Last Saturday, 6 May was the day when Westminster Abbey in London was the setting for the first British coronation in 70 years. This event marks in a special way King Charles III’s transition from history’s longest-reigning Prince of Wales into King of the United Kingdom, which comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and the 6 Counties of Northern Ireland.
Charles legally ascended to the throne as soon as his mother Queen Elizabeth II died last September. The coronation serves as a religious ceremony that formalized Charles’ new status as his mother’s successor.
The coronation had 6 parts:
First, the recognition when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby presented the monarch to the assembly gathered in the abbey. They shouted, “God save the king!” and trumpets sounded.
Second, the archbishop administered the oath, in which Charles swore to uphold the law and the Church of England.
Third, came the anointing, when the archbishop painted the king with holy oil, symbolizing his consecration as a monarch by God. The oil used was made using olives from a grove at the cemetery where his grandmother Princess Alice is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The anointing is traditionally considered too sacred to be shown to the public, so Charles was veiled from the cameras behind ornate screens.
Fourth was the investiture, in which the king sat on the Coronation Chair and was presented with the Royal Orb, the two Sovereign’s Sceptres, and the crown.
Fifth came to the enthronement and homage when the king left the Coronation Chair and moved to the throne.
The sixth and final step in the ceremony was the closing procession, when Charles and his wife Camilla, left the Abbey to return to Buckingham Palace. They traveled there in the 18th-century Gold State Coach, accompanied by armed forces from throughout the British commonwealth. Back at the Palace, they received a royal salute and three cheers from the military.
Pope Francis made headlines last week when he gave a gift to the king–in a notable ecumenical gesture–of 2 pieces of the true Cross on which Jesus was crucified, which was inlaid into the newly made Cross of Wales. When Charles entered the Abbey on his great day, he walked behind this cross.
A Catholic prelate, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was a participant in the coronation for the first time since the Reformation and offered a blessing after the crowning.
Fr Mark Vickers, a priest of the Diocese of Westminster and a historian and author said that despite the Protestant nature of the proceedings–including the King’s oath–Catholics can and should pray for the King and rejoice in the fact that the ceremony is so explicitly Christian.
The King of Kings
As Christians, it is Jesus Christ whom we look to for leadership and when we speak of him as King, we are not alluding to him as a figurehead (which Charles is) or a tyrant (like Henry VIII who had over 57, 000 people executed) – or even a benevolent King (like Frederick II of Prussia). We are instead speaking of a perfect, righteous, and loving king who is absolutely sovereign in His authority and eternal. In His kingdom, the lowly are raised up and the mighty are brought down.
From the very outset of his mission, Jesus had a clear mandate and message, and nothing could deflect him from that. The religious leaders deliberately misunderstood or twisted what he had to say. Jesus came back at them on all occasions. Some of his listeners walked away because they could not accept what he was saying. He did not run after them or make any effort to alter the content of his message. He announced that they were either with him or against him; they were free to follow him or not. His mention of being a king was misinterpreted, and they wanted to take him off and crown him as their king.
In Revelation 19:16 Jesus is given the full title “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. The title indicates someone who has the power to exercise absolute dominion over all His realm. In the case of the Lord Jesus, the realm is creation. It means that in the end all other rulers will be conquered or abolished, and he alone will reign supreme as King and Lord of all the earth. There is no power, no king, and no lord who can oppose him and win.
It was with royal courage that Jesus surrendered his body to be crucified. On the Cross, he offered a king’s ransom, his life for the life of his people. His death would atone for all our sins. The Crown of Thorns, which was meant to make a mockery of his royal claims, actually proclaimed instead his kingly dignity even in death.
The pomp and ceremony of a coronation such as that of King Charles are the features of an earthly event, but they pale into insignificance before the greatness of the King whose Kingdom is to come.
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan