King Charles III crowned as the UK blends tradition and change

King Charles III has been crowned in the United Kingdom’s biggest ceremonial event for seven decades, in the presence of the royal family, 4,000 British and Commonwealth troops, about 100 world leaders and a television audience of millions.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby placed the 360-year-old St Edward’s Crown on Charles’s head in Westminster Abbey on Saturday, during a solemn two-hour service.Charles’s second wife Camilla was also crowned queen with the Queen Mary’s Crown.

The king swore oaths to govern justly and uphold the Church of England, of which he is the titular head. He was then hidden from watching eyes by a screen for the most sacred part of the ceremony when he was anointed on his hands, head and breast with holy oil consecrated in Jerusalem.

After being presented with symbolic regalia, Welby placed the St Edward’s Crown on his head and the congregation cried out “God save the king”.

“God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May the king live forever,” the congregation at the abbey said after a trumpet fanfare.Gun salutes were fired at the Tower of London and across the capital, the nation, in Gibraltar, Bermuda and on ships at sea.

The ceremony – televised for only the second time – was an attempt to present a forward-looking monarchy, with those involved reflecting a more diverse country and all its religions.King Charles III prayed to be a “blessing” to people of “every faith and conviction”, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the coronation was “a cherished ritual through which a new era is born”.

“No other country could put on such a dazzling display,” he said in a tweet, adding that it “is not just a spectacle”.“It’s a proud expression of our history, culture, and traditions.”

Charles’s eldest son and heir Prince William, 40, then knelt before his father to pledge his loyalty as his “liege man of life and limb”.

Prince Harry, the secondborn, was also present at his father’s coronation ceremony but did not play a significant role.

“He had no part to play, this is very similar to his uncle Prince Andrew,” royal biographer Christopher Wilson told Al Jazeera.

Harry and Andrew are no longer “working” members of the royal family. Harry publicly gave up his role in 2020 and wrote a damning book about the royal family, Spare, while Andrew had his duties taken away.

“They are unimportant on an occasion like this when the king is crowned. That shows the difficulties faced within the family are trivial by comparison with the enormity of Charles, who has pledged to the nation that we all should be equal.”

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle remained in California with children Lilibet and Archie.

The upper echelons of British society would normally have expected to be represented en masse at the coronation, but Charles’s reported wish for the invitation list was for it to be “meritocratic not aristocratic”.

A hundred heads of state were invited to attend, along with royalty ranging from Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and his wife, Kiko, to Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

The US kept alive its streak of a president never attending a British royal coronation, although First Lady Jill Biden travelled to London to attend.

The guest list also included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

World leaders from Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela and Iran did not attend. Invitations were issued to senior diplomats, rather than heads of state, for North Korea and Nicaragua.

Some 10,000 people were expected to take part in a coronation concert featuring artists including Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Take That and Andrea Bocelli at Windsor Castle.

South African soprano Pretty Yende, who first met King Charles when she was invited to sing at Windsor Castle by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra last year, was picked to sing solo. She is the first African to do so at a British coronation.

“I’m too excited to be nervous,” she said. “It’s an incredible time of my life as a young girl, as a South African, as an artist, only joy floods my heart.”‘A historical moment’
Philippe Buch, 33, from France, travelled with a group of Christians from his church to attend coronation day.

“We’re excited because on this day, there’s an earthly coronation. And at the same time, we as Christians, we believe that someday there is going to be a heavenly coronation, like Jesus, right, so we’re excited,” he said.

“It’s a historical moment for UK. So we’re excited about that too.”

Not everyone in the crowd was supportive of the new king. Tom, who declined to give his full name, said he was demonstrating against the royal family.

“I think the monarchy is terrible for democracy,” he said, adding that “they are a symbol of the glorification of colonialism.”

Twenty thousand uniformed security personnel has been sweeping not just London but its surrounding area in the run-up to the coronation ceremony.

Members from the anti-monarchy group Republic had gathered near Trafalgar Square in London a few hours ahead of the coronation ceremony for a “Not My King” protest.

Graham Smith, the leader of the group, was among six people arrested before the coronation ceremony.

“This morning, Graham Smith and 5 members of our team were arrested. Hundreds of placards were seized. Is this democracy?” the group said in a tweet.

“This is the biggest security operation the UK has seen for decades, bigger than the Olympics and the queen’s funeral. It’s all being coordinated from the special operations room central command which has been set up, that’s from Lamerth,” Nusrit Mehtab, former Scotland Yard superintendent, told Al Jazeera.

Monday, May 8, has been declared a public holiday. The royal family has called on Britons to do voluntary work in their communities.

For the best part of a thousand years, the kings and queens of England and the UK have been crowned at London’s Westminster Abbey in a ceremony that has changed little throughout the centuries.

There have been 38 monarchs crowned at the Abbey.

The UK’s last coronation took place in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at the age of 27. Since 1601, there has only been one coronation in the month of May.

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