The coronation of King Charles won't just be an amazing spectacle
The west needs to grasp what it says about nation and religion
On Saturday, Britain’s King Charles III will be crowned in London’s Westminster Abbey.
The coronation, which will be viewed by millions around the world, promises to be a spectacle of ceremony and magnificence for which the British have no rivals.
Even this week’s dress rehearsal, which was carried out in the middle of the night, was attended by crowds of spectators and produced awe-struck responses to the mile-long military procession taking the gold state coach to the abbey from Buckingham Palace.
The significance of the event, however, goes far deeper and wider than all the pomp and circumstance. The coronation makes two statements of great importance for today’s world about the place of religion in public life and the importance and meaning of the nation.
Both religion and nation are currently opposed, scorned and vilified by the dominant progressive elites of western culture. Many such people also oppose the monarchy, viewing it as an anachronism redolent of hereditary privilege that has no place in a modern democracy.
Throughout the west, there is now an all-out assault on the very idea of the nation along with its inherited culture. This is fuelled by a determination to impose supposedly universal values that will usher in the unity of all mankind.
This onslaught involves an attempt to dismember the traditional nuclear family; vilify white society, normative sexuality and men; and hijack education and replace knowledge and rationality with propaganda and the suppression of dissent.
At the core of this agenda — whose echoes can also be heard in the anti-government protests that have been rocking Israel — lies the aim of exiling religion from the public square.
The monarchy in Britain embodies both religion and nation. The core of the coronation is a religious dedication. Dressed in a simple shirt, the King will be anointed with holy oil and in this private ritual will take his monarchical oath of service to God.
Few realise that the British monarchy is patterned on Jewish history. Early English kings even believed they were descended from King David. They appreciated the revolutionary aspect of ancient Israel: its monarch was not the supreme ruler, a status which invites tyranny and despotism, but was himself answerable to God, the one true king over all.
The British coronation rite is modelled on the accession of King Solomon as described in the Book of Kings. Solomon was escorted to the throne by both religious and military leaders, as will happen to Charles, and was anointed by Zadok the high priest, represented this weekend by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The choir in the abbey will raise the roof with Handel’s sublime “Zadok the Priest,” and the holy oil will have been brought from Jerusalem.*
Jews know better than anyone that what keeps a nation together is continuity — the adherence to principles, traditions and rites that shape a people and are handed down through the generations.
Britain, however, is a very different nation from the one that greeted the late Queen Elizabeth II when she was crowned more than 70 years ago. Demographically, it is far more diverse, with a plethora of different cultures and faiths.
This will be acknowledged at the coronation. Britain’s Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, and the equivalent representatives of Britain’s Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist communities, will step forward towards the King at the end of the ceremony and extend to him their good wishes and blessings.
To ensure the Chief Rabbi does not break Shabbat, he and his wife will spend the night before the coronation at St. James’s Palace so they can walk to the abbey, and his words will not be amplified by a microphone.
In addition, a Jew, a Muslim, a Sikh and a Hindu will present the King with artefacts that play a part in the ceremony — the Imperial Mantle, the sovereign’s ring, a pair of ceremonial bracelets and the coronation glove.
There is relief among traditionalists that, while these gestures are a sensitive nod towards diversity, the core principle underpinning the coronation has not been eroded. This is that the monarch swears to defend the Protestant Christian faith.
Although when he was Prince of Wales Charles stated his wish to be “defender of faith,” he will in fact retain the all-important definite article and swear to be “defender of the faith”.
An increasing number of people can’t see the point of this in a society where religious belief is now a minority pursuit. However, Christianity remains key to the nation’s integrity and sense of itself.
Christian values are fundamental to the west. Justice and the rule of law, compassion and putting others first, above all respect for every individual’s humanity as created in the image of God — all come from the Hebrew Bible and the Christianity that cemented them into western culture.
The idea that minority cultures can only thrive without that umbrella structure is mistaken. In its absence, groups will fight other groups for power and the weakest will go to the wall.
America, which has neither a monarchy nor an established religion, nevertheless subscribes to those values. Biblical precepts and the example of ancient Israel are explicitly referenced through America’s foundational institutions.
Only a nation whose citizens are united by a common culture within a delineated territory can defend those values and that territory, and thus protect civilisation itself.
That’s why the onslaught on the western nation and its core religious inheritance is so very troubling.
The King is an intelligent and sensitive man who is devoted to his people and did many very good things as Prince of Wales. However, unease remains that he may not properly promote and defend these values that are now under siege.
The monarch must never be associated with anything that divides the public. Throughout the reign of the late Queen, the public never knew what she thought about anything. By contrast, the King’s long record as a passionate supporter of causes such as environmental issues threatens to undermine the monarch’s role as the embodiment of the nation.
While the King has already become much more popular than might once have been imagined, there are concerns that he may not hold the line in the culture wars.
For example, instead of standing up to the bullying and distortions of those who characterise western society as white oppressors, Charles has already supported research into the historical links between the British monarchy and the transatlantic slave trade. This genuflection to contemporary witch-hunting is precisely how the new King may rapidly lose the support of the people.
Traditionalists are also uneasy about various tweaks being made to the coronation to make it more “relevant”. For example, everyone in the abbey and watching at home will be invited to swear to God a simultaneous oath of allegiance to the new sovereign, his heirs and his successors.
This has gone down very badly among the British, for whom this seems to blend Game of Thrones with North Korea.
People are muttering that the late Queen would never have entertained such a wildly inappropriate proposal. It accentuates the feeling so many had when the Queen died: that with her had also passed a Britain of understated wisdom, self-restraint and innate strength of purpose.
The tears that were shed during that most sublime and affecting of funerals were not just for the departed Queen but for the country she had so perfectly embodied and whose like, many feared, would never be seen again.
Into this cultural maelstrom comes this weekend’s majestic coronation, as if from a different era. Somehow, King Charles has to hold all this together.
God save the King. Or at the very least, may he put him right on a few things.
*An earlier version of this piece said the oil was brought from Jordan. This was an error.
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