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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Coronation of Charles III: “Exclusive interview with the monarchy

On May 6, Charles III will be crowned king in Westminster Abbey in London. A historic event that involves its share of questions. How will the ceremony take place, what roles for Camilla, William or Kate Middleton? Lighting.

The long-awaited event is fast approaching. On May 6, Charles III will be crowned in Westminster Abbey alongside his wife, Queen Consort Camilla. This historic coronation was last held 70 years ago, with the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. Combining tradition and modernity, Charles III called for a coronation in his image. The ceremony, which will be less time-consuming and less expensive, has been in preparation for years. For Gala Mag, the historian Kévin Guillot offers us a glimpse behind the scenes of this ceremony.

Gala Magazine : Why is the coronation of Charles III only taking place on May 6th, when Elizabeth II died on September 8th?

Kévin Guillot: Simply because there is an official period of mourning to respect. The coronation is considered a joyful event, which really highlights the institution throughout the world, so we have to wait a little. The British waited about six months for Charles III and 14 months for Elizabeth II, so it wasn’t that long.

Gala Magazine : Has the coronation of Charles III, known as Operation Golden Orb, been in preparation for a long time?

K.G. : The coronation of Charles III has been in the making for years. The great events of the monarchy are prepared years in advance. We know that Elizabeth II had prepared her own funeral since the 1970s, so it is something that is done very much in advance. These are very precise events, with every moment of the ceremony having a symbolism. There must be no false steps, everything must be calibrated. Elizabeth II had a four-hour coronation, but Charles III decided that his coronation would be shorter, less lavish than that of his mother. Especially in view of the economic context, a coronation as lavish as his mother’s would be frowned upon. The ceremony was expected to last at least two hours.

Concerning the crown of Charles III, there is no realization to have, since it is already created, it is the crown of Saint Edward, the crown that creates the kings of England. It is a crown that he will wear only once in his life. It is made of gold and weighs a little over 4 kilos, created in 1660 at the time of the restoration of the monarchy. Charles III himself at the time of the interviews had told it: his mother giving them a bath, practicing to wear this heavy crown… But I don’t think he’s practicing in his turn. Elizabeth II, as a woman, wasn’t used to wearing heavy things on her head, whereas Charles is used to wearing helmets or the big bear-hair cap when he’s in uniform. So if he prepares, it will be only a few days before the ceremony and not months in advance.

Gala Magazine : Not legally required, was a coronation ceremony really necessary ?

K.G. : The British monarchy does not function like other European monarchies. As in Spain, the Netherlands or Norway, there is no more coronation. It is the last monarchy in Europe that still has a coronation. It is the last European monarch who still wears the crown, the other monarchs have the crown next to them on a cushion. The United Kingdom is a European exception. This coronation has a much more symbolic dimension than the accession itself. In fact, the monarchy never dies. Elizabeth II died, Charles III became king automatically, with the last breath of his mother. Then he was officially proclaimed. But the coronation is there to give him especially its religious symbolism, since he is also the head of the Church of England. This is a spiritual dimension that other European monarchs do not have, they are not the heads of their own church. With the coronation, he becomes the head of the Church of England. Simply put, the accession to the throne is the civil marriage of the sovereign with his nation, while the coronation is the religious marriage with his nation.

Gala Magazine : Is the coronation of Charles III an opportunity to make the monarchy shine?

K.G. : All eyes will turn to the United Kingdom. As with a state funeral or a royal wedding, these are real publicity stunts for the monarchy. It is the moment when the monarchy expresses itself in its most beautiful finery, and it is at this moment that people are interested in the monarchy. Then, we forget it a little… Elizabeth II, when she represented her country through different obligations, whether it was a hospital visit or something else, we didn’t necessarily have our eyes on the royal family every time they came out of their palace. Now it’s really a time when you’re interested in the monarchy because it makes people dream. That’s something that has been lost with other monarchies. There is not as much pomp and circumstance, except perhaps in the Spanish monarchy, which is still very codified. That’s really what makes the British monarchy so popular around the world.

Gala Magazine : How exactly will the ceremony take place?

K.G.: First Charles III will be crowned and then Camilla. Camilla became queen consort, a title that is given to the wife of the sovereign’s wife, because she is not queen by right as Elizabeth II could be, so she can not be crowned before Charles III. It is first Charles III, because he is the king and then Camilla, because she is the wife of the king. She has no political role, she will not sign any law, she will not represent the crown alone, she will almost always be at the side of her husband. Her role, like Prince Philip, will be to support her husband. But the case of Prince Philip was different, he was not king consort, because it is a title that does not exist in the United Kingdom, he was prince consort. Why do not we give the title of king? Simply for fear that the husband of the queen would take over from his wife, while it is she who is the real queen. The coronation of a reigning queen is done exclusively for the queen.

Gala Magazine : Will Camilla have to pay allegiance to her husband Charles III?

K.G.: There will be an automatic allegiance. When Camilla takes the oath with the archbishop of Canterbury, she will automatically swear allegiance to her husband. But on the other hand, when the dukes and peers of England come to swear in the monarch, they will both be on their thrones, and they will all come to swear in the king, and Camilla will be at his side. But she will not kneel before Charles III.

Gala Magazine : What role for Prince William ?

K.G.: I was just about to come to that. There should be some changes at this coronation. Normally, all dukes and pairs are supposed to pledge allegiance to the king at the time of the ceremony. But Charles III, to reduce the time of the ceremony, would like to grant the right to kneel before the monarch only to William. Because he is Prince of Wales, heir to the crown. Thus, all other pairs of the United Kingdom will have to remain on their seats and should not come to kneel before the king. This would be a real novelty. There are about sixty pairs. As for Kate Middleton, she will not have a role. She’ll just watch the ceremony from the royal box, but that’s all she’ll do. The wives of pairs of England do not have an official role in this ceremony.

Gala Magazine : Will Charles III sleep the night before at Westminster as is the tradition?

K.G. : This is a tradition that dates back to the 21st century, under William the Conqueror. The monarch used to come and sleep at the Palace of Westminster, the current parliament, which used to be a royal residence in London. Since it is next to Westminster Abbey, the monarch slept there the night before his coronation. Except that this tradition was later lost. From Queen Victoria onwards, all the monarchs who succeeded her did not sleep in Parliament. And if Elizabeth II had not slept in the parliament either, it is because the bed had been lost… It had been dismantled during the Second World War to be protected from bombing, but the place was so secret that no one was able to find the bed! It was later known that it had been sold at auction to a family in Wales, and then it was found in 1979. A family slept in this bed for about 15 years and the owner’s wife even gave birth to her youngest son. The bed was restored and put back in the state room of the Palace of Westminster. But I am sure that Charles III will not sleep there. He is very attached to tradition but I don’t think he wants to be seen as such a conservative king. He should sleep at Clarence House where he currently sleeps, not living at Buckingham Palace as it is currently being renovated.

Gala Magazine : Unlike Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, does Charles III sleep with Camilla?

K.G.: Elizabeth II was part of the old school. As a monarch, you didn’t sleep with your husband. But Charles III sleeps well with Camilla, as he slept with Lady Diana in the past. They are people who live in their time. The day before the coronation, he will be with Camilla.

*Kevin Guillot, author of the book William, the prince who wanted to be king, to be published next September by City.

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