I am writing this article, with memories of last month’s coronation of King Charles III and the subsequent bank holiday still fresh in my mind. The ceremony, steeped in the history of our nation, unfolded in Westminster Abbey, capturing the attention of tens of millions of people both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The constitutional monarchy, with the King at its helm, stands as a testament to the enduring traditions and values of our country.
King Charles III's ascension to the throne marked the culmination of the longest-ever apprenticeship for becoming our Head of State. At the age of 74 when most individuals are well into their retirement, he embarks on his reign, building an example of his mother the late Queen and his own experience as her heir for over 50 years.
One of his most effective contributions was his founding of the Prince's Trust in 1976. This charity helped over a million young people in their education, training, and securing employment. His commitment to this cause reflects his genuine concern for the wellbeing and future of younger generations.
The King has travelled extensively since 1966, representing our nation and fostering relationships with other countries and their people. His wealth of experience in international relations and diplomacy has made him one of the most seasoned practitioners in the world. While his approach may not always be the most tactful, his undeniable convening power and sense of humour have helped him win over sceptics and initiate positive change.
Transcending politics, King Charles III has been a vocal advocate for causes that reach beyond party lines, such as environmental preservation. Long before it became popular, he championed environmental issues, showcasing his foresight and commitment to addressing critical global challenges.
On the eve of the coronation, the King and Queen visited Parliament, spending a couple of hours engaging with MPs, Peers, and parliamentary staff. This gesture exemplified the vital importance of mutual respect between the Monarch and Parliament, a cornerstone of our constitutional settlement. The presence of politicians from all political persuasions, eager to congratulate their Majesties, underscored the respect and support that our new King aims to earn from the British people.
The coronation itself was a magnificent occasion, seamlessly blending centuries of tradition with the realities of the modern world. The event was witnessed by an average of 18 million viewers in the UK alone, highlighting the enduring fascination with royal ceremonies. It also demonstrated how technology has transformed our ability to experience and engage with such historic moments.
Amidst the grandeur and tradition, efforts were made to ensure that modern Britain was also represented and celebrated. The inclusion of the King and Queen's blended family in the service, as well as representatives of other faiths, showcased a message of diversity and inclusion. Historic firsts, such as the participation of women bishops, girl choristers and a female Lord President of the Council bearing a ceremonial sword for nearly an hour reflected the evolving nature of our society.
In total, 5,000 armed forces personnel and 19 military bands took part. Despite the very English weather - constant rain - there was a celebratory atmosphere on The Mall, with periodic Mexican waves and police officers being cheered. Around six protesters, who were unloading a van of placards, were arrested. In total, the Metropolita Police said they arrested 64 people for affray, public order offenses, breach of the peace, and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance around the Coronation, some based on active intelligence.
While hundreds of thousands of the assembled crowd came out to cheer the King, there was also a very small protest from Republic, the group campaigning to abolish the monarchy and replace it with an elected head of state.
The street parties and gun salutes played their part, and members of the public including here in Shropshire, found idiosyncratic ways to celebrate. From plates piled high with cake to Coronation chicken and quiche, with miles of bunting decorating our shops and streets, across the bank holiday weekend more than 3,000 street parties took place in England alone. Twenty towns in Shropshire, including seven here in the South, put up commemorative plaques on public buildings. In so many ways, the Coronation showed just how important the monarchy remains to most of us.