A celebration fit for a King
By Charlie Smith-Knight
LIFE & LIVING
ISSUE NO: 150
Charlie Smith-Knight takes a closer look at the coronation
On Saturday 6 May, England’s longest serving heir apparent will ascend the throne and be crowned King Charles III. As our first King since 1952, some of us are still adjusting to singing God Save the King, in the same way that it usually takes until March to stop using the previous year’s date when forced to write it down. For the majority, this will be the first coronation witnessed in our lifetimes, so what can we expect? Is it all court jesters, crown jewels and coronation feasts? Probably not, as this isn’t an episode of The Tudors. Perhaps the answer lies in the bonny King Charlies of the past and preceding coronation celebrations.
A Tale of Two Charlies
As Charles III’s moniker suggests there have been two former Kings of England with the same namesake. The first of whom, Charles I, reigned from 1625-1649. In moves reminiscent of Joffrey Baratheon, Charles I believed in the divine right of Kings and chose to govern by his own conscience. As a result of his tyrannical behaviour, Charles I was met with fierce opposition, culminating in the first English Civil War. Arguably the equivalent of starting a new job and successfully upending the company by having the employees revolt.
In this case, the mutiny was successful and in 1649, Charles I was executed, and England became a republic under William Cromwell. It remained so, until after Cromwell’s death when Charles II negotiated with parliament and the monarchy was reinstated in 1660. Charles II was the oldest living progeny of Charles I, who had 9 children, the eldest of whom was also noted as Charles but died within a day of his birth.
Charles II became known as the ‘Merry Monarch’ due to the hedonism of his court and although he left no official heir, Charles II reportedly acknowledged 12 illegitimate children, two of whom have a lineage that includes the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Although Charles II is known as one of England’s more popular sovereigns, his reign was not without note, weathering both the Plague and the Great Fire of London. Presently, English monarchs have less power than their ancestors although we live in equally colourful post-pandemic times. In this respect, we can only hope that King Charles III’s reign will be as inoffensive as a calendar of nuns holding puppies.
If you know more about Coronation Street than coronation ceremonies, we haven’t had one for 70 years, so you’re forgiven. England has been crowning monarchs for longer than some modern countries have been established and Westminster Abbey has hosted coronations since William the Conqueror was invested in 1066. Coronations are seen as a way to reaffirm a nation’s purpose and, as such, have been public events for hundreds of years-with Queen Elizabeth II’s being the first time the occasion was televised. The ceremony involves a fair amount of pomp and formality including the new monarch being presented to the country, being anointed with consecrated oil and bestowed with items like the coronation ring and sceptre with cross, all from the seat of the 700 year old Coronation Chair. Although Liz reportedly altered conventions by introducing the singing of the National Anthem, she did fall short of full-on jazz hands. Her ceremony was fairly long winded with a 16,000 person procession and a service of over 3 hours, like a James Cameron movie but with ceremonial robes. So, what can we expect from a contemporary King in a social media world?
A 21st Century King
The official affair will take place on Saturday 6 May, with a bank holiday on Monday 8 May. Charles and his wife Camilla will be crowned at the event then return to Buckingham Palace in procession with other members of the Royal Family. Like a regal conga line. The ceremony will be shorter and reportedly represent more religions, in order to be more inclusive than its predecessors. Charles is also choosing to personalise the rituals by including Greek Orthodox music in the celebrations in memory of his late father and by having some of the service sung in Welsh, to signify his place as the longest serving Prince of Wales. It has been stated that the consecrated oil will not include products derived from animals and some controversial crown jewels will be excluded from proceedings, showing a sensitivity to the social climate. Whilst the ceremony itself will be rooted in tradition, the King will be holding various modern festivities including a concert and a laser light show at Windsor Castle, making the event more accessible and relevant to younger audiences. No doubt with plenty of recognisable celebrity names and Instagrammable aesthetics. For the rest of the population, pubs and clubs will be allowed to stay open for two hours later on the Friday and Saturday, so fingers crossed for beer-garden weather.
Whether you believe the coronation will reaffirm your purpose or you’re just in it for the extra Bank Holiday, it’s fair to say that after the last few years you can’t threaten us with a good time. Gather your loved ones, cut the crusts off the cucumber sandwiches and rejoice in the spectacle that makes us one of the most unique nations in the World. That and our absolute mastery of queuing.