London, Waspada.co.id – The coronation service for Britain’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla is underway, a once-in-a-generation royal event that is being witnessed by hundreds of high-profile guests inside the abbey, as well as tens of thousands of well-wishers who have gathered in central London despite the rain.
The King and Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey in a splendid coach drawn by six horses, accompanied by the Household Cavalry.
They then walked down the long aisle wearing historic robes, flanked by the top officials of the Church of England as well as some of their closest family members.
While Charles became King on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II in September last year, the coronation is the formal crowning of the monarch. In a ceremony that is expected to last about two hours, Charles will be officially crowned, presented with an array of ceremonial objects and be recognized as King by various representatives of the British state.
Been without controversy. Some have objected to millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being spent on a lavish ceremony at a time when millions of Britons are suffering a severe cost-of-living crisis.
The coronation has also attracted anti-monarchy demonstrations, with a small number of protesters arrested in central London on Saturday morning before the event began.
Some royal fans have spent the past few days camping along the 1.3-mile (2km) route from Buckingham Palace, the British monarchy’s official London residence, to Westminster Abbey, the nation’s coronation church since 1066. Their desire to secure the best vantage point for the procession was tested on Friday when London was repeatedly doused by heavy rain and hail.
By early Saturday, the London Metropolitan Police Service announced that all viewing areas along the procession route were full and closed off to new arrivals.
The Met said ahead of time that Saturday would be the largest one-day policing operation in decades, with more than 11,500 officers on duty in London. Security around the event came into focus earlier this week when a man was arrested just outside Buckingham Palace after he allegedly threw suspected shotgun cartridges into the palace grounds.
The ceremony was expected to last around two hours — about an hour shorter than Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
The congregation, while including some 2,300 people, is much smaller than it was in 1953 when temporary structures had to be erected within the abbey to accommodate the more than 8,000 people on the guest list.
The doors to the abbey opened just before 8 a.m. local time, with the first guests taking their seats a full three hours before the ceremony began.
Among the first people to arrive were singer Lionel Richie, musician Nick Cave, actresses Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley and Judi Dench, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, and broadcaster Stephen Fry.
Top British officials, faith leaders and international representatives followed in their steps. They all took their seats in the vast church with more than an hour to go — reflecting the huge logistical challenges presented by an event attended by hundreds of VIPs.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was there, as were all his living predecessors: Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, UK opposition leader Keir Starmer and Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt were also in attendance.
First Lady of the United States Jill Biden and the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry were there, as was the Chinese Vice President Han Zheng.
President Emmanuel Macron and numerous other world leaders were also present.
Last to arrive, just before the King and Queen, were the most senior members of King Charles’ family, his siblings and children, including Prince Harry who traveled to the UK from the US without his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and their two young children. Saturday is also Prince Archie’s 4th birthday.
Every faith and conviction’
The ceremony is a profoundly religious affair, reflecting the fact that aside from being head of state of the United Kingdom and 14 other countries, Charles is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It is being led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the spiritual leader of the Church.
However, the Anglican service also includes “representation from other faiths to reflect the diversity of modern Britain,” according to Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, whose family has been responsible for orchestrating state occasions since 1482.
Charles will also be the first monarch to pray aloud at his coronation and, in his prayer, will ask to “be a blessing” to people “of every faith and conviction.
Such changes aside, the coronation is following a traditional template that has stayed much the same for more than 1,000 years. It will include the acts of recognition, oath, anointing, investiture and crowning, followed by enthronement and homage.
Music is playing a central part in the ceremony, and five new compositions have been commissioned for the main part of the service, including an anthem by Lloyd Webber, who is better known for West End musicals.
While most of the ceremony will be visible to the congregation and the TV cameras, the anointment, considered the most sacred part of the service, will take place behind a screen.
Charles’ consort Camilla will also be crowned in a shorter, simpler part of the ceremony.
Once done with the formalities, the newly crowned King and Queen will ride back in a much larger parade to Buckingham Palace, where they will be greeted by a royal salute.
The pomp and pageantry will conclude with the customary balcony appearance by the King and his family as they join the crowds below in watching a flypast of more than 60 aircraft.
Controversies ahead of the big day
While undoubtedly a historic occasion, the run-up to the coronation has seen controversy.
Some voiced displeasure after Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, announced that the traditional “homage of peers” part of the ceremony would be replaced with a “homage of the people.” The palace said the British public, as well as those from “other Realms,” had been invited, for the first time, to recite a pledge of allegiance to the new monarch and his “heirs and successors.”
However, some parts of British media and public interpreted the invitation as a command, reporting that people were “asked” and “called” to swear allegiance to the King.
Republic, a campaign group that calls for the abolition of the monarchy, said the idea was “offensive, tone deaf and a gesture that holds the people in contempt.”
In the face of the backlash, the Church of England revised the text of the liturgy so that members of the public will now be given a choice between saying simply “God save King Charles” or reciting the full pledge of allegiance.
Some eyebrows were also raised earlier this week when a controversial and widely criticized UK public order bill came into force.
Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year, there have been a number of instances of anti-monarchists turning up at royal engagements to voice their grievances against the institution.
The new rules, signed into law by the King on Tuesday, just days before the coronation, empower the police to take stronger action against peaceful protesters.
From Wednesday, long-standing protest tactics such as locking on, where protesters physically attach themselves to things like buildings, could lead to a six-month prison sentence or “unlimited fine,” according to the UK Home Office.
Republic said it had received a letter from the Home Office which set out the new policing powers and asked the campaign group to “forward this letter to your members who are likely to be affected by these legislative changes.” The group added that it would not be deterred by it.
Republic said it was expecting between 1,500 and 2,000 people to join an anti-monarchy protest at Trafalgar Square, just south of the royal procession route. On Saturday morning, Republic said on Twitter that organizers of the protest had been arrested shortly after the demonstration started — including the group’s leader, Graham Smith.
The Metropolitan Police tweeted: “Earlier today we arrested four people in the area of St Martin’s Lane. They were held on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance.”
A further three people were arrested “on suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage,” the force added. And “a number of arrests” have been made of people suspected of breaching the peace.
Republic had said earlier on Twitter that police “won’t say” why their demonstrators were detained. “So much for the right to peaceful protest,” the group said.
Despite the pomp of Saturday’s events, the King is facing significant challenges. A CNN poll has found that Britons are more likely to say their views of the monarchy have worsened than improved over the past decade.
The results of the survey, conducted for CNN by the polling company Savanta in March, show Charles’ heir Prince William is viewed with greater affection than his father.
Despite their cooler attitude towards the King, most Britons say they plan to take part in at least one event related to the coronation this weekend, the poll found, with many communities planning street parties and lunches.
Artists Katy Perry, Richie and Take That will headline the “Coronation Concert” at Windsor Castle on Sunday evening and people have also been encouraged to use Monday, the final day of the long weekend, to volunteer in their communities.
CNN’s Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Max Foster, Catherine Nicholls, Lindsay Isaac and David Wilkinson contributed to this report. (wol/cnn/eko/d1)