Showtime! UK readies pomp for King Charles III’s coronation

May 2, 2023, 11:42 PM

FILE - Britain's King Charles III, back to camera, greets well-wishers as he walks by the gates of ...

FILE - Britain's King Charles III, back to camera, greets well-wishers as he walks by the gates of Buckingham Palace following Thursday's death of Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. King Charles III will be crowned Saturday, May 6, 2023 at Westminster Abbey in an event full of all the pageantry Britain can muster. (Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Yui Mok/Pool Photo via AP, File)

LONDON (AP) — The crown has been resized. The troops are prepared for the biggest military procession in 70 years. The Gold State Coach is ready to roll.

Now it’s time for the show.

King Charles III will be crowned Saturday at Westminster Abbey in an event full of all the pageantry Britain can muster.

Enrobed clergymen will hand over the medieval symbols of power — the rod, the scepter and the orb. Brass bands and soldiers in bearskin hats will troop through the streets. And the new king and queen will presumably end the day on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to wave to the cheering crowds.

But don’t be too dazzled. There’s purpose behind the pomp: to buttress the crown’s foundations and show that the people of the United Kingdom still support their monarch.

Royal historian Robert Lacey compares the event to a U.S. presidential election and an inauguration rolled into one — a celebration as well as a test of how the public sees the new sovereign.

“The king obviously is not subject to the vote and so these big public rituals are the closest royal people get to that sort of test,’’ said Lacey, author of “Battle of Brothers: William & Harry — the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult.” “Its basic purpose is to attract the loyalty and interest of British people to demonstrate that crowd outside Buckingham Palace waving at the balcony.”

But, while TV screens around the world will be filled with flag-waving fans, Charles’ coronation comes at a difficult time for the royals.

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 making some people question the expense of the coronation. And the royal family is riven with controversy as Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, lobs criticism from his base in Southern California.

More fundamentally, some in Britain’s increasingly diverse society want a re-examination of the monarchy’s links to the trade in enslaved Africans and its role in the former British Empire, which ruled over large parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University, questions whether the people of Britain and the Empire’s successor, the Commonwealth, really want a 74-year-old white man as their representative.

“If that isn’t the biggest celebration of white supremacy, I can’t think of what is, especially when you think about the lengths, the pageantry, the jewels and all this stuff, right?’’ Andrews said of the coronation. “So if you really were serious about saying, look, we want an anti-racist future, there is absolutely no place for this terrible institution.”

The king has tried to address some of those concerns by promising to open the royal archives to researchers studying the family’s links with slavery.

But the coronation will be a broader, more symbolic effort to show the monarchy still has a role to play.

The crowning of Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, will feature many of the elements of coronations past — the hymns, the prayers, the anointing with oils — all of which are designed to remind the world of the history, tradition and mystery embodied by the monarchy.

But the festivities have been tailored to better reflect modern Britain, where about 18% of the population describe themselves as belonging to an ethnic minority. That compares with less than 1% when Charles’ mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, was crowned in 1953.

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 feature pieces written and performed by artists from each of the U.K.’s four nations and throughout the Commonwealth.

Symbolically, Charles will open the service by facing a young choirboy and pledging to serve — not to be served — and he has scrapped the centuries-old tradition of having the most senior members of the aristocracy pledge their loyalty to him. Instead, the congregation and those watching at home will be invited to pledge allegiance to the king.

The ceremony will also be shorter — about two hours, instead of three.

“The coronation is about different people celebrating together,” said interfaith leader Aliya Azam, who will represent Muslims when faith leaders greet the king after he is crowned. “I think what’s very important is that cohesiveness triumphs over divisiveness, like light triumphing over darkness.”

Sylius Toussaint and his wife, Bridgette, will be watching. The couple celebrated Elizabeth’s coronation as children on the island of Dominica and moved to England in 1960 to find work. A corner of their home in Preston, northwest England, is festooned with royal photos and souvenirs, including a tin of coronation shortbread.

Toussaint likes Charles’ efforts to protect the environment and he’s willing to look past the breakdown of his first marriage to the late Princess Diana. He blames the government, not the monarchy, for the immigration crackdown that unfairly targeted him and thousands of other Caribbean migrants in recent years.

“Maybe like the rest of us, he has his faults … but he’s forgiven,” Toussaint said. “I think he will do a good job and we rather like him.”

The question is whether that allegiance is passed on to younger generations.

While support for the monarchy has softened over the past 30 years, it is much weaker among young people, according to surveys conducted by the polling firm Ipsos.

One of the monarchy’s strengths is that many see the benefit in having a neutral head of state at times of instability, said Kelly Beaver, the firm’s U.K. chief executive. With Britain facing multiple pressures from inflation to climate change and the war in Ukraine, the king has “a real opportunity to step forward and to demonstrate leadership,” she said.

“And so I think, really, for Charles, it’s all to play for.”

Unfortunately for the king, the coronation will also spotlight the family dramas that have rattled the House of Windsor. Chief among those is Charles’ tense relationship with Harry and his wife, Meghan, a biracial American who pundits once thought would help the royal family connect with multicultural Britain.

But those hopes crumbled when the couple gave up front-line royal duties and decamped to California three years ago. Since then, they have aired a series of grievances, including allegations that palace officials were insensitive to Meghan’s mental health struggles when she was adjusting to life as a royal, that the Windsors are guilty of unconscious bias in their attitudes on race, and that Camilla leaked unflattering stories about the couple to garner more favorable coverage for herself.

After months of speculation about whether they would be invited to the coronation, the palace announced that Harry would attend but Meghan would remain in California with their two children.

If recent royal gatherings are any indication, attention will now shift to the seat assignments inside the Abbey and whether Harry speaks to his father and Prince William, the heir to the throne.

“Where Harry sits in relation to the rest of his family clearly will be of great importance to the international media,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine. “But, you know, Buckingham Palace and the organizers will be aware of that, and they will, I’m sure, come up with the best possible solution under the circumstances.”

All of 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, that’s how it should be. At some level, people will process all of these things when they decide 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 it’s not just simple celebration,” he said. “It does give Britons a chance to look and think about what matters to us.”


A passenger rides a mostly empty Muni streetcar in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 6, 2023. California...

Associated Press

Car-obsessed California seeks to follow New York’s lead and save public transit

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Sadaf Zahoor has bucked California’s car culture by never owning one, yet she and other residents who rely on public transit worry its bleak financial outlook could soon leave them standing at empty train stations and bus stops. The agencies running the public transit systems, particularly in San Francisco and Oakland, […]

22 hours ago

FILE - African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson announces a boycott of Coca-Cola ...

Associated Press

Supreme Court voting rights ruling stuns minority voters, who hope it expands their representation

WASHINGTON (AP) — This week’s Supreme Court decision ordering Alabama to redraw its congressional districts was seen by many minority lawmakers and voting rights activists as a stunning victory with the potential to become a major stepping stone for undoing political maps that dilute the strength of communities of color. Hank Sanders, a former Alabama […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Delayed justice: 3 states remove all time limits on child sex abuse lawsuits

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Ann Allen loved going to church and the after-school social group led by a dynamic priest back in the 1960s. The giggling fun with friends always ended with a game of hide and seek. Each week, the Rev. Lawrence Sabatino chose one girl to hide with him. Allen said when it […]

22 hours ago

FILE - Bryan Kohberger enters the courtroom for his arraignment hearing in Latah County District Co...

Associated Press

Judge weighs challenge to gag order in University of Idaho killings

A judge overseeing the case against Bryan Kohberger, charged with killing four University of Idaho students last fall, is set to hear arguments Friday over a gag order that largely bars attorneys and other parties in the case from speaking with news reporters. A coalition of more than 30 media organizations has challenged the order, […]

22 hours ago

FILE - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks at a news conference after the House passed t...

Associated Press

Speaker McCarthy eyes new commission to tackle nation’s debt, but many Democrats are wary

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is studying the history books and considering the appointment of a mix of lawmakers and business leaders as he lays the groundwork for a new commission to tackle the nation’s growing debt. McCarthy is fresh off his biggest political victory since becoming speaker in January. He got the […]

22 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump indicted in classified documents case in a historic first for a former president

MIAMI (AP) — mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes him the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges by the federal government that he once oversaw. The Justice Department was expected to make public a seven-count indictment ahead of a historic court appearance next week in […]

22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Showtime! UK readies pomp for King Charles III’s coronation