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The coronation of Charles III is, above all, a religious event

The coronation of Charles III on May 6 is not only a political event, but above all a religious ceremony. His anointing should not be shown on TV even in 2023. From critics, it may all be a bit more’ earthy ‘ and inclusive.

It will probably feel fairytale for many when the British King Charles III gets the more than 2 kilos heavy and 362 years old St Edward’s crown on Saturday. After all, this is how we know it from old Knight stories and films. The United Kingdom is the only European country to crown its monarch today. Other monarchs – including Willem-Alexander-are only inaugurated. There is no more Crown involved.

It is that actual coronation that many people especially look forward to. The symbolic confirmation of Charles ‘ political role as King and head of state. But in fact, an event shortly before, between the taking of the oath and the coronation, is at least as important: the anointing. That event is so lofty that it should not even be shown on television in 2023. The new king is then confirmed by the supreme power: God.

The oil that the Archbishop of Canterbury uses for this anointing is therefore not just a liniment. It was won in an orchard in Jerusalem, near the grave of Charles’ paternal grandmother. The oil is consecrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, by the Anglican archbishop and the Orthodox patriarch of that city. “A historic ecumenical renewal,” says historian Catherine Pepinster. She wrote The Book Defenders of the Faith, about religion and the British monarchy.

The anointing best shows how much the coronation of Charles as British monarch is primarily a religious event. After all, he has been king for a while – Charles III became so immediately after the death of his mother Elizabeth II on September 8 last year. In recent months, no one doubted his legitimacy as King. A coronation is not necessary. This coming Saturday’s ceremony revolves around the blessing of the Anglican Church. It is not for nothing that it is the Archbishop of Canterbury who both anoints and crowns Charles.

That’s it. England still has an official state religion: the Anglican Church. In the rest of modern Europe, this principle is now uncommon. The vast majority of European countries once had a state church but abolished it in the course of the nineteenth century. England – and with it the UK-did not do this. In fact, the links between the Anglican Church and the British state are as complex as they are numerous..

The preeminent position of the Church of England is reflected, among other things, in the role it plays at weddings and funerals of the royal family and on national memorial days. In addition, 26 Anglican bishops are members of the British House of Lords, the non-democratically elected upper house. And internal church rules must be officially approved by the British Parliament.


Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson is a native of Leeds, journalist and PhD candidate at the University of Glasgow. She is mainly interested in foreign affairs, geopolitics and investigative journalism.

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