It was totally unlike me. I got up early this morning to watch television, the coronation of Charles III.
I don’t think I have watched live television (other than sports) since the 2021 federal election. Which means I didn’t watch Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. Not did I watch Charles first wedding back in 1981, or Prince William’s wedding more recently. I don’t think I cared enough.
Today was different though.
It has been 70 years since the last British monarch was crowned. While Charles may be older than me, he comes from a long-lived family. I may not live long enough to witness another coronation.
For many the monarch is a remnant of another era, but the manarchy remains a powerful and unifying institution. We humans need symbols, a feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. The monarch embodies that
So I watched.
Did I need all the pomp and ceremony? Not really. I’m a simple person. I avoid situations where I am expected to dress up. But I understand that each part of the ceremony has meaning and significance, whether it is a piece of clothing or a specific prayer.
And prayer is an important component of the ceremony. More than anything else, the coronation is a religious service, particularly a Christian one. Charles became King on the death of his mother. The coronation was a legal necessity, but it was also an opportunity to seek God’s blessing on the new king and his reign.
Indeed, the coronation is an affirmation and expression of a covenant between monarch and people. More importantly though it is about the covenant between the monarch and God. This was not a civil ceremony of the state, such as teh installation of a new government. but a religious service. Charles promised to serve the people, but he didn’t make that promise to them. He made it to God.
One of the central parts of the coronation ceremony was the Eucharist, the ritual of bread and wine that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the service of humanity and of the everlasting covenant between God and us. In a ceremony that draws on hundreds of years of British tradition, this ceremonial meal goes back millennia.
The whole idea of a monarch seems somewhat anachronistic in the 21st century. Once upon a time the king was the mightiest warrior who protected his people by leading the troops into combat. That is a role from a bygone era.
We do need symbols though. They are part of the glue that holds our society together. King Charles knows that. He was raised to the role.
The coronation ceremony is about service. Service to God and service to the people. That came through loud and clear today.
God save the King.