Whatever one may think of the British Royal Family, one thing cannot be denied – the very concept that is monarchy is one of the oldest forms of political institution in human history. From the earliest known civilisations, kingdoms and empires have played a pivotal role in the shaping of human history. It is no different nowadays in the 21st century, despite the number of republics that exist today. So, why is it worth talking about the British Royal Family and the new monarch of the United Kingdom, King Charles III? Although he is not as popular a royal figure as his mother and predecessor, Elizabeth II, who sadly passed away last September, it does not change the fact that Charles’ role as the new King of the United Kingdom is one that will undoubtedly contribute to the pages of British royal history, no matter how significant.
Although Charles automatically acceded to the British Throne on the 8th September 2022, following the death of his mother, the then-Queen Elizabeth II, official coronations and the subsequent crowing of the new respective monarch does not take place until several months later, due to the heavy planning of the coronation itself and the national public celebrations that come with it. It was no exception this time.
On Saturday 6th May, at Westminster Abbey in London, Charles was officially crowned King of the United Kingdom according to all of the state traditions that every new monarch must abide by during the ceremony. Charles’ wife, Camilla, was also crowned Queen of the United Kingdom. As with most other European monarchies, if the new monarch is a king, his wife can be crowned queen, but if the new monarch is a queen, then her husband cannot be given the title of King. Instead, he is known as a crown prince. This is why Elizabeth II’s husband, Philip, who died in 2021, only bore the title of Crown Prince, not King. Such is the nature of a hereditary monarchy in Europe.
As the British monarch is also the head of the Church of England – a branch of the Protestant Christian faith founded by Tudor King Henry VIII (b. 1491 – d. 1547) – Charles III’s coronation was conducted by members of the Anglican clergy, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. With the anointing of Charles with holy oil and his donning of the royal coronation regalia, the religious element of the event is strong and consistent with every crowing of a new monarch, despite the growing irreligious nature of the United Kingdom. This is another factor contributing to the importance of the retention of the British Monarchy – in the face of growing domestic neglect and hostility towards the old traditions of Britain (stretching back to even the centuries prior to the formation of the Union in 1707), the continued existence of the monarchy and the traditions that it embodies and carries out will always be crucial as a reminder that Britain is not a land that is devoid of culture, tradition and historical national sentiment, but rather quite the opposite. One of the main problems is that so many people of the British Isles nowadays – especially the youth – simply do not wish to acknowledge such things, so devoid of pride and love of nation that they are.
Camilla herself was crowned in a smaller ceremony that was simpler in nature, although still of vital importance, being the wife of the new monarch and all.
Following the crowning ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the new King and Queen were escorted to Buckingham Palace, where they appeared alongside the rest of their family on the famous palace balcony to a rapturous audience of hundreds of thousands of people crowding the long Union flag-adorned road leading from Trafalgar Square all the way up to the palace gates themselves.
Despite the heavy British cultural pomp that surrounded the event, the coronation was not without controversy and opposition from various factions. For starters, unlike previous royal coronations, which almost exclusively acknowledged the role of the Church of England – and Christianity as a whole – within the institution of the British Monarchy and the British nation, Charles’ coronation placed significantly more emphasis on him representing people of multiple different faiths and ethnic/racial backgrounds within the United Kingdom, as well as the ceremony itself being shorter in length of time when compared to Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. Public opinion over the coronation itself and the idea of Charles being King was also rather mixed, considering that he is not the most popular living member of the Royal Family. That honour, arguably, goes to Charles’ eldest son and heir, Prince William and his wife Kate. It is generally believed, however, that Charles may eventually decide to abdicate the Throne and hand over the Crown to William within the next decade.
The coronation itself was also noted for a significant number of anti-monarchist protests organised by republican movements. As of 2023, the majority of British people believe that the Monarchy should be kept.
As expected, there were also numerous individuals and groups representing ethnic and racial minority communities who expressed negative sentiments towards the coronation and the Royal Family in general, claiming that the British Monarchy continues to espouse imperialist rhetoric, somehow. Although the British Monarch is also the head-of-state for other nations within the Commonwealth (a community of nations loyal to the Crown following the dissolution of the British Empire), the British Monarch’s level of power – even symbolic power – is far less significant than it is in Britain itself.
It is important to be aware of events such as the crowning of a new European monarch, given the ancient system of politics that is the monarchy and how crucial the Crown is in any monarchical nation when one looks for ideas on how best to unite a nation, especially in these current turbulent times. When party politics – especially in republics – can so heavily divide a nation, the people need a symbol to rally behind as one, whether that be a national flag, uniting ideal/cause or a monarch. In the United Kingdom, arguably one of the most – if not THE most – uniting symbol for the British people is the Monarchy, which has served to appeal to millions of people as a positive symbol of Britain, drawing in supporters from all sides of the political spectrum, left, liberal and right alike. May it always continue to be so…and God save the King.
ETN Board Member (Serbia)
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