The Coronation’s spellbinding reflection of faiths and tradition

King Charles Coronation: Monarch waves to crowd on balcony

King Charles and Queen Camilla were crowned in a service full of pageantry and tradition that sought to reflect the different faiths and nations of modern Britain.

The two-hour long spellbinding Coronation at Westminster Abbey had a theme of the monarch’s ­service to the nation at its heart.

But it also went to great lengths to include all four home nations, female clergy and all faiths in ­several additions to the liturgy.

From the moment of his entry into the Abbey at 11.01am, the King made it clear that his greatest ambition is to serve his people.

The 74-year-old monarch was welcomed by 14-year-old chorister Samuel Strachan “in the name of the King of Kings” – a reference to Jesus Christ.

The King replied: “In his name, and after his example, I come not to be served but to serve.”

In his opening words, the Archbishop stated this was an occasion of celebration and dedication.

He spoke of the joy of those in the Abbey at his “anointing and crowning” of the King for the ­“service of his people”.

The ceremony celebrated the United Kingdom as a country of unique nations which is home to people of different languages.

Then the Abbey was filled with the sound of a sung prayer in Welsh led by Sir Bryn Terfel – “Arglwydd, trugarha” – “Lord have mercy”.

Three figures from across national life, Lady Elish Angiolini, Scotland’s first female Lord Advocate; George Cross recipient Christopher Finney; and Baroness Valerie Amos, the first black woman to serve as a Cabinet minister and Leader of the House of Lords, presented Charles to the congregation as their “undoubted King”.


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Each time, those present responded with a resounding: “God save King Charles.”

When he was presented with the Bible by Dr Iain Greenshields, the present Moderator of the Church of Scotland, a clearly emotional Charles glanced across at Camilla.

It was time for the King to take – and sign – his oath, declaring he is a “faithful Protestant” and promising his judgments would be executed with “law and justice” in mercy.

The King read aloud a prayer ­specially written for him.

He prayed: “God of compassion and mercy, whose Son was sent not to be served but to serve, give grace that I may find in thy service perfect freedom and in that freedom knowledge of thy truth.

“Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace.”

In yet another sign of how Britain has transformed, Rishi Sunak, the first Hindu Prime Minister, read from the Epistle to the Colossians. Next, the choir sang from a psalm of rejoicing to new music composed by Debbie Wiseman.

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, then read a passage from the Gospel of Luke.

Eight gospel singers from the Ascension Choir then performed the sung Alleluia.

In his sermon, Archbishop Justin Welby said: “The King of Kings, Jesus Christ, was anointed not to be served but to serve.

“He creates the unchangeable law that with the privilege of power comes the duty to serve. Service is love in action.

“We see active love in our care for the most vulnerable, the way we nurture and encourage the young, in the conservation of the natural world. We have seen those priorities in the life of duty lived by our King.”

In another moment which set this Coronation apart from those of the past, verses were sung in English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic in an arrangement of Veni Creator – a hymn that is attributed to ninth-century saint Rabanus Maurus.

The ceremony now reached its most sacred moment, the anointing of the King, with oil presented by Dr Hosam Naoum, the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem.

The Coronation Oil was made using fruit from the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is recorded as ascending to Heaven.

It had personal significance for the King as it was made with olives harvested at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene, the resting place of his grandmother – the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother – Princess Alice of Greece.

During his anointing the choir burst into Handel’s magnificent anthem of Zadok the Priest which described people rejoicing at the anointing of Solomon, exclaiming: “God save the King! Long live the King! May the King live for ever!”

Charles was hidden behind the Anointing Screen, a masterpiece of embroidery emblazoned with the image of a tree representing the 56 countries of the Commonwealth, for this private part of the service.

The screen was removed and the King knelt in his shirt before the High Altar to receive a blessing for this life and the next.

The Archbishop touched the monarch’s hands, breast and head with the oil, praying he would be a blessed and consecrated King over the peoples “whom the Lord your God has given you to rule and govern”.

Charles was then clad in the “colobium sindonis” – a shroud tunic – to symbolise the shedding of vanity. This was the same one worn by his grandfather, King George VI, in 1937.

Then he put on the “super­tunica”, a full-length golden coat made for the Coronation of King George V in 1911.

After this he was presented with spurs as a symbol of honour and courage by the Lord Great Chamberlain, Rupert Carington.

Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, presented the Jewelled Sword to the King. This was the first time a woman has acted as the bearer of the royal sword.

The gleaming weapon was placed in the monarch’s right hand and then attached to the King’s girdle.

Mr Welby prayed over the sword, asking that with it the King would “stop the growth of iniquity” and “punish and reform what is amiss”.

The King stood, unclipped the sword and handed it to the Dean of Westminster, Dr David Hoyle, who placed it on the altar, before it was returned to Ms Mordaunt.

Charles was next presented with the Armills – known as the “bracelets of sincerity and wisdom” – by Lord Kamall, a Muslim.

Baroness Merron, representing the Jewish community, presented Charles with the Royal Robe, a floor-length cloak made for George IV that features roses, thistles, shamrocks, crowns, eagles and fleurs-de-lis.

The King gave a small smile to his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, as William approached to clothe him with the Stole Royal – a golden priestly scarf.

The Anglican Archbishop of Armagh, John McDowell, next brought forward the Orb, which symbolises the rule of Christ over the “kingdoms of this world”.

Lord Patel, a Hindu, presented the Coronation Ring as a symbol of “kingly dignity”, before Lord Singh, a Sikh, presented the Coronation Glove, with the Archbishop praying the King would “hold authority with gentleness and grace”.

Charles placed the glove, made for King George VI, on his right hand.

Andrew John, the Archbishop of the Church in Wales, and Mark Strange, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, brought forward the Sceptre – a symbol of “kingly power and justice” – and the Rod, which represents “covenant and peace”.

Now the Coronation reached its climax, with the Dean of Westminster handing the Crown of St Edward to the Archbishop.

Made for Charles II in 1661, its rubies, amethysts, sapphires and topazes glowed with timeless glory.

The Archbishop prayed that God would bless the Crown and “sanctify thy servant Charles upon whose head this day thou dost place it for a sign of royal majesty”.

He brought it down on the head of the King and after a few nervous moments making sure it would not fall off, he exclaimed four words which were repeated by the congregation and echoed across the country and Commonwealth: “God save The King!”.

A fanfare sounded and the Abbey bells rang for two minutes. Not far from the Abbey, at Horse Guards Parade, a royal gun salute fired.

The time had come for the King to be enthroned.

The Prince of Wales, wearing his navy blue Order of the Garter mantle over his red Welsh Guards’ ceremonial dress uniform as Colonel of the regiment, then stepped forward to offer his own “words of fealty”.

He said: “I, William, Prince of Wales, pledge my loyalty to you and faith and truth I will bear unto you, as your liege man of life and limb.”

Body language expert Judi James said Charles and William “seemed to have made a pact to avoid too much eye contact during the ceremony, possibly because Charles did look in danger of getting overwhelmed with emotion at some points.

“There was a micro-glance as William tied his cape and then we could see William looking away as he did his pledge, although there was one moment after that when they met eye contact briefly and we got a look of warmth and gratitude from Charles to his son.”

Following this Mr Welby invited those in the hall to join with a new “homage of the people” to the King, which replaced the traditional homage of peers.

Great swathes of those gathered beneath the abbey’s ancient roof said: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”

A fanfare played out and the people declared: “God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May The King live forever.”

The moment had arrived for Queen Camilla to be crowned. Mr Welby anointed her head with oil, praying she would be “strong in faith and love” and guided in “truth and peace”.

In a break with tradition, this was done in public and not under a canopy.

She was presented with a ruby ring made for Queen Adelaide in 1831 for the Coronation of King William IV.

The Dean of Westminster presented the Archbishop with Queen Mary’s Crown to place upon her head.

This was commissioned by Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, for the 1911 Coronation and repurposed “in the interests of sustainability and efficiency”.

The Bishop of Dover Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the first woman to serve as Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, presented the Queen with an ivory rod which symbolises “equity and mercy”.

Lord Chartres, the former Bishop of London, brought her the Queen’s sceptre.

In one of the musical highlights of the Coronation, the choir burst into the first public performance of Lord Lloyd-Webber’s new anthem, Make A Joyful Noise.

With the King and Queen now crowned and enthroned, it was time for Holy Communion.

The Sanctus, which has featured in eucharistic prayers since the fifth century, was sung to a new composition by Roxanna Panufnik, a British composer of Polish heritage.

The congregation recited the Lord’s Prayer, before the choir sang the Agnus Dei to an arrangement by Tarik O’Regan, a London-born composer based in San Francisco.

With the service nearing its conclusion, the choir sang 19th century hymn Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven by Henry Francis Lyte.

This hymn was sung at the 1947 wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

At this point the Princess of Wales, wearing a deep blue Royal Victorian Order mantle edged in scarlet over an Alexander McQueen embroidered ivory silk crepe dress, was seen bending down to talk to her son Prince Louis, who had been yawning and fidgeting.

When the congregation stood for the hymn the five-year-old, smartly decked out in a Hainsworth Garter Blue Doeskin Tunic made by bespoke Savile Row tailors Dege and Skinner, left the front row of the Abbey.

This had been anticipated due to his young age.

Eight-year-old Princess Charlotte, who matched her mother by wearing an Alexander McQueen dress in ivory silk crepe, exchanged smiles with Kate as they joined in the hymn following Prince Louis’s departure.

This was followed by William Boyce’s Anthem, which was composed for the coronation of King George III.

During the singing of the Te Deum, Charles and Camilla moved into St Edward’s chapel, behind the high altar.

There they changed into purple Robes of Estate for their departure, with the King swapping the St Edward’s Crown for the lighter Imperial State Crown for the procession to Buckingham Palace.

In a nod to the royal couple’s affection for nature, the Queen’s coronation gown, designed by Bruce Oldfield, was a tailored ivory, silver and gold coat-like dress embroidered with delicate garlands of British wildflowers.

For her arrival at the Abbey, the Queen had worn the crimson velvet Robe of State with long train originally made for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

The King had worn his grandfather George VI’s crimson Robe of State with a new crimson Coronation Tunic, with cream silk overshirt and Royal Naval trousers for his arrival.

The congregation rose to their feet to sing the National Anthem, with Prince Louis returning to his place in the front row.

In proceeding out of the abbey, Charles was greeted by Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist faith leaders near its Great West Door.

The Gold State Coach was waiting outside as the King and Queen began the next chapter of their life of loving service to the nation.

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