Constitutionalist Robert Hazell founded the Constitution Unit at the University College of London (UCL), a research center specializing in British parliamentary democracy. He recently launched a vast research project on monarchies in Europe.
Of the eight parliamentary monarchies (Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden) that exist in Europe, Britain is the only one to have retained a coronation ceremony. For what ?
It is a question of traditions. This ceremony is millennial and dates back to the Anglo-Saxon kings. The first king to be crowned at Westminster Abbey was a Frenchman, William the Conqueror, on Christmas Day 1066. But the ceremony is even older. Historians report it from the VIe century of our era. The first documented coronation dates from the year 973, it was that of King Edgar, which took place at Bath Abbey and was presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Duncan.
Isn’t it strange to maintain this ceremony with religious significance – the king takes vows and is then blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest figure in the Anglican Church after him – when, according to the census of 2021, the British declaring themselves of Christian faith are no longer the majority in the country?
The Church of England is aware of this. I expect this coronation to be very different from that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, with a greater presence of other religions. Charles shows a very strong interest in them, he demonstrated it from the first week of his reign during a reception organized in Buckingham for leaders of other religions, on September 16 recognizing that British society is far more multi-denominational, multi-ethnic and secular than it was in 1953.
Will this coronation be the last in the UK?
It will be up to Prince William to choose, when his time comes. Her decision will be partly based on public reaction to her father’s coronation. If the British are very critical, he could opt for a simple oath to obey the Constitution and uphold the laws passed by Parliament – as other European monarchs do. The government can also theoretically decide to end the coronation, which is funded by the British state. But any such decision would be controversial.
Another astonishing fact, at this ceremony, during which the supreme governor of the Anglican Church will be crowned, will participate a Hindu prime minister, Rishi Sunak…
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