The King and the Prince and Princess of Wales have greeted well-wishers on the Mall on the eve of the coronation. Charles, William and Kate made the surprise appearance to the obvious delight of people gathered outside Buckingham Palace.
The Princess of Wales described the king’s coronation as a “great moment for celebration” as her husband William praised the Mall’s “party atmosphere”. The trio shook hands with members of the public as people cheered, took selfies and some sang God Save the King.
Earlier members of the royal family held a lunch at Buckingham Palace for leaders of some of the countries where King Charles III is head of state. Attendees included UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and prime minister of New Zealand Chris Hipkins. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Prince Andrew, Duke of York didn’t attend the event, amid continued speculation about what roles they might play in today’s ceremony. World leaders including Albanese, Hipkins and Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have also been welcomed at Downing Street by Sunak. US first lady Dr Jill Biden has spent the day with Akshata Murty, Sunak’s wife.
Anti-monarchist campaigners have vowed to press ahead with plans to protest peacefully against the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday, despite what they have characterised as intimidatory tactics by the police and the government. The activist group Republic plans to hold a demonstration a short walk from where the king is due to be crowned. They have said they received letters from the Home Office warning them about new powers handed to police to deal with public demonstrations, while Scotland Yard has said its tolerance of protest will be low on the day.
King Charles and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, had a final rehearsal for tomorrow’s event in Westminster Abbey.
Charles finds the idea of people paying homage to him “abhorrent”, his friend Jonathan Dimbleby has said on BBC radio while seeking to pin the blame for the proposal on the archbishop of Canterbury. There has been a widespread backlash against the idea of a “homage of the people”, in which the general public is invited to swear allegiance to the king during the coronation on Saturday.
Four British NGOs have called on King Charles to withdraw invitations to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the crown prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in the face of the regime’s human rights record.The Guardian has said in an editorial that the coronation is “a dated pageant that should be rethought” and that “Many are open to ideas about a better system for a head of state. It is surely time to properly debate them”.
A letter sent to King Charles ahead of Saturday’s coronation said he risked appearing to condone the use of torture and the death penalty by Bahrain as part of a violent crackdown against the opposition since protests began during the Arab spring in 2011.
“Inviting the king and crown Prince of Bahrain to your coronation presents them with an opportunity to whitewash their records and gain international legitimacy. Please, do not allow your coronation to be used to legitimise the repression of King Hamad and his government,” the letter said. “It is not too late to avert the spectacle of these brutal authoritarian rulers walking the red carpet at Westminster Abbey on the first day of your reign.”
The letter was signed by Reprieve, which campaigns against the death penalty, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), ALQST For Human Rights and the London Campaign Against Arms Trade.
The letter said an estimated 1,200 political prisoners were in Bahrain’s Jau prison, adding that 26 people have been sentenced to death and are facing imminent execution.
“This invitation pours salt into the wounds of all those who were killed and tortured by King Hamad’s officials without remorse or accountability,” said Bird’s director Sayed Alwadaei.“As one of those victims myself, it horrifies me. King Charles must not roll out the red carpet for a dictator and provide him with the opportunity to gain international legitimacy.”
The letter said an activist was arrested in 2016 for criticising a visit by the then Prince Charles. It added that exiled Bahrainis in the UK who have protested have had family members arrested in reprisal.
Backing the letter, East Lothian Alba MP Kenny MacAskill said: “The attendance of Bahrain’s dictator is an insult to his [regime’s] victims, some of whom were forced to seek exile in the UK and whose family members have faced reprisals for their decision to protest his presence in this country.”
The regime has denied using torture or mistreating prisoners.
The activist group Republic plans to hold a demonstration a short walk from where the king is due to be crowned. They have said they received letters from the Home Office warning them about new powers handed to police to deal with public demonstrations, while Scotland Yard has said its tolerance of protest will be low on the day.
“Republic will not be deterred and we will be protesting on Trafalgar Square and along the route of the coronation procession on Saturday,” said Republic’s chief executive, Graham Smith.
“It is telling that Charles, who has had no problem speaking up on various issues, has chosen not to defend democratic rights when they are being threatened in his name. Perhaps he might make it clear that he believes in the right to protest.”
The group said it received communication from the Home Office’s police powers unit that new powers had been brought forward to prevent “disruption at major sporting and cultural events”.
Mahfuz Ul Hasib Chowdhury is a
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