In a moment of historic splendour, Britain is set to witness its first coronation in 70 years as the nation prepares to crown King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on Saturday. This religious confirmation follows the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last September, and besides crowning Charles, the ceremony will also crown his second wife, Camilla, as queen. Although many aspects of the Anglican service remain unchanged after over 1,000 years, there are notable modernisations such as the involvement of women bishops, minority faith leaders, and a more diverse guest list. Befitting the king’s lifelong advocacy of sustainability, the ceremony will also incorporate elements like vegan anointing oil and recycled ceremonial attire.
Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshal referred to the occasion as “a proud moment” in British history. He highlighted the importance of the king swearing to serve his nation, uphold its laws, and maintain justice for all during the ceremony. The event is viewed as an opportunity to unite Britain and the 56 Commonwealth countries, which Charles also leads.
However, not everyone is embracing the celebrations, as anti-monarchy groups plan to voice their opposition with slogans like “Not my king”. Polling has also indicated that younger people feel disconnected from the monarchy. In addition, the monarch’s position is facing growing scrutiny in 14 Commonwealth states outside the UK. Jamaica may conduct a referendum on dissolving ties with the monarchy as early as next year, while Australia is deliberating on structural changes that could pave the way for separation.
Amid calls for apologies over colonialism and demands to return the world’s largest diamond, which forms part of the crown jewels, domestic leaders hope that the coronation will help reinvigorate Britain’s global image following its exit from the European Union. Presidents of France and Germany, high-ranking EU leaders, and royalty from around the world will be among the 2,300 attendees. However, concerns are emerging as the lavish displays sit uneasily with many Britons during these times of financial hardship and labour strikes for better pay.
The ultimate taxpayer-funded cost, anticipated to exceed £100 million (US$126 million), is primarily due to the extensive security operation. Buckingham Palace commented that the international attention this grand state occasion garners more than compensates for the expenditure involved. Furthermore, the trade body UKHospitality estimates that the coronation weekend, including the public holiday on Monday, could produce a £350 million windfall for sectors such as pubs.
The largest display of British pomp and pageantry in decades, outshining even the queen’s state funeral last September, will include a meticulously rehearsed parade with around 7,000 military personnel. Charles and Camilla will travel to and from Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach and then, after the two-hour service, in the Gold State Coach. At the palace, they will take a salute from armed forces members and witness a ceremonial fly-past from the balcony alongside other royal family members.
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