Anointed with holy oil and enthroned on St. Edward’s chair, King Charles III was crowned on Saturday in a solemn ritual that stretches back more than a millennium but unfolded with multiple concessions to the modern age.
The coronation, the first since Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953, was a royal spectacle of the kind that only Britain still stages: four hours of pageantry that began with the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on Pall Mall and ended with the vaporous trails of acrobatic jets streaking above Buckingham Palace, as Charles watched from the balcony with Queen Camilla, who had been crowned shortly after him.
Yet this was a coronation for a radically different country than when Elizabeth first wore the crown. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh leaders greeted Charles as he left Westminster Abbey, and there were various attempts — not always successful — to make a medieval ritual more inclusive and democratic.
Female bishops from the Church of England took part in the liturgy; hymns were sung in Welsh, Scottish and Irish Gaelic; and when Charles, 74, took a sacred oath to defend the Protestant faith, he also offered a personal prayer, in which he promised to be a pluralistic monarch for a diverse society.
“I come not to be served, but to serve,” said Charles, moving gingerly in a velvet and gold lace robe first worn by his grandfather, George VI. “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief.”
At the invitation of the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, who presided over the service, the congregation chanted, “God save King Charles,” their voices echoing in the abbey’s vaulted nave.
Among those in the audience of 2,200 were heads of state, including President Emmanuel Macron of France; entertainment