On Saturday, 6 of May, seventy years after Queen Elizabeth II, a new monarch had his coronation in Westminster Abbey. The historic event attracted thousands of people from the UK and around the world, becoming one of the most followed events of the year. However, on one side, it brought joy and excitement to the public. But, unfortunately, the Coronation also brought anger and frustration due to the arrest of 64 "anti-monarchy" protestors, reigniting the debate over the British monarchy and the royal family.
Coronation Day – What Happened During the Ceremony
The Coronation ceremony took place inside Westminster Abbey, where the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster blessed King Charles III and Queen Camilla following a ritual that dates back to the late 10th century. Nevertheless, the service reflected the British nation in 2023 with many additions and changes which followed the more modern vision adopted by the royal family. Indeed, although the Coronation follows a religious Anglican ritual sworn over the Protestant faith, this service saw the incorporation of new religious elements such as the Cross of Wales containing pieces of the "True Cross" gifted by Pope Francis as well as the presentation of the symbolic items of the regalia by Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh members of the House of Lords. Moreover, the ceremony contained Gaelic Irish, Welsh, and Scottish languages for the first time with fervent anti-royalist leaders such as the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales, and the designated First Minister of Northern Ireland attended, despite their political parties' beliefs.
The ceremony was divided into three parts, the King and Queen's procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, the coronation religious service, and the Buckingham Palace balcony salute with the military flypast. More than 2000 guests attended. The guests were divided between members of the Royal family, foreign royalties, world leaders, and celebrities, Thousands of commoners flooded the streets of London to excitedly observe the procession of the Diamond Jubilee State Carrige.
The excitement around the crowd peaked during the final salute by the Royal family and the newly coronated King and Queen from Buckingham Palace's balcony. As revealed by Reuters, many people interviewed in the crowd felt they were witnessing history, feeling privileged and proud to be part of that moment. "It has just been the most wonderful occasion despite the weather. I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We have had a monarchy for hundreds of years, and it is our connection with the past. Where else would you get these crowds?" claimed Sarah Alms, a British housewife present at the ceremony. Others, like British barrister Michelle Fawcett or even Swiss tourist Maite Visinand, underlined the event's historical importance and how lucky and proud they were to witness it in person.
The Arrest of Anti-Royal Protesters and the Political and Media Backlash
Despite the general excitement and joy created by the royal festivity, the coronation ceremony was also marked by the arrest of 64 anti-royal protesters prior to the event. MET Police Commissioner declared that his officers gained intelligence, indicating that these protesters aimed to breach the public peace and conspire to disrupt the Royal procession. Indeed, Scotland Yard chief Sir Mark Rowley argued his department became concerned about the possibility that protesters might have used use rape alarms and loudhailers against the horses during the procession.
Due to the high concern risks that were rising prior to the event, the Commissioner justified his officer's action by claiming that even the Home Secretary and the Mayor were alerted.
However, these arrests received a wave of political and media backlash, which ended up hitting the MET Police and its actions. Indeed, despite its Commissioner's justifications, MET Police is now facing an inquiry regarding the arrest made prior to the Coronation ceremony. A Home Affairs spokesman announced that "a cross-party home affair committee will hold an evidence session on the policing of the Coronation and arrest of Republican protesters next Wednesday, May 17. The session will examine the Met's approach to policing public protests and the practical implementation of the Public Order Bill. A full list of witnesses will be announced in the coming days". These arrests were conducted under the Public Order Act, which gave extra powers to the police for arresting people during protests and was given royal assent only a few days before the Coronation. Due to the circumstances, the London mayor has also called for an urgent review of MET Police Coronation arrests.
MET Police later released a statement expressing its regret for the arrests. On Monday, 8 of April, MET Police released a statement acknowledging the general backlash and regret the protesters couldn't join the planned protest, but MET Police did not apologize. MET Police and other official bodies are still investigating the circumstances.
The British Royal Family and its Traditions: A National Watershed Topic
As revealed by Matthew Karnitschnig in his article for Politico, despite the general excitement experienced on tv or at the procession, many parts of the UK and London were filled with indifference. Indeed, the many people interviewed during his Coronation visit in London presented the celebration as nothing more than mere old useless traditions. Many British and international UK residents told him that they decided to boycott the ceremony claiming "the royal family infantilizes us," or "most people don't care about the coronation," and "no one should be above the law."
This resentment against the royal family can be seen in the British public support for the royal family polls, which reveal that only three in ten Britons support the royal family while one quarter believes that the monarchy "was not at all important/should be abolished." Thus, it is hard to place the social importance of the royal family in modern Britain, and it can be considered a British social and political watershed topic. As argued by Karnitschnig, it would be hard to imagine a Britain without a monarchy as it is a cornerstone of British culture. Nevertheless, many people are increasingly distancing themselves from such ideals and values.
Ultimately, while the red arrows flew over Buckingham Palace to celebrate the beginning of a new era for the monarchy, only time will tell the fate of the British royal family.
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