(LONDON) King Charles III is crowned at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, in a ceremony based on ancient traditions, at a time when the monarchy faces an uncertain future.
More than 2,000 guests, thousands of servicemen, tens of thousands of spectators and a handful of protesters converged on Westminster Abbey as the King left Buckingham Palace in a golden horse-drawn carriage.
As the guests arrived, the church buzzed with excitement in an ambiance where fragrant flowers and colorful hats were seen everywhere. Celebrities, dignitaries and world leaders, including the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, eight current and former British prime ministers, as well as actresses Judi Dench, Emma Thompson and singer Lionel Richie.
Thousands of people from across the UK and around the world camped overnight along the two-mile route to catch a glimpse of the monarch as he made the journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, where kings have been crowned for a millennium.
It was in the rain and wearing a cape with a white top that Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, aboard a carriage, greeted the crowd along the route.
On the way home, the newly crowned King and Queen Consort Camilla will travel in a 261-year-old golden carriage accompanied by 4,000 soldiers, forming Britain’s largest military parade in 70 years.
For over 1,000 years, British monarchs have been crowned in grand ceremonies that confirm their right to rule. Although the king no longer has executive or political power, he remains the head of state of the United Kingdom and a symbol of national identity.
So it will be a shorter affair than the three-hour coronation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The king’s family are also on hand, including his sons Prince William, next in line to succeed the throne, and Prince Harry, who has stepped down from royal duties. The latter’s wife, Meghan, and their children, who remained at home in California.
Protesters also showed up. The anti-monarchy group Republic said six of its members, including its chief executive, were arrested upon arriving at a protest. Police have said they will have a “low tolerance” for people who seek to disrupt the day, prompting criticism that they are suppressing free speech.