A large family with traditions and drama – it doesn’t seem a far cry from what you may find in most living rooms up and down the country. However, one of these families is different. On Saturday 6 May, the family in question brought central London, and arguably the world, to a standstill, as one of its members was officially crowned Head of State to fifteen nations, fourteen overseas territories and three crown dependencies. As King Charles III officially takes on his role as ‘King of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms’, the torch of Britain’s most iconic tradition passes on once more.
The pomp and glamour, patriotism and pageantry that fuelled Britain on the day of the Coronation epitomised what this country does best. In a historically significant island nation such as our own, many find comfort in the ceremony, it being an ode to continuation that many republics do not experience. For others, it symbolises the elitist, aristocratic response to national inequality. At a time when household bills cost a small fortune, many question why the taxpayer must foot the £100m cost to coronate a billionaire of a king.
While it may be disdain for some, others, who have exhibited little interest in the monarchy before, are likely feeling a type of ‘royal burnout’. From disgraced royals to deceased royals, the front pages of every newspaper in recent years have included major events concerning the Royal Family. It has taken its toll on the British public, who are often indifferent on the subject. A shift in public opinion has now gone from indifference to a slight averseness to anything regal.
A less than favourable rhetoric towards the monarchy has undoubtedly grown in the past year, following the death of Elizabeth II. More and more people are beginning to question why their Head of State is who he is. Considering the ‘divine right’ bestowed upon monarchs through God, the support of the King’s authority is further losing credibility in an increasingly secular nation. To sing ‘God Save the King’ would now seem particularly feudal to Britain’s modern republicans.
The new King isn’t entirely to blame for the change in British response towards the coronation. However, in an increasingly digital age, society has left behind older forms of mixing with others. The Zoom calls of today have now replaced the gatherings of yesterday. As a result, events such as street parties, once a staple function to celebrate royal occasions have largely been consigned to the history books. This has meant the expectation to come together as communities to celebrate the coronation has begun to erode, and without this, fewer people in British society have looked forward to celebrating the coronation, in the same way they would’ve done in years gone by.
In light of this somewhat colder reception from the Commonwealth people, King Charles III has stated that the role of the Royal Family should be ‘slimmed down’. Knowing there has been a need for modernisation to keep up with the change in societal values, a compromise between days of old and new has been made. By slimming down the Royal Family, the King has succinctly summarised how many are feeling about the monarchy and its necessity.
In many ways, the coronation was the first step in the reformation. The enthronement of King Charles III was significantly shorter than Elizabeth II’s coronation, which took a total of three hours. By minimising the presentations of objects to the King, the length of the ceremony was reduced by an hour. To many, this has been seen as a symbolic gesture, where a streamlined event spares viewers from questioning the need for such a ceremony.
The causes a monarch devotes their time to can also reflect the national mood. For Britain, having a climate conscious King represents a new direction public opinion has taken in recent years. With recent YouGov figures suggesting that 68 percent of Britons believe climate change to be as a result of human activity, parallels can be drawn between the views of the public and the views of the monarch. With many global leaders being historically slow to respond to public pressure surrounding climate change, for Britain to have an environmentalist for a King would reflect the public’s change in attitude.
Despite the King having pledged himself to a publicly favoured cause, he has still struggled to maintain a level of support his predecessor did. Demonstrations against His Majesty have caught the attention of the nation’s press on numerous occasions, with ‘Not My King’ picket signs now becoming a staple of royal visits. In a world that is slowly shifting from tradition, to see the monarch follow suit is somewhat self-aware, even if it is slightly ironic.
A self-aware, slow retreat from public view is perhaps the best summary of what the monarchy represents to many in our society today. The world has advanced greatly since Britain’s last monarch took the throne, and as many see it, continuing to advance while maintaining such an ancient power structure can be restrictive.
With over a third of adults stating they weren't very much bothered about the coronation, it seems King Charles III new reign can only be met with one emotion: indifference.