Why Charles’s coronation could be a more modest affair than the queen’s | King Charles III

Why Charles’s coronation could be a more modest affair than the queen’s | King Charles III

When St Edward’s Crown is placed on the head of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on May 6, it will continue the traditions and pageantry of more than 1,000 years of monarchy.

But his promise that his coronation “will reflect the role of the monarch today” signals a certain departure from the scale and extravagance of the ceremonial given to his late mother. The significance of these departures is not yet known, but they are dictated by the societal changes that have taken place during the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Queen’s coronation could, in retrospect, be described as ‘the last imperial hurray’, said Dr Bob Morris, senior research associate in UCL’s Constitution Unit and author of a research paper titled The Coronation of Charles III.

At the time, reflecting Britain’s high rank as a world power, 8,250 guests crammed into Westminster Abbey, with some stalls 11 tiers high. Outside, stalls were erected for 96,000 paying guests – an attempt by the government to recoup some of the huge costs – with a covered seat selling for £6 (about £127 today) and an uncovered one for £4 .

Peers and their wives, along with Commonwealth leaders and their entourages were among the largest groups on the government’s guest list.

The great processional route from Westminster Abbey covered about five miles. The motorcade took 45 minutes to pass a fixed point and included more than 40,000 British and Commonwealth service personnel.

Troops marched 12 abreast to the rhythm provided by 24 marching military bands. Ten Commonwealth Prime Ministers, led by Sir Winston Churchill, were transported in open-top cars.

It was an incredible sight for post-war, bomb-scarred Britain, where food rationing and conscription still existed. Such a scale is unlikely today, and not just because the public would likely balk at the price.

Then the armed forces numbered more than 850,000 men. Today there are about a fifth. “The troops just aren’t there, which calls into question the length of the route and the size of the procession,” Morris said. Security issues have also changed. Terrorism is now a major concern, rather than public safety, which was the focus of policing the event in 1953.

At its heart, the coronation is a religious service, with the anointing of holy oil and the taking of communion. The 2021 census, however, showed that for the first time less than half of the population of England and Wales (46.2%) identify as Christian. As the UK becomes increasingly secular, more than a third of people in England and Wales (37.2%) say they have no religion at all. In 1953, not only was going to church much more routine, but a third of people believed the queen had been chosen by God.

This trend, however, “curiously will make the presence of religion larger,” Morris said. “Because I think we can expect it to always be Anglican, and the Archbishop [of Canterbury] will still be in charge, and we imagine there will be a communion service, there will be a greater presence of non-Christian religions, and perhaps also other Christian denominations.

On the last occasion, the only other denomination invited was the Moderator of the Scottish Church, he said, but he expects the list of religious actors to be expanded, as has been the case in recent years. years for Commonwealth Day services. The fact that the UK is now more of a Unionist state, with devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, also makes this more likely.

A shorter coronation – the Queen’s lasted over three hours – means some of the more archaic elements could be dropped. The lengthy court of claims, where in the past nobles had to prove their right to undertake a certain service to the king during the ceremony, could be reduced to “an exchange of correspondence”, becoming a “purely administrative process”, Morris said. . .

The role of peers, which formerly paid homage to the new sovereign individually, was reduced in 1902 when a system where only the most senior peer of each gradation paid homage was introduced. With the abolition in 1999 of the automatic majority right of hereditary peerages, Morris wondered if the tribute could be further reduced. “Maybe they wouldn’t pursue the tribute on this occasion, which is really a feudal relic,” he said.

All in all, Morris said, the coronation of Charles III could be “a more modest affair” than that of his mother, when the Duke of Norfolk as earl marshal, in charge of the organisation, almost took over the Westminster Abbey for 10 months preceding the ceremony. ,

“But these are just guesses,” he said. “We don’t know what the plans are. They didn’t make the kind of announcements one might have expected at this point.

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