LONDON (AP) – The shape of the Taj has changed. Soldiers prepare for the biggest military march in 70 years. The Gold State Coach is ready to roll.
Now it’s the turn of the show.
King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on Saturday in a ceremony filled with all the excitement Britain can offer.
The vested clergy will hand over medieval symbols of power – the wand, scepter and orb. Soldiers dressed in brass bands and bearskin hats would walk the streets. And the new King and Queen will of course end the day on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to be greeted by cheering crowds.
But don’t be too dazzling. The purpose behind the fanfare is to strengthen the crown’s foundation and to show that the people of the United Kingdom still support their monarch.
Royal historian Robert Lacey compared the event to a US presidential election and an inauguration – a celebration as well as a test of how the public viewed the new sovereign.
Lacey, author of “Battle of Brothers: William and Harry – The Inside Story of a Family”, said: “The monarch is clearly not subject to the vote and so these large public rituals are the closest royals get to such a test.” Are.” In the uproar “Its original purpose is to attract the loyalty and interest of the British people so that it can be displayed outside Buckingham Palace to that crowd waving on 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 royal family.
Opinion polls show that support for the monarchy has weakened over time. Britain is in the grip of double-digit inflation which is driving down living standards and leading some to question the cost of the coronation. And the royal family has been dogged by controversy as Charles’ younger son, Prince Harry, drew criticism from his base in Southern California.
More fundamentally, some in Britain’s increasingly diverse society want a re-examination of the trade of enslaved Africans and the monarchy’s links to the former British Empire, which ruled large parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Keihinde Andrews, 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 this isn’t the greatest celebration of white supremacy, I can’t imagine what is, especially when you think about the length, the pageantry, the jewelry and all these things, right?” Andrews said of the coronation. “So if you were really serious about saying, look, we want an anti-racist future, there’s no room for this horrible institution.”
The king has tried to address some of those concerns by promising to open the royal archives to researchers studying the family’s ties to slavery.
But the coronation would be a broader, more symbolic effort to show the monarchy still has a role to play.
The coronation of Queen Charles and Camilla will feature many elements of coronations past – hymns, prayers, anointing with oils – all designed to remind a world of history, tradition and mystery. monopoly.
But the celebrations have been tailored to better reflect modern Britain, where around 18% of the population describe themselves as an ethnic minority. This 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 musical will feature pieces written and performed by artists from each of the four UK nations and from across the Commonwealth.
Symbolically, Charles will begin the service by facing a youth choir and vowing not to serve – and he has ended the centuries-old tradition of having the most senior members of the aristocracy swear their loyalty to him. Instead, the congregation and those watching at home would 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 Alia Azam, who will represent Muslims when faith leaders greet the king after he is crowned. “I think what is very important is that harmony triumphs over division, just as light triumphs over darkness.”
Silius Toussaint and his wife Bridget 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, north-west England, is lined with royal photographs and mementos, including a tin of coronation shortbread.
Toussaint adores Charles’ efforts to protect the environment and is prepared to see the break-up of his first marriage to the late Princess Diana. He blamed the government, not the monarchy, for an immigration crackdown that unfairly targeted him and thousands of other Caribbean immigrants in recent years.
“Perhaps like the rest of us, he has faults… but he is forgiven,” Toussaint said. “I think he’ll do a good job and we like him.”
The question is whether this allegiance is passed on to the younger generation.
According to surveys conducted by polling firm Ipsos, support for the monarchy has waned over the past 30 years, but remains very vulnerable among young people.
One of the strengths of the monarchy is that many see a benefit in having a neutral head of state during times of instability, said Kelly Beaver, UK chief executive of the firm. With Britain facing a range of pressures from inflation to climate change and the war in Ukraine, the king has “a real opportunity to step forward and demonstrate leadership,” she said.
“And so I think, really, for Charles, it’s all in play.”
Unfortunately for the king, the coronation will also highlight the family dramas that have rocked the House of Windsor. Chief among them is Charles’ strained relationship with Harry and his wife, Meghan, a biracial American who pundits once thought would help connect the royal family to multicultural Britain.
But those hopes were dashed when the couple stepped down from royal duties three years ago and moved to California. Since then, she has aired a series of complaints, including allegations that palace officials were insensitive to Meghan’s mental health struggles as she adjusts to life as a royal, that the Windsors caste are guilty of unconscious bias in their approach, and that Camilla leaked unflattering stories about the couple in order to garner more favorable coverage for herself.
After months of speculation whether he 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, the focus will now turn to seat assignments inside the Abbey and whether or not Harry will speak to his father and heir to the throne, Prince William.
Jo Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine, said, “Where Harry sits in relation to the rest of his family will obviously be of great importance to the international media.” “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, changes in British society, and even family drama – will be on people’s minds as they watch the coronation.
For Lacey, it should be so. At some level, people will process all of these things when deciding whether to cheer or stay away completely, just like voters on Election Day.
“One of the interesting things about the coronation and its symbolism is that it’s not just a simple celebration,” he said. “It gives Britons a chance to look back and think about what matters to us.”
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