight, as long as they stand for what the queen stood for, her faith in Christ, she was very religious.”

The coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace from the abbey was the most celebrated moment.

It was the largest military procession since the last coronation 70 years ago and the route was filled, shoulder to shoulder, with bands, horses and marching soldiers in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats.

King and queen rode in the Gold State Coach, which is covered from wheel spoke to carriage top in gold leaf. Previous monarchs have complained that it is a bumpy ride, like a ship in rough seas.

Behind protective glass, the queen wiggled her fingers as she waved. Charles smiled, too.

2023-05-06 20:10:48