Charles III crowned in ancient rite at Westminster Abbey

KING Charles III sits as he receives The St. Edward’s Crown during the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. / AP
KING Charles III sits as he receives The St. Edward’s Crown during the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. / AP

LONDON — King Charles III was crowned Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Westminster Abbey, receiving the bejeweled St. Edward’s Crown in a ceremony built on ancient traditions at a time when the monarchy is striving to remain relevant in a fractured modern Britain.

Trumpets sounded inside the medieval abbey and the congregation shouted “God save the king!” at a ceremony attended by more than 2,000 guests, including world leaders, aristocrats and celebrities. Outside, thousands of troops, tens of thousands of spectators and a smattering of protesters converged.

It was the culmination of a seven-decade journey for Charles from heir to monarch.

To the royal family and government, the occasion — code-named Operation Golden Orb — was a display of heritage, tradition and spectacle unmatched around the world. The rite was expected to be watched by millions, though the awe and reverence the ceremony was designed to evoke are largely gone — and many greeted the day with a shrug.

Some even met it with disdain. Republican protesters gathered outside to holler “Not my king” for a celebration of an institution they say stands for privilege and inequality, in a country of deepening poverty and fraying social ties. A handful were arrested.

Nonetheless, thousands of people from across the U.K. and around the world camped overnight along a 1.3-mile (two-kilometer) route that the king and his wife, Camilla, traveled to reach the abbey in a gilt-trimmed, horse-drawn carriage.

Nobles and celebrities

The church buzzed with excitement and was abloom with fragrant flowers and colorful hats as the congregation of international dignitaries and nobles arrived. Among them were U.S. First Lady Jill Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eight current and former British prime ministers and celebrities including Judi Dench, Emma Thompson and Lionel Richie.

At a traditional Anglican service slightly tweaked for modern times, Charles, clad in crimson and cream robes, swore on a Bible that he is a “true Protestant.”

But a preface was added to the coronation oath to say the Church of England “will seek to foster an environment where people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely,” and the epistle from the King James Bible was read by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Britain’s first Hindu leader.

A gospel choir performed a newly composed “Alleluia,” and, for the first time, female clergy took part in the ceremony. It was also the first to include representatives of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths.

In an ancient display of kingly power, Charles was anointed with oil from the Mount of Olives in the Holy Land and presented with an orb, swords and scepters, before Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby placed the solid gold crown bedecked with more than 400 precious stones on the monarch’s head. As trumpets sounded, gun salutes were fired across the U.K.

For 1,000 years and more, British monarchs have been crowned in grandiose ceremonies that confirm their right to rule. Charles is the 40th sovereign to be crowned in the abbey — and, at 74, the oldest.

These days, the king no longer has executive or political power, and the service is purely ceremonial since Charles automatically became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September. / AP

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