Can the Coronation of Charles III remind us how to value our country again?

May 07


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Helen Whitten

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Can the Coronation of Charles III remind us how to value our country again?

I can’t remember Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953, although my older brother and sister tell me that we came back from Portugal and watched it on our grandmother’s tiny black and white television. It was the first time my brother had watched television.  I was three. I can’t remember a thing, sadly. So, the Coronation of Charles III was the first time I had witnessed this event and I was struck and moved by the wisdom and gentleness of the words of the service.  It was not gifting the King with unlimited power. Instead, it was reminding him, repeatedly, that the authority of the role does not rest in him personally, but in God and his people. Charles I learnt a thing or two about that of course and I would wish that other autocratic leaders around the world would take heed of the whole concept of leader as servant.  Putin, can you hear me?

So perhaps I could remind you of some of those words that I found profound as I listened and scribbled them down, sitting with friends watching the service together…

What I heard was that the King is here to serve his people, be the servant of his people, attending to their needs, especially those who are poor or vulnerable, and to bear ‘heavy weights’ for us.

When he is given the spurs, which appear like a symbol of war, the message comes instead that he must hold authority ‘with gentleness … in the paths of peace’, not to wage war but to protect his people. Love in action, as an advocate for those in need. The words stated that he must stand for mercy not might, for justice not judgement. To hold authority with wisdom. Ah, that word wisdom that means something so different from power, or intelligence, or being clever. Being wise is what we need from the leaders of the world, especially now.

And so, can this Coronation bring us back to some of the values that bring us all together as a country, that remind us what we stand for and how lucky we are to have this history of constitutional monarchy, where the Queen or King represent us but have no real political power? That they were put firmly in their place several centuries ago, before other countries had realized the harm that one over-powerful man can do to his people. Yet, these lessons haven’t been learnt elsewhere, as there have been no end of world rulers who have done immense harm to their people in their roles as Presidents or dictators. Indeed, we still witness today plenty of over-powerful leaders causing terrible harm, not only to their own people but to the world around them.

Our politicians have not done a good job recently at helping us value the freedoms and rights that we have in this country as a result of our long history of learning. This learning was demonstrated particularly in this coronation service which incorporated so many different aspects of our diverse country now, through the music and prayer, from the fact that Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, read the Christian Lesson, to the presence of so many leaders of different faiths, reminding us that we may believe in different Gods but we do not have to rage or battle over who is right. We can live in peace with different cultures and beliefs yet can share the values of tolerance and kindness.

I am sure I was not alone in rather envying Charles the ability to create such a moment, something between a wedding and a funeral, where he could choose some, though obviously not all, of the readings and music. And that music was sacred and inspiring, the notes soaring above in the beauty that is Westminster Abbey.

And what about us, the people of the UK.  What can we personally do to make this a moment to draw our communities together in a more coherent set of values and appreciate what we have and can enjoy in this country? It has been somehow cool, in recent years, to denigrate everything we stand for, to sweat and apologise over our history, Empire, slavery, intolerance, or whatever. Should we not now look further to remember we were not alone in having empires and colonies, and that other countries had slaves, and continue today to be far less tolerant than we are here, both of religion, race, sexuality and more? That there are important things to consider about our future in a world where people are trafficked daily and others live in fear, repression, poverty and under the impact of climate change? 

To crown a King is certainly a moment in history. Let us, as individuals, use it well, and consider our words and actions more carefully to ensure we keep this country stable and integrated in this precarious time. It doesn’t help to moan about everything, it is more profitable, surely, to consider what needs to be done rather than endlessly discussing what is wrong. Division is exactly what Putin and our enemies wish for us, as it weakens us all.  Let’s consider less what we can get from our country and more what we can do for it. It has been unfashionable to be proud of England and in that I fear we are in danger of alienating our young, who need to feel they belong to something worthwhile. There are many worse places to live in this world, for sure.

King Charles III has proven to be someone who saw before others that the natural world needed care, that plants feel, that trees communicate. He has done good work in communities with the Prince’s Trust, giving young people confidence and opportunities they would never have had without this organisation, and has had to wait for decades for this moment in history.

For me, born in 1950, this Coronation demonstrates how much this country has changed in my lifetime. We were far more intolerant and less inclusive in my childhood than we are now, and lived a far poorer and more basic life in general. Let’s celebrate, with our new King, what we have achieved as a people and build on it, for there is always more to learn.


3 Responses

  1. “And that music was sacred and inspiring, the notes soaring above in the beauty that is Westminster Abbey.”….beautifully written!

  2. Thank you Helen. Good to remind us of the positive. It is so easy to become cynical. Hopefully small steps to a better world. We need to be careful who we choose to govern us. They also need wisdom.

  3. I share with you Helen a wish that we could be far more positive about what is good about Britain. I remember the rather ignorant 50’s too and all that was in place then compared to now is such a different more respectful world culturally. We have come so far and matured immensely as a nation which I value greatly.

    I also remember the 60’s and the rage of the West when China threatened US security in Cuba. The same rage that Russia has been dealing with in recent years as NATO has been pushing towards Russia’s borders. Of course our media is quiet about that, just as Russia’s is about their response. Each consecutive US president was warned what would happen, but they all arrogantly ignored advice and pushed forward. Too late they are now reducing their warmongering. Had they been wiser years ago Ukraine would still have Crimea etc, since Putin had no interest in Ukraine then.

    Just as our nation has evolved, too have the Royals progressed and matured into a fundamentally decent family (despite some blips) compared to the previous generations who were often damaged and intrinsically disfunctional souls. Charles has been a hardworking, wise visionary in his fifty years as Prince of the Realm and I fully expect him to be the best King this country has ever had !

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