Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Nation/World

Missed the coronation? Here’s what happened, from the crown to the crowds.

May 6, 2023 Updated Sat., May 6, 2023 at 12:14 p.m.

New York Times

Setting the theme of the resplendent yet intimate-for-a-royal-coronation ceremony, King Charles III’s first remarks at the beginning of the two-hour spectacle at Westminster Abbey on Saturday were, “I come not to be served but to serve.”

In the literal crowning moment, Charles was seated on the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, believed to be the oldest piece of furniture in Europe still being used for its original purpose, and holding two golden scepters as the glittering St. Edward’s Crown, made for King Charles II in 1661, was placed on his head. It is the only time he will ever wear it.

Charles looked particularly solemn as he wore the crown, for which he has waited decades. The echo of Queen Elizabeth II, his late mother, who also held two scepters at the same moment in her 1953 coronation, was profound.

In the abbey, soaring orchestral and choral music followed, while cheers erupted from a crowd gathered in front of Buckingham Palace, as the boom of the gun salute marked Charles’ crowning.

In a carefully orchestrated complement to Charles’ crowning, Queen Camilla (yes, her title was officially updated on the royal website) appeared calm, relieved and buoyant as she was crowned, wearing a gentle half-smile on her face.

Charles made a few (small) updates for a modern era.

The coronation is, at its heart, a religious ceremony, and Charles swore to defend the Church of England and to ensure that all sovereigns, himself included, are and will always be Protestant. But in a break from tradition, religious leaders from other faiths, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Judaism, played a prominent part in the proceedings — an effort to represent the diversity of modern, multicultural Britain as well as countries in the Commonwealth. Non-Christian leaders presented the less overtly religious items of regalia to the king before the official coronation, and female clergy also played a more prominent role than in years past.

For the first time, members of the public were invited to take part in a “chorus of millions of voices.” The pledge of public allegiance to the king intended to replace the traditional Homage of the Peers, in which aristocrats and hereditary peers lined up in the abbey to kneel in front of the monarch and make vows of fealty. Although the invitation was meant as a democratizing gesture, it has drawn criticism on social media.

In another, less significant, update for the modern era, Charles and Camilla traveled to Westminster Abbey in the newer horse-drawn Diamond Jubilee State Coach, rather than the antique Gold State Coach, which, according to the BBC, even Queen Victoria complained was uncomfortable.

They did, however, make their return in the older model, which resembled an even more gilded version of Cinderella’s carriage.

The royals’ status was reflected in their seats and suits.

After years of family tensions, Prince Harry attended his father’s coronation alone. Harry’s wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is staying at home in California with the couple’s children, Prince Archie, who turned 4 on Saturday, and 1-year-old Princess Lilibet. Relegated to the equivalent of the table at the far end of the room at a wedding reception, Harry was seated in the third row of the abbey, next to Jack Brooksbank, the husband of his cousin, Princess Eugenie.Seated in the front row were Prince William, Charles’ heir, and his wife, Catherine, the Princess of Wales, wearing ornate formal robes to reflect their rank in the royal family. The king’s sister, Princess Anne, was similarly clad. Harry wore a regular gray morning suit, adorned with his military service medals. Prince Andrew, the disgraced second son of Elizabeth, wore ceremonial robes despite no longer being a working member of the royal family.

Presidents, international monarchs, British politicians and celebrities were also among the approximately 2,300 people in attendance at the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Among them were first lady Jill Biden, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska, and former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Tony Blair. The current British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, gave a reading from the first chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians.

Singers Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and actors Judi Dench and Emma Thompson were present. The guest list spoke to Charles’ efforts to embrace a modern, multicultural Britain, but also to the monarchy’s dynastic identity.

The foppery and the finery told their own story.

British fashion designers were some of the stars of the sartorial show. Perry, who is performing at the coronation concert Sunday, wore bespoke Vivienne Westwood — a national treasure but an interesting choice given the late designer’s feelings about the monarchy.

One of the standout outfits was worn by 8-year-old Princess Charlotte, daughter of William and Catherine, whose white cape and dress and diamante floral headband were all by Alexander McQueen, and made to match her mother’s dress and floral headpiece. McQueen, which is designed by Sarah Burton, also made Catherine’s wedding dress and often dresses her for major public occasions.

Camilla’s coronation dress, made of white silk and embroidered in gold and silver, with daisy chains, forget-me-nots and scarlet pimpernels to represent the love of the British countryside she and Charles share, was designed by Bruce Oldfield, one of her favorite designers (and also, as it happens, a favorite of Princess Diana). Her diamond necklace was the same one worn by Elizabeth for her coronation.

The London weather didn’t deter the crowds or the chants.

Despite the rain, thousands of people lined the route, many waving Union Jack flags, as Charles and Camilla traveled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey along the Mall. Their journey was accompanied by a new “coronation march” by film composer Patrick Doyle, who said that it “at times reflects aspects of His Majesty’s own character.”

Not everyone in Britain was excited about the coronation, especially during a cost-of-living crisis that has left many Britons struggling. From staunch anti-monarchists to those who feel that the royal family is out of touch with modern Britain, many creative alternative events were planned to mark the occasion.

At protests along the Mall in central London, demonstrators chanted, “Not my king,” as some others shouted, “God save the king,” in response. Some protesters were arrested. The Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest force, which covers the Greater London area, has faced criticism for deploying what some see as heavy-handed measures to police the coronation.

After the coronation, the procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace was greeted by cheering, if very soggy, crowds. Featuring 19 military bands and 4,000 troops, the parade stretched a mile from the palace gates. Chants of “God save the king!” erupted as Charles, Camilla and other members of the royal family appeared on the palace’s balcony for a flyover of helicopters and the Red Arrows, the aerobatics team of the Royal Air Force, in a display pared back because of the quintessential British spring weather.

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.