The coronation, with its ancient ceremony, bunting galore and its very own quiche, is finally upon us. Today, the British nation will unite in joyous celebration of the anointing of a new sovereign.
As always with things monarchical in this country, that’s the theory. For some in the British press, the pledge of allegiance that people are invited to make to the new king is seen as a ‘modernising’ gesture that will be welcomed by an adoring public.
Others — notably those on the liberal wing of the fourth estate — see it as a massive own goal by the palace authorities or else by the established church. Anyway, it seems like a tone-deaf gesture at a time when the appeal of the monarchy is on the wane.
Back in the remote past, when Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was watched by the nation on the few black and white televisions they possessed, the pledge of allegiance was sworn only by men dressed in ermine, the peers of the realm.
Ahead of King Charles' coronation, Britons share their memories of his mother Queen Elizabeth's coronation on June 2, 1953, and reflect on how Britain has changed over the past 70 years https://t.co/cJYa0532GJ pic.twitter.com/8Noj8jKrcA— Reuters (@Reuters) May 2, 2023
Alas, the bright idea that Charles III’s subjects might like to join in does not include free ermine gowns as an incentive.
Instead, the Archbishop of Canterbury will call upon “all persons of goodwill in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other realms and the territories to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted king, defender of all.”
Thereafter, the order of service in Westminster Abbey — the scene of so many coronations over the centuries — will read: “All who so desire, in the Abbey and elsewhere, say together: ‘I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.'”
One suspects that those present in the great edifice, ennobled or otherwise, will be under considerable peer pressure (see what I did there?) to do just that. The solemnity of the occasion will be sufficient incentive in itself.
After all, the pledge will be followed by the playing of a fanfare. These fanfares, as we witnessed at the king’s accession in St. James’s Palace, can be very stirring.
The archbishop will then proclaim: “God save the king”, and everyone will be asked to respond: “God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May the king live for ever.”