King Charles III celebrated his highly-publicized coronation over the weekend and it was every bit as regal as advertised. The media provided non-stop coverage in the weeks leading up to the event, which was enough to have many American citizens wondering: but why do we care?
The United States of America fought a bloody war to free themselves from rule of the British crown. This fact inspires many critics to wonder why, exactly, we’re so obsessed with the British monarchy. There are several reasons for this, but Charles’ coronation highlighted one of the most prevalent. In short, Americans are desperately missing the pageantry of a formal ceremony.
Yes, the reigning monarch is a figurehead. And yes, Charles technically became king upon his mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September. But there’s no denying the beauty of a solemn, symbolism-heavy ceremony that’s steeped in centuries of tradition. This is true regardless of anyone’s personal opinions about King Charles or his politics.
The king was crowned at Westminster Abbey, a visually stunning Gothic style church erected in the 11th century. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican church’s most senior cleric, led the religious ceremony. Charles was the 40th monarch to be crowned there, following a long line of previous rulers starting with William the Conqueror on Christmas Day in 1066.
The royal family website described the coronation as a “solemn religious service” and a “ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch with regal power.”
“The coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement earlier this year.
Since the late 14th century, coronations have followed the instructions laid out in the Liber Regalis or “royal book,” a medieval Latin manuscript that describes the order of service, per ABC News.
In an increasingly secularized society, many Americans never experience these types of culturally significant moments during church services and other religious occasions. Ancient rituals are often replaced with more modern ceremonies that bear no connection to the past. Just a glance at the unadorned lines of modern architecture compared to the intricate details of Westminster Abbey clearly highlight these changes.
This is one reason an event like a coronation, even in a foreign nation, is so oddly appealing for someone who isn’t personally affected by the crowning of kings and queens in the slightest.
Numerous historical artifacts were incorporated into the coronation ceremony, including King Edward’s Chair, which has been used in these types of ceremonies for 700 years. This artifact houses the Stone of Destiny, which was built around 1300 and used for centuries to crown Scottish kings.
Another special item used in the ceremony is a coronation cross which includes shards of wood from the cross that’s believed to have been used to crucify Jesus Christ.
The outfits worn by the royal family were all befitting of the important occasion. The monarch arrived at the ceremony dressed in the crimson velvet Robe of State, which was also worn by his grandfather King George VI at his 1937 coronation, per Reuters.
King Charles changed into ceremonial regalia worn before being crowned, slipping on the gold-silk full-length Supertunica coat and Coronation Sword Belt, and over that, the gold cloth Imperial Mantle, which was originally made for the coronation of George IV in 1821. This was the oldest vestment included in the service. Charles was crowned with the historic St. Edward’s Crown that has been used since the coronation of King Charles II in 1661.
The Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine, also wore formal robes and mantels over their outfits. Kate wore a visually stunning headpiece made of silver and crystal leaves.
Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent in history, waiting over 70 years to be crowned king. Now he is reigning monarch but all eyes were on his oldest son, Prince William, who has become a favorite in the United Kingdom along with his wife Kate Middleton and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
George, who is 9, served as a page for his grandfather during the ceremony. This made him the youngest future king to play an official role in a crowning ceremony. King Charles and George’s great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth both attended their parents’ coronations in 1953 and 1937 when they were children, but were only invited to watch the service and didn’t participate.
It’s true that King Charles is more progressive than his mother Queen Elizabeth, with a specific emphasis on environmentalism and climate activism. But for all his ideologies, Charles is still firmly rooted in tradition.
Prince William mentioned this during his speech at the coronation concert on Sunday.
“As my grandmother said, when she was crowned, coronations are a declaration of our hopes for the future, and I know she’s up there fondly keeping an eye on us, and she’d be a very proud mother,” the Prince of Wales said.
“My father’s first words, on entering Westminster Abbey yesterday, were a pledge of service,” he continued.
“It was a pledge to continue to serve, because for over 50 years, in every corner of the UK, across the Commonwealth, and around the world, he has dedicated himself to serve others, both current and future generations, and those whose memory must not be neglected,” William said.
As an increasingly noisy faction of Americans seek to tear down institutions and subvert tradition at every turn, seeing the beauty and tradition of King Charles’ coronation reminds them of why human beings are naturally drawn to beauty, truth, and tradition.