All manner of trivial stories have been aired regarding today’s Coronation of King Charles III. Who has not been invited, who has declined their invitation? How were the representatives of the British public in the Abbey chosen? Why is the procession route shorter than last time? (It poured with rain and the Queen of Tonga was not the only one who got drenched.) Do duchesses have to wear tiaras? How much will that souvenir be worth at King Charles’s Silver Jubilee? (Not a lot.)
This Coronation will be watched live by untold millions of people; in 1953 it was recorded on film and flown to the Dominions with all possible speed. Few people in Britain had television but we watched on a big screen in the Co-op hall, the first TV programme I remember. It was an event that brought people together across the world but laboriously compared to today’s instant global transmission.
What is this event all about? We had Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last year, with the funeral march from Beethoven’s 3rd symphony still earworming in my head. Not everything can be expressed in words. The music for the coronation will be different; King Charles has commissioned 12 works from British and Commonwealth composers to go with Handel who gave us, ‘Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king: and all the people rejoiced.’ With such music we are invited, almost compelled to rejoice, 3,000 years after Solomon, when Charles is anointed king.
We rejoice because, by the crazy workings of the hereditary system, we have a king who is one like us, imperfect, a sinner, but – by the grace of God – leader, representative, voice of the people.
When he visits a school, factory, ship, railway or bus station, theatre, clinic, hospital, theatre or bridge, he is in loco populi, standing in for the people. A friend who accompanied a spouse to an investiture at Buckingham Palace remembers the event as ‘a moment of national affirmation’. The King represents the best of us, that in us that rejoices to see human flourishing. He also represents God’s goodness, blessing the work he is visiting, blessing the teams doing the work, those who benefit from the work.
The people of Israel wanted a king, to be like other nations. Now we have one because a written part of our unwritten Constitution says so. We can wish him well and pray:
Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
bless Charles our King,
whose Coronation we now celebrate.
Help him to fulfil his responsibilities,
that by his influence
he may maintain unity, goodwill and peace
among his peoples
and that persevering in good works to the end,
he may, by your mercy, come to your everlasting kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
A Prayer for Coronation Day
You order and govern our world and all that is therein,
bless, we pray, Charles and Camilla today
as they are crowned and anointed,
that amid the pomp and ritual,
they may feel your loving presence,
that they may fulfil the roles prescribed for them,
and that we may, in this kingdom, be better governed,
and always reminded of your eternal Kingdom which is to come. Amen.
Prayers from the Church in Wales and United Reformed Church.