The Coronation of King Charles III

By: Hadi Rahim

For the first time in seventy years, a British monarch will be coronated. On May 6th, King Charles III will become the oldest person to be crowned King in British history. 

King Charles ascended the throne upon the death of his mother, Elizabeth II. The Queen was the longest-serving British monarch in history and was one of the most famous people in the world. She was the monarch for so long that she set the standard of how a modern monarch should behave: a non-political symbolic figure that engages in purely ceremonial activities. 

The monarch of the United Kingdom is the head of state of the country as well as over a dozen other nations. These nations make up the Commonwealth, an association of fifty-six states primarily made up of former British colonies that the monarch is considered the symbolic leader of.

Due to her long reign, the Queen became such an incredibly well-known cultural and historical figure that most people couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. The Queen was also very well-liked and usually enjoyed an approval rating in the high 90s. Her son Charles, however, is a much more controversial figure. This is primarily due to his conduct during his marriage and later divorce from Princess Diana in the 1990s as well as his affair with the now Queen Consort, Camilla. According to a recent Ipsos poll, only half of Britons think he is doing a good job. This is a stark contrast to his mother. Many worry that Charles is just too controversial to take on such a role. 

However, at the end of the day, polls don’t really matter; Charles is King after all. He occupies an office that historically has never seemed to really care about approval ratings.

The ceremony will take place around 11 A.M. local time at Westminster Abbey. The famous church where English monarchs have been crowned for nearly one thousand years. The event is expected to last for only around an hour. 

The King will sit on the “throne” officially called the “Coronation Chair,” and while holding a golden scepter and orb, he will take an oath to uphold justice within the U.K. and the Commonwealth, and he will swear to defend Christianity as the faith of the land. This is because one of the official roles of the monarch is to be the “Defender of the Faith”. Interestingly, in a 1994 interview, the then-prince said that he also wanted to be a “Defender of faith” in general. This statement was controversial at the time but it was made in an attempt to be more inclusive to other religions in the U.K.

Coronations have always been religious ceremonies. This is because during the Middle Ages, it was thought that monarchs got their power from God. This was known as the “Divine right of kings”.

Over the course of a millennium, the power of the monarchy has declined significantly. The institution used to have absolute unchecked power over England. But power gradually shifted to Parliament over time. Gone are the days of the wife-murdering  Henry VIII. Today the King isn’t even supposed to speak his mind on anything remotely controversial. The Monarch’s power still technically exists. All government entities including the Parliament, the Prime Minister, and the Cabinet, get their power from the King in the same way that the President, Congress, and Supreme Court get their power from the Constitution. The U.K.’s “constitution” isn’t a single written document but rather a loose collection of statutes and treaties written over a thousand-year period. Many of the famous constitutional artifacts such as the Magna Carta (1215) and the English Bill of Rights (1689) have to do with limiting the power of this King while still maintaining that the power to limit the power of the King comes from the King. 

The King’s power still technically exists; all bills passed by Parliament must get “royal assent,” and the King still has the power to veto all laws. However, this power hasn’t been exercised since the early 18th century. The use of the power today would be so controversial today that if the King were to ever use it there would be an instant revolution. 

Today the monarchy is much more controversial in part because of the unpopularity of the new King. Many Britons today see the monarchy as a symbol of oppression, racism, and imperialism. Opponents of the monarchy also say that it’s a waste of money. Others see the monarchy as a harmless institution that brings in tourism dollars to the country and gives the nation a unifying, nonpolitical figure to act as head of state. 

As for the United States, despite the nation’s history of fighting against a monarchy, many Americans are fascinated by the institution. Either for its historical significance or aesthetics. Royal weddings are still watched by tens of millions of Americans. Millions of Americans visit London every year, bringing in billions of dollars for the UK. 

Whether or not Americans, or even Britons, bother to watch the coronation on Saturday, the monarchy and King Charles III will continue to play a central role in the British political system as well as in British culture. 

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