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King Charles III crowned as Britain blends tradition and change | News

King Charles III was crowned in Britain’s biggest ceremony in seven years, attended by the royal family, 4,000 British and Commonwealth troops, around 100 world leaders and millions of television viewers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, placed the 360-year-old St Edward’s crown on Charles’ head in a solemn two-hour ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.

Charles’ second wife, Camilla, was also crowned queen, donning the St Mary’s tiara.

The king, sworn to govern justly and uphold the Church of England, is the figurehead. He was then blocked from view by a screen as he was anointed with the oil consecrated in Jerusalem on his hands, head and chest during the holiest part of the ceremony.

After taking the symbolic crown, Welby placed the St. Edward’s crown on his head as the congregation chanted “God save the King”.

“God bless King Charles. Long live King Charles. Long live the King,” said the congregation at the abbey after trumpets blared.

King Charles III leaves his coronation at Westminster Abbey
King Charles III leaves his coronation at Westminster Abbey [Gareth Cattermole/Pool via Reuters]

Gun salutes were fired at the Tower of London and across the nation’s capitals, Gibraltar, Bermuda and ships at sea.

It was the second time the ceremony was televised in an attempt to showcase a forward-looking monarchy, with those involved reflecting a more diverse country and all its religions.

King Charles III prayed for the “blessing” of people “of all faiths and beliefs”, while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the coronation was “a precious ceremony through which a new era is born”.

“No other country can put on such a dazzling display,” he said in a tweet, adding that it was “more than just a spectacle.”

“It’s a proud expression of our history, culture and heritage.”

Charles’ eldest son and heir apparent, Prince William, 40, then knelt before his father and pledged allegiance to his “Lord of life and limb”.

The second son, Prince Harry, was also present at his father’s coronation, but did not play a major role.

Royal biographer Christopher Wilson told Al Jazeera: “He doesn’t have a role, it’s very similar to his uncle Prince Andrew.”

Harry and Andrew are no longer ‘working’ members of the royal family. Harry publicly relinquished his role in 2020 to write a damning book about the royal family, Standby, while Andrew was stripped of his duties.

“On an occasion like the coronation of a king, they don’t matter. It shows that the difficulties facing the family are trivial compared to the enormity of Charles, who promised the country that we should all be equal.”

Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle is staying in California with children Lilibet and Archie.

Prince Harry
Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex “was not involved”. [Toby Melville/Pool via Reuters]

The upper echelons of British society are usually expected to be in full attendance at the coronation, but Charles reportedly wanted the invite list to be “elite rather than aristocratic”.

One hundred heads of state were invited, including members of the royal family including Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and his wife Kiko, Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.

The U.S. holds the record for a president who has never attended a British royal coronation, although first lady Jill Biden traveled to London to attend.

The guest list also included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

World leaders from Russia, Belarus, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela and Iran did not attend. The invites were for top North Korean and Nicaraguan diplomats, not heads of state.

Around 10,000 people are expected to attend the coronation concert at Windsor Castle, including artists such as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Take That and Andrea Bocelli.

South African soprano Pretty Yende met King Charles for the first time last year when she was invited by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to sing at Windsor Castle, where she was chosen to sing solo. She is the first African to do so at a British coronation.

“I was so excited, not nervous,” she said. “It was an incredible time in my life as a young girl, as a South African, as an artist, and nothing but joy filled my heart.”

“A moment in history”

Philippe Buch, a 33-year-old Frenchman, traveled to the coronation with a group of Christians from his church.

“We are very excited because on this day, there is an earthly coronation. At the same time, as Christians, we believe that one day there will be a heavenly coronation, just like Jesus, right, so we are very excited. Excited,” he said.

“It’s a historic moment for the UK. So we’re excited about that too.”

Not everyone in the crowd supported the new king. Tom, who declined to give his full name, said he was demonstrating against the royal family.

“I think monarchies are terrible for democracy,” he said, adding, “They’re a symbol of glorification of colonialism.”

On the eve of the coronation, 20,000 uniformed security officers swept not only London, but its surroundings.

Members from anti-monarchist group Republic gathered near Trafalgar Square in London to protest “not my king” hours before the coronation.

The group’s leader, Graham Smith, was one of six people arrested ahead of the coronation.

“Graham Smith and 5 members of our team were arrested this morning. Hundreds of placards were confiscated. Is this democracy?” the group said in a tweet.

“This is the biggest security operation in Britain in decades, bigger than the Olympics and the Queen’s funeral. It’s all coordinated by Central Command, an already established special operations room, and it comes from Lammers,” said the former Scotland Yard police officer. Snusrit Mehtab told Al Jazeera.

Monday 8 May has been declared a public holiday. The royal family has called on Britons to take up voluntary work in their communities.

For most of a millennium, England and Britain’s kings and queens were crowned at Westminster Abbey in London, a ceremony that has changed little over the centuries.

38 monarchs were crowned at the abbey.

Britain’s last coronation was in 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at the age of 27. Since 1601, only one coronation has taken place in May.

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