Published:  03:57 AM, 06 May 2023

All Eyes Are Fixed on UK

All Eyes Are Fixed on UK
The eyes of the world will be on the U.K. today as King Charles III is being crowned at Westminster Abbey in a quintessentially British display of pomp and pageantry.

The coronation, which will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday May 6, will kickstart three days of celebrations across London and the wider U.K., culminating in a public holiday on May 8.

The service — the first of its kind in 70 years — is largely ceremonial, following the 74-year-old king’s official accession to the thrown on September 8, 2022, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

But while millions are expected to observe the historic occasion, it falls against a challenging economic backdrop for the U.K, with many questioning the validity of the event as the country faces its worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. Buckingham Palace does not provide an exact figure for the cost of the coronation, nor did it respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

However, King Charles himself is said to have sought a more scaled-back celebration, with a “shorter,” “smaller, less expensive and more representative” ceremony — part of his wider plans for a slimmed down monarchy.

The Westminster Abbey ceremony, for instance, will be attended by some 2,000 VIP guests — around a quarter of the number present at the late queen’s coronation — and the process will last around one hour, rather than several.

Still, the expense of the weekend’s proceedings — which include a “King’s procession” and a star-studded concert in Windsor Gardens — are expected to run to between £50 million and £100 million ($63-125 million), according to estimates cited by the BBC which it said was not from an official source.

That’s potentially more than the approximately £50 million in today’s money — then £1.5 million — spent when the queen took the throne in 1953.

It’s also well above the equivalent £24.8 million — then £450,000 — spent on George VI’s coronation in 1937.

The occasion, like most public events, is funded by the U.K. government and, ultimately, the British taxpayer, with Buckingham Palace also contributing an undisclosed share.

That has disgruntled some Brits, with 51% saying the coronation should not be funded by the government, according to a recent YouGov poll, while 18% were undecided.

Meantime, the public holiday called to mark the event on May 8 is estimated the cost the U.K. economy a further £1.36 billion in lost productivity.

Currently, U.K. gross domestic product (GDP) stands around 0.6% below its level of late-2019, and it is the only G-7 economy not to have recovered from the Covid-induced slump. Inflation, meanwhile, remains stubbornly high, with the headline rate rising 10.1% annually in March, and food and beverage costs rising at the sharpest clip in 45 years. The government, for its part, however, insists that the occasion will bring in millions for businesses, particularly the hard-hit retail, tourism and hospitality sectors. According to some estimates, retail sales are typically boosted by around 15% per day on public holidays.

UK Hospitality, a trade association for the hospitality industry, said that the king’s coronation could bring a £350 million boost to the sector. That, combined with Britain’s two further May bank holidays, as well as the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool on May 13, could generate a total boost of £1 billion, it added.

The approximately 2,300 people who have been invited to attend the coronation ceremony for King Charles III of Britain on Saturday in London includes a mix of new faces, old lineages, world leaders, pop icons and a dash of controversy.

Among those to receive the invitation — a hand-painted card by an heraldic artist, reproduced and printed on recycled paper with gold-foil details — are Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, Jill Biden, European aristocrats, Nobel Prize winners, the actress Joanna Lumley, and famed musicians like Lionel Richie and Nick Cave, but also a magician, a hairstylist and a Syrian refugee.

Saturday’s coronation is set to begin at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) and is expected to last around two hours.

Processions into the abbey will start with faith leaders, followed by representatives from each of the realms where the King is head of state. The flagbearers of each nation will be accompanied by the governors general and prime ministers. King Charles and Queen Camilla will each be attended by four pages throughout the service. The pages — among them Charles’ grandson, Prince George, and Camilla’s three grandsons, Gus and Louis Lopes and Freddy Parker Bowles, as well as her great-nephew Arthur Elliot — will also participate in the processions.

The service will lean on tradition but also be full of firsts, according to Lambeth Palace organizers. Some of those changes to the ancient Christian ceremony — the theme of which is “called to serve” — include the King praying aloud, participation of religious leaders from other faiths, involvement of female clergy and the incorporation of other languages spoken in the British Isles. Additionally, the traditional homage of peers has been replaced with a “homage of the people.” This tweak will see the public invited to join “a chorus of millions of voices enabled for the first time in history to participate in this solemn and joyful moment.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury said the service would “celebrate tradition” while containing “new elements that reflect the diversity of our contemporary society.”It will also be elevated by a musical program personally selected by Charles III, who enlisted the help of acclaimed British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to write one of 12 new pieces for the occasion.

While there have been efforts to modernize, the core elements of the historic coronation rite — the recognition, oath, anointing, investiture and crowning, enthronement and homage — all still remain. It is during some of these key moments that the coronation regalia — powerful symbols of the monarchy amassed by Kings and Queens throughout history — will be presented to Charles.

The first core element is the recognition. It is a symbolic moment when Charles will stand on a special platform erected in the abbey and be presented to the people.The King will then receive the Coronation Bible and take the Coronation Oath, administered by the Archbishop but a legal requirement rather than part of the liturgy. Charles will vow to rule according to law and exercise justice with mercy.

PR Biswas is a senior staff
correspondent of The Asian Age.

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