Britain welcomes Carolean era as King Charles and Queen Camilla are crowned at Westminster Abbey

·4-min read

Britain crowned its first new monarch of the 21st century on Saturday as King Charles III swore an oath of duty – “not to be served, but to serve” – seven months after the death of his mother. His wife Camilla was crowned Queen.

Cheers, bells and gun salutes nationwide marked the historic moment in a ceremony with one or two modern touches but mostly tradition – including persistent rain that fell just as it had 70 years ago, in 1953.

There were a few protests, and criticism over a handful of arrests, but overwhelmingly the day belonged to Charles and a new generation of royals as he became the 40th monarch crowned in Westminster Abbey since William the Conqueror in 1066.

Prince Harry walked alone into the abbey, behind Princess Eugenie and her husband, and sat in the third row, along with Prince Andrew, whose arrival was booed, and other non-working royals. Neither prince played any role in the service, and the Duke of Sussex was believed to have flown back to California immediately afterwards.

Shortly after midday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby placed St Edward’s Crown on Charles’ head, taking several seconds to secure it. Charles was then anointed with holy oil away from public view, shielded by a screen.

A fanfare was played and the abbey’s bells rang for two minutes after the crowning, with gun salutes fired from nearby Horse Guards Parade, the Tower of London and saluting stations across the nation and from warships at sea.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby carefully places St Edward’s Crown onto the head of King Charles at Westminster Abbey (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby carefully places St Edward’s Crown onto the head of King Charles at Westminster Abbey (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Volleys of gunfire were heard at Hillsborough, Cardiff and Edinburgh castles, Stonehenge and HMS Lancaster, which had sailed to Sudan to help British citizens and others escape the fighting in Khartoum.

A touching moment came as Prince William paid traditional homage, bending to kiss Charles on the cheek. “Thank you, William,” the king quietly replied.

It was then the turn of Camilla, who shifted slightly in her chair and brushed her fringe as Queen Mary’s Crown was lowered onto her head – an unequivocal crowning that would barely have been imagined a decade ago.

King Charles’ estranged son Prince Harry cut a lonely figure at the ceremony as wife Meghan Markle remained at home in California (REUTERS)
King Charles’ estranged son Prince Harry cut a lonely figure at the ceremony as wife Meghan Markle remained at home in California (REUTERS)

“The weight of the task given you today, your majesties, is only bearable by the spirit of God, who gives us the strength to give our lives to others,” said Mr Welby.

Charles delivered a King’s Prayer, the first time a monarch has spoken words to God aloud during a coronation, and he prayed to be a "blessing" to people of "every faith and conviction".

It was also a significant day for younger royals; Prince George was page of honour for his grandfather and Princess Charlotte, who this week turned eight, wore a headpiece to match her mother Kate, but it was once again expressive Prince Louis who stole the show by waving from his carriage and failing to stifle a yawn.

There was a slight modern touch with an Alleluia performed by the Ascension gospel choir, but plenty of traditional music including Handel’s Zadok The Priest, written for the coronation of  King George II in 1727.

Camilla adjusts her hair under the weight of the crown as she is proclaimed queen by the Archbishop of Canterbury (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Camilla adjusts her hair under the weight of the crown as she is proclaimed queen by the Archbishop of Canterbury (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Crowds along the procession route watched the newly-crowned king and queen return to Buckingham Palace for a salute by 4,000 troops on the lawn.

Charles and Camilla then appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony to watch a scaled-down flypast of helicopters and the Red Arrows through the drizzle, waving to enthusiastic crowds below.

There were some protests against the day’s events, including in Cardiff and in Glasgow where thousands marched shouting “not my king!”.

In London, police arrested republican protesters as early as 7am. A man was arrested in St James’s Park by officers who said his megaphone might “scare the horses”.

 (PA)
(PA)

Nathan McGovern, spokesman for campaign group Republic, described the arrests as "nothing short of a totalitarian crackdown on free speech and all forms of dissent".

In London, thousands of royal fans remained along the procession route towards Buckingham Palace despite the persistent rain.

Jenny Youldon, from Surrey, slept overnight in a camp chair. “"We didn’t get much sleep. It was a little cold. It was worth it though,” she said.

"The people have been really lovely and helpful. We got to see the King crowned (on the large screen).When everyone sung God Save The King it was very emotional. It was special seeing the coach.”

Jo Faulkner, who had arrived at 6am, said: “It has been wonderful all day long. We came here for the jubilee, we came here for the funeral and now we are here. They were all special in different ways. It’s great to have a happy occasion.”