The last time Britain held a coronation, on a similarly rainy spring day in 1953, then Prince Charles was just four years old. Photos from that day show the young heir standing in between his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and his aunt, Princess Margaret, with a bored expression on his face—not unlike another young royal.
Seventy years later, at King Charles III’s coronation, there are plenty of echoes with the past. Much like his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Charles’ ceremony brimmed with ritual and symbolism rooted in centuries-old tradition. Both coronations were deeply religious affairs and featured much of the pomp and pageantry that one would expect from a major royal event. Quite aside from the terrible weather, both ceremonies took place against difficult economic backdrops: At the time of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, post-war rationing was still in place. Today, Britain remains in the grips of the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation.
But there were also a number of key differences. Compared to Elizabeth’s, Charles’ coronation was a more scaled-back affair, with fewer people in attendance and a shorter service and procession than his mother’s. Whereas the Queen was crowned alone in 1953 (her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh, was not, as is custom for the consorts of female sovereigns), Charles was crowned alongside his wife, the now Queen Camilla. In Charles’s coronation, there was a greater effort to make the service more inclusive and reflective of Britain’s diversity, most notably through the inclusion of a diverse array of faith leaders. In Charles’s coronation oath, he said: “Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief, that together we may discover the ways of gentleness and be led into the paths of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
One of the starkest differences between Charles’ and Elizabeth’s coronations was their oaths. When Elizabeth became queen, Britain was still very much an empire—and, as such, she pledged to “govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories.” Charles, meanwhile, now rules over a considerably smaller realm. In his oath, he pledged only to “govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories.”
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But perhaps the most obvious difference between 1953 and the present day is how the monarchy is viewed. In today’s Britain, the monarchy enjoy’s the support of just 58% of the population. Charles’ coronation was subject to high-profile, if limited, anti-monarchy demonstrations. Some protesters were even arrested.
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