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Spring 2023 Human Interest Feature – The History & Celebration of British Coronations

Written by: Kaitlyn Rampone, Coordinator, British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia

King Charles III will be crowned alongside Camilla, the Queen Consort on May 6, 2023, at Westminster Abbey in London. This will be the first coronation since Queen Elizabeth’s on June 2, 1953. There is a rich history surrounding the coronation ceremony in England; coronations have remained the same for more than 1,000 years. A coronation is a symbolic religious ceremony in which the monarch is crowned and formalizes their role as head of the Church of England. It marks the transfer of their title and powers. It was once a necessary stage of an individual’s journey to becoming King or Queen, but now by law immediately following the death of the current sovereign, they ascend into their role. Coronations emerged from a European tradition which called for increased church involvement in the state. It also sought to bring stability to societies where there were several individuals who had a claim to the throne. The United Kingdom is the only European monarchy that continues to retain such a ceremony.

 

There are a lot of moving pieces that take place during the coronation ceremony. The event starts with The King’s Procession that originates at Buckingham Palace and ends at Westminster Abbey. The various stages of the service include the recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture, and the enthronement and homage. The recognition consists of the Archbishop of Canterbury presenting the monarch to the congregation where the crowd shouts “God Save the King” followed by trumpets sounding. During the oath, the sovereign swears to uphold the law and the Church of England. Next is the anointing where the King’s ceremonial robe is taken off and he sits in the Coronation Chair. Normally, the King is then concealed with a gold cloth, but for King Charles there will be a transparent canopy in order to broadcast the anointing for the first time in history. Then during the investiture, the King is presented with the Royal orb, representing religious and moral authority; the Sceptre, representing power; and the Sovereign’s Sceptre, a rod of gold topped with a white enameled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy. The Archbishop then places St. Edward’s Crown on the King’s head. Lastly, in the enthronement and homage stage, the King leaves the Coronation Chair and moves to the throne. 

 

Following the ceremony, the King and Queen Consort will return to Buckingham Palace in a large ceremonial procession known as The Coronation Procession. Once back at Buckingham Palace they will be joined with the other members of the Royal family on the balcony to conclude the day’s ceremonial events. The day after the Coronation will consist of the Coronation Big Lunch, where neighbors and communities across Britain will be invited to share food and fun. For the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth there were more than 8,000 people from 129 nations that travelled to Westminster Abbey, but for King Charles’ Coronation there will be approximately 2,000 to accommodate health and safety restrictions.

 

The Coronation will be televised for British and international audiences to view throughout the world. The late Queen’s Coronation was the first to be televised with an estimated 27 million people in the UK watching and 11 million listening on the radio. To mark the Coronation of King Charles, there will be a bank holiday on Monday, May 8. This holiday will be observed throughout the UK, in recognition of the King’s interest in strengthening local communities. People throughout the UK will be encouraged to volunteer and join projects in their region as part of the “Big Help Out.” The Big Help Out is an organization supported by some of the UK’s largest volunteer organizations to raise awareness of volunteerism and provide people with an opportunity to make a difference within their community. The King and Queen Consort hope this will create a long-lasting legacy felt across the country.

 

The Coronation will be celebrated all over the world. The Philadelphia branch of the English-Speaking Union will be hosting their annual garden party and celebration of the Coronation at the Highlands Mansion and Gardens in Fort Washington, PA on May 6, 2023. The garden party will have everything from elegant hats, champagne served from a Rolls Royce, a Scottish Piper and Drummer, a silent auction including coronation items from George V to Charles III, and much more. Oliver St. Clair Franklin CBE, His Majesty’s Honorary Consul to Philadelphia and BABCPHL Board Member will be a featured guest. To learn more click here.

 

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