Charles may send signal with ‘huge break with tradition’, says expert

Prince Harry: Expert discusses attendance at King’s coronation

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King Charles’s Coronation may feature a “huge break with tradition”, an expert has said. While Queen Elizabeth II was the first monarch in British history to agree to have her Coronation televised, the moment of her anointing was shielded from the camera lenses – and, as a result, from the public eye.

There are chances that Charles, however, will be filmed as the Archbishop of Canterbury performs the “most sacred” duty in the “most sacred ceremony” of the Church of England, Dr George Gross, Visiting Research Fellow in Theology at King’s College London, believes.

A similar choice would be “huge” in terms of breaking with the past – and likely to be pushed against by the Church of England, Dr Gross continued.

Dr Gross told “It would be huge in terms of revealing the most sacred moment in, effectively, the most sacred ceremony within the Church of England.

“It would be a huge break with tradition, a massive moment, because then there would be no real mystery left to the ceremony, it would all be there to be seen, the mystery element would be removed, that would be the big moment. It has been kept a mystery until now.

“Obviously, those who are around the monarch during the service would see what’s going on anyway.

“And traditionally, if we go way back, plenty of people would have seen the anointing in the Abbey. But it is a mystery for the wider public.”

Dr Gross explained the decision to show the anointment could represent a major statement from King Charles about his reign.

Noting Charles had already allowed having televised the Accession Council, Dr Gross said: “It would set a precedent that more things could be filmed throughout his reign if this one is revealed, it’s significant because this move could set a big statement early on.

“But equally, if they don’t show it, I don’t think it will mean he doesn’t want to be an open monarch, because this just is a very holy moment within the service.”

Looking back to the Accession Council held four months ago, Dr Gross said: “Obviously the Accession Council was filmed for the first time in September. So that increases the chance that the anointing could be shown, because if they were breaking tradition there, then they could do the same in this case.

“So I think there is a chance, I think a decision on that though, a bit like with the Accession Council, will not be made until right at the last minute.”

He continued: “I think there is a chance, but I think that from the Church’s angle, they would be very keen not to broadcast it because this is the holy of holies, this is the most significant moment within the ceremony, and so I think there would be a push not to.

“And it sort of comes back to Walter Bagehot’s famous advice ‘not to let in daylight upon magic’, the mystery element.

“I think there is a chance, I wouldn’t say it’s even at 50/50 but it’s certainly not at zero.

“It’s difficult to know but, because of the Accession Council element, having done the filming of that, they broke tradition there so they might do it again here.”

The Accession Council, comprised mostly of Privy Council members, officially confirmed the country had a new King some 36 hours after Charles’s accession to the throne.

The King’s Coronation is taking place on May 6 at Westminster Abbey.

While Buckingham Palace has yet to share most details about the ceremony, Dr Gross noted the decision on the anointing would be just one of the possible ways for Charles to send messages regarding his future years on the throne.

Other decisions sending a signal will likely have to do with the guest list and how many religious leaders from different denominations are in attendance, Dr Gross said.

He added: “All Coronation services through history have sent a message, sometimes they are of continuity, sometimes of a clear break, sometimes of something in particular. The timing of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation signalled a new age, breaking free from WWII and looking ahead to a big change.”

The new King, Dr Gross added, may decide to send a message on climate, which Charles has been fighting to protect for more than five decades.

Dr Gross is co-leading with Dr David Crankshaw – Lecturer in the History of Early Modern Christianity at King’s – research on the “British Coronations Project c.973–present”, a comprehensive analysis of what these events reveal about our past, our present and about ourselves.

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