( Ten minute read)
Before answering this question I am not a Royalist fan.
King Charles III’s Coronation will take place on Saturday 6 May 2023.
It formalises the monarch’s role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of their title and powers.
However, it is not actually necessary for the monarch to be crowned to become King, Edward VIII reigned without a coronation – and Charles automatically became King the moment Queen Elizabeth II died.
This coronation it’s about privilege and everything that a multi-faith, multi-ethnic Britain isn’t about.
European monarchies got rid of coronations long ago. The British ceremony is the only remaining event of its type in Europe.
The idea that one man, who by accident of birth, is being anointed and set above the rest, who is unelected, and doesn’t represent Britain religiously or ethnically, jars badly.
It is an state affair, littered with curiosities: which means the government controls the guest list.
A medieval oath, holy oil poured on to a 12th Century spoon, and a 700-year-old chair housing a stone that supposedly roared when it recognised the rightful monarch.
850 community representatives have been invited to the ceremony in recognition of their charitable contributions. More than 6,000 armed forces members will take part, making it the largest military ceremonial operation in 70 years.
The Coronation will be paid for by the UK government. Clearly it won’t be cost-free.
In an uncertain world where leaders break international rules of law all the time, all of this sounds like something from a bygone age, it is.
It has no constitutional value, ( not that England has a written constitute.) but has remained much the same for more than 1,000 years. The monarchy’s legitimacy is based on tradition and continuity, any meaningful change would require a major overhaul, like disestablishment of the Church of England or a referendum on the monarchy.
In the coming days, there will be endless commentators ready to declare that the coronation makes them “proud to be British”, while anyone who criticises any aspect of it will be accused of “hating their country”
While standing beside the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, the monarch is presented to those gathered in the Abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The congregation shouts “God Save the King!” and trumpets sound. The sovereign swears to uphold the law and the Church of England. (The UK’s religious landscape for example has “changed beyond all recognition” since the last coronation in 1953)
A gold cloth is held over the chair to conceal the King from view. The Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the King’s hands, breast and head with holy oil made according to a secret recipe, but known to contain ambergris, orange flowers, roses, jasmine and cinnamon.( It’s an Anglican ceremony and the anointing is essential to that as the conferment of God’s grace on the monarch.)
The sovereign is presented with items including 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 enamelled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy.
Finally, the Archbishop places the solid gold, 17th Century St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head. (That crown contains the Cullinan II diamond, sometimes called the Second Star of Africa. It was given to Edward VII on his 66th birthday by the government of the Transvaal – a former British crown colony – in what is now South Africa. The other controversial stone is the Koh-i-Noor, which is part of the Queen Mother’s coronation crown. It is one of the largest-cut diamonds in the world. India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have all made claims to it.)
The King leaves the Coronation Chair and moves to the throne. Peers kneel before the monarch to pay homage. The Queen Consort will then be anointed in the same way and crowned.
The Coronation Procession is also expected to be more modest than Queen Elizabeth’s furnal procession which had 16,000 participants, and took 45 minutes to pass any stationary point on the 7km (4.3 miles) route at cost estimated to be 6/7 million.
The Queen Mother’s in 2002 reportedly cost £5.4m.
Clearly Charles coronation won’t be cost-free with an estimate of 100 million. ( Two for the price of one)
The coronation is the King’s chance to plug into the power of the past and shape his future.
The royals seem to prefer ad hoc philanthropy to actually funding public services with an event that is literally about deference to hereditary privilege. (The £1bn Duchy of Cornwall estate – previously inherited by Charles and recently passed on to Prince William – is not liable for either corporation tax or capital gains tax.)
Charles notably didn’t pay a single penny of inheritance tax on the fortune the late Queen left him last year (the jewellery alone was estimated to be worth at least £533m), though he has “volunteered” to pay income tax, as he also did on the duchy estate.
Volunteering” to pay tax feels a little like a wanted criminal “volunteering” to hand himself over to the authorities. It doesn’t seem to be something you typically get a choice in.
It is inevitable that many Britons will view the coronation with a more gimlet eye this time around. Many in the country are more focused on navigating a cost-of-living crisis than celebrating a dysfunctional royal family.
Now, England is a competitive society, based on people who’ve earned their position through achievement. Many Britons, viewed it mostly as a welcome holiday.
He’s inheriting a crown that has been shaken by events over the last five years.
Perhaps he might make a jester to the state of the nation (The Firm or Monarch PLC is worth an astounding $28 billion at least.) and reimburse the tax payer. A man whose car collection alone is estimated to be worth more than £6m asking the rest of us to celebrate his kingship by helping out at the local food bank feels, shall we say, a little “let them eat quiche”.
Perhaps in order to have a voice he will buy back HMS Britannia. The “soft power” of the monarchy cannot be underestimated.
Can a modern nation call itself democratic if it retains an unelected head of state? Is a growing reliance on charity a point of celebration or shame? Does sanitising the existence of royalty normalise wider inequality?
In the end in a world run more and more by Artificial Intelligence, monarchies seem to be purposeless antiquated relics, anachronisms that ought to eventually give way to republics.
To understand why, it is important to consider the merits of monarchy objectively without resorting to the tautology that countries ought to be democracies because they ought to be democracies.
Here are the benefits of a Monarchs in the 21st century.
Monarchs can rise above politics in the way an elected head of state cannot. Monarchs represent the whole country in a way democratically elected leaders cannot and do not. The choice for the highest political position in a monarchy cannot be influenced by and in a sense beholden to money, the media, or a political party.
Monarchs are especially important in multi-ethnic countries.
The existence of a monarch makes it difficult to radically or totally alter a country’s politics. Monarchies have the gravitas and prestige to make last-resort, hard, and necessary decisions — decisions that nobody else can make.
Monarchies are repositories of tradition and continuity in ever changing times.
Most monarchies rule within some sort of constitutional or traditional framework which constrains and institutionalizes their powers.
Since anyone, regardless of their personality or interests, can by accident of birth become a monarch, all types of people may become rulers in such a system.
Today’s heirs are educated from birth for their future role and live in the full glare of the media their entire lives.
The pomp and pageantry attracts million in tourist revenue and no place does it better than the land of King Arthur and the knight of the round table. As in previous centuries, monarchy will continue to show itself to be an important and beneficial political institution wherever it still survives.
As a diamond-encrusted crown is placed on the king’s head, your packed local homeless shelter is desperate for help. Don’t you feel proud to be British?
The Beady Eye wishes him and his wife all the best on the 6th May.
Long may the Monarchs exist providing they are solely a tourist attraction that pay for themselves.
All human comments appreciated. All like clicks and abuse chucked in the bin