|Volume 53 Number 13, May 6, 2023
Significance of the Coronation
Milton Keynes - Photo Getty Images
Today, Saturday, May 6, 2023, the Coronation of King Charles III is taking place at Westminster Abbey. Charles Windsor, Prince of Wales, acceded to the throne on September 8, 2022, upon the death of his mother Elizabeth II. The whole ceremony and process is being presented as something inevitable and pre-determined. However, from the moment of the Queen's death and since he was proclaimed King, Charles has been creating and formulating the fiction of what he now represents. Whilst many view the monarchy as a disgraceful, elitist and arrogant show of wealth and medievalism, and whilst Charles as an individual is a person of immense wealth in his own right, he is now attempting to step into the role of the fictional person of state established at the commencement of the 1650s to deal with the perceived problem of the striving for democracy by the "mob", whether this be under Cromwell's Protectorate or subsequently under a restored monarchy.
As such, King Charles, stepping into the role of the fictional person of state, is said to be merely symbolic, a benign force and to hold no real power. It was said of Queen Elizabeth II that she did her duty, was non-political and was a benign force. Her fiction was that she was everyone's Granny (or Great-Gran) and a unifying force. She represented a link with the past, especially with Britain's history and "glorious victory" during WWII. She was seen as a historical figure who was able to serve her role as the fictitious person of state. However, today, when public authority is being destroyed and the perceived authority of the head of state that people looked up to as the fictitious person of state is also in question, a new monarch representing the old arrangements cannot and will not offer anything new. Indeed, the fiction that Charles is trying to create has already been challenged on many fronts.
The role of the fictional person of state was originally intended as part of the arrangement to have an independent figure or "actor" who stood outside and above the political divides and interests of the people whilst acting as a symbol of the covenant between the state, the people and God. This is Covenant Thesis, solemn and holy. This conception was intended from the outset to put an end to the English Civil Wars. The person who assumes this fictitious role ceases to be a natural person and instead becomes an actor inhabiting that role and all its attendant symbolism. One problem with King Charles is that he does in fact want to be seen as a natural person, a person in his own right, and he has tried to have his influence in a number of ways already. He already has a history of interfering in the legislative decision-making of Parliament and of actively trying to influence the drafting of Bills, and which Bills are acceptable. It can be mentioned that Queen Elizabeth was not averse to this influence herself, though carried out more discreetly.
So the Coronation is a central part of attempting to create that persona of the person of state at the apex, to whom all pay allegiance as subjects, who holds military and spiritual power in their hands. The attempts to impose this acting out of the Covenant with the Almighty, and the broad rejection of such an anachronistic, anti-democratic conception, is what is being played out as the present dynamic of the Coronation of Charles III.
Defender of the Faith
Before he ascended to the throne, Charles has been trying to define and present himself as a moderniser and for diversity. The point is that Charles was attempting to redefine himself as a representative of diversity and, as such, a moderniser, including statements about the environment, bio-diversity and protecting the planet. The fiction of the persona he wishes to present is of a modern monarch championing "modernisation", and an embodiment of so-called modern British values.
For example, as far back as 1994, Charles said that he wanted be the "Defender of all Faiths" as opposed to the Defender of the Faith as embodied in the evangelical Church of England, a title stretching back to King Henry VIII. By 2015, Charles had amended this line saying in an interview, "As I tried to describe, I mind about the inclusion of other people's faiths and their freedom to worship in this country. And it's always seemed to me that, while at the same time being Defender of the Faith, you can also be protector of faiths."
However, the establishment appears to have made it very clear to Charles that his role was to be the Head of the Church of England and, as such, was and could only be Defender of the Faith. Indeed, the Accession Proclamation, made on September 10, 2022, declared: "The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George is now, by the Death of our late Sovereign of Happy Memory, become our only lawful and rightful Liege Lord Charles the Third, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of His other Realms and Territories, King, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith [our emphasis], to whom we do acknowledge all Faith and Obedience with humble Affection; beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign to bless His Majesty with long and happy Years to reign over us."
Lifting the Veil
Another issue surrounding the Coronation has been King Charles' avowed wish to introduce "transparency" into the most sacred part of the ceremony by "Lifting the Veil" at the moment when the monarch is anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He made it known that he wished to allow cameras to film the most sacred part of the ceremony and the part that is supposed to represent the sovereign's anointing before God, thereby creating a sense of awe and mystery in the person of the King. However, after much toing and froing, it was announced on April 13: "The King has now changed his mind about an element of the anointing during his coronation." The Royal News announced that "King Charles III will follow the tradition of the thirty nine monarchs crowned before him at Westminster Abbey and ensure that the most sacred part of the ceremony, the anointing, remains private".
Indeed, the King and the Palace have gone all out to emphasise his Christian credentials and links by sourcing the anointing oil from Israel. The official Royal website says: "The Chrism oil [fragrant oil made from olives] with which The King and The Queen Consort will be anointed, which was consecrated in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in March, will be contained within the Ampulla [the container for the oil], made from gold and cast in the form of an eagle with outspread wings. The oil is poured through an aperture in the beak. The Ampulla was supplied for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661 by the Crown Jeweller, Robert Vyner, and is based on an earlier, smaller vessel, which in turn was based on a fourteenth-century legend in which the Virgin Mary appeared to St Thomas à Becket and presented him with a golden eagle and a vial of oil for anointing future Kings of England."
This echoes the tenor of the Funeral held for Queen Elizabeth II which was an exclusively Christian service and message. Indeed, far from being the Defender of All Faiths and None, while representatives of other faiths were present and acknowledged, the service itself was singularly Christian, and a completely Church of England affair.
In his Christmas Speech, King Charles, standing in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, talked about his Christian faith, of being "so close to where my beloved mother, the late Queen is laid to rest", of her faith in God and his. He talked of the need to "shine a light in the world around" and spoke of his visit to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity where "as the Bible tells us, the light that has come into the world was born".
This new found Christian zeal seems more in line with the state-wide emphasis on charity and volunteerism, intended to divert attention from the destruction of the National Health Service and attacks on the productive forces. It is part of his reinventing himself and the mask that he wears in this new fiction of himself as a devout and Christian leader that he is trying to create. It is a fiction intended to cover up how the rule takes place. And it is important to understand that whilst it is a fiction, it does not means that this rule, this power that King Charles seeks to wield, is simply symbolic and that he has no power.
King Charles is trying to embody everyone by publicly announcing changes that take up popular concerns. But for every change there has been push back saying that he must be "Defender of the Faith" and that he cannot "Lift the Veil" in his anointing ceremony. Rather, he has been brought down to earth by the reality that he is, after all, just another faction vying for power and influence. That Charles interferes in the way he does shows the limits of his power. In trying to carve out an individual role for himself and define a new fiction as the fictional person of state, Charles has managed to expose just how anachronistic he and the role of the monarch really are.
It has been announced that during the Coronation ceremony, everyone watching on television will be invited to join in saying the Coronation oath: "I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God." This will then be followed by a fanfare after which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will declare, "God Save The King" and we, the onlookers then should echo, "God Save King Charles. Long Live King Charles. May The King live forever"! Commentators have been scathing in their criticism of this whole idea. It makes no sense for people to be intoning such servile and backward sentiments privately to their television sets, and it makes even less sense to pray that the King live forever because, as swathes of people have readily pointed out, he can't and he won't.
Anachronistic, Outdated, Outmoded, Obsolete, Moribund, Out of Step with the Times
The whole Coronation ceremony has been calculated to emphasise King Charles' historical links with the past, the ancient symbols of inheritance and power, and his divine right to rule and be who he says he is. The Royal website says that "the Coronation Regalia are sacred and secular objects which symbolise the service and responsibilities of the monarch. The Regalia have played a central role in Coronation Services for hundreds of years and, in keeping with tradition, will be used at Westminster Abbey on the 6th May."
What it aptly illustrates is just how King Charles' idea of himself and the fiction that he is desperately trying to establish of himself is so manifestly out of step with the requirements of the times. He inhabits a role that no longer functions in the way it was originally envisaged where under Covenant Thesis, the Sovereign comprises the supreme power and stands at the apex of the system of representation where he or she or they speak on the people's behalf. King Charles is simply exposed as just another faction with a claim to rule. His attempt to reinvent himself and to validate his authority now only serves to distract and to keep the people from power. His Kingship is really a last attempt to resuscitate an outmoded and moribund arrangement. And no one is any mood to accept this fiction because they know who these people are and what persona he is giving himself, which is certainly not a modern personality.