Kingship is based on self-sacrifice and duty
IN keeping with the high standards that characterised every aspect of the Coronation, the speech by the Prince of Wales at the Windsor Castle concert was a masterpiece.
Humorous, concise and perfectly delivered, it showed both devotion to the King and pride in his achievements. But William’s greatest praise was reserved for his father’s spirit of dedication.
As the Prince put it, “for all that the celebrations are magnificent, at the heart of the pageantry is a simple message: service”.
Critics of the monarchy like to wail about hereditary power and privilege, but in truth the ideal of kingship is based on self-sacrifice, humility and duty.
That was reflected in the first words the King uttered on his entry into Westminster Abbey at the start of the service on Saturday. “I come not to be served, but to serve,” he told the congregation.
It was a pledge backed by his long, impressive record in public life, following the selfless example of his mother. The outpouring of grief at the death of Elizabeth last September stemmed from respect for her decades of devotion.
In the same way, admiration for all work King Charles has done – as an environmentalist, naval officer, architectural campaigner, advocate for the inner-cities, charity creator, and champion of multi-faith diversity – has been central to the spectacular success of the Coronation weekend. The public recognises we have a sovereign who cares deeply about his country and will strive tirelessly to address its problems.
Commitment to service also motivated the participants who ensured the event went so smoothly. It is testimony to their planning and diligence that, despite the colossal undertaking, there was barely a single mishap.
The 4,000 military personnel, accompanied by more than 1,000 musicians in 19 bands, paraded through Central London with their typical precision and discipline, just as the clergy, led by the self-assured Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, produced an unforgettable service whose rich liturgy and music showed reverence for tradition while embracing modernity.
Equally impressive were the police, whose 11,500 officers carried out the biggest security operation ever seen in the capital without any serious incident.
Some 64 Republican and environmental protesters were arrested on Saturday and have since predictably complained about heavy-handed tactics.
But, given the global importance of the occasion and the appalling recent catalogue of mayhem inflicted on our streets by radical agitators, the police were right not to take a lenient approach.
Following the beautiful solemnity of the military parades and the service at the Abbey, a more informal celebratory mood has swept across the country, epitomised by the concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday, which featured the extraordinary but touching sight of the King dancing to Lionel Richie.
Earlier that day, an estimated 65,000 lunch parties were held in neighbourhoods throughout the country, from 10 Downing Street to Morecambe, where 900 trestle
tables were placed along the seafront to accommodate more than 10,000 people.
The theme of service was prominent again yesterday, with around six million taking part in the Big Help Out, a nationwide initiative to promote voluntary work.
Among the 52,000 events were a clean-up of beaches in Wales, a puppy training session in Reading organised by the Guide Dogs for the Blind, and an open day by St John Ambulance in Gateshead.
It was “an unprecedented festival of volunteering”, said Brendan Cox, co-founder of the Together Coalition. The Big Help Out is a classic example of how the Crown can be a force for unity and public good. Free from the partisan strife of party politics, it helps to build solidarity by acting as a symbol of our identity and a vehicle for pride.
Indeed, after all the difficulties we have been through, particularly the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, the Coronation has served as a booster rocket for our country.
It has happened in a direct way by bolstering tourism, the hospitality trade and souvenir sales.
Around six million special coins and medals have been minted, while more than 60 million pints of beer are expected to have been drunk over the weekend.
Altogether, the event could be worth an extra £2billion to economic output. But, on a deeper level, the Coronation has been a wonderful showcase for British values and talent.
As an amateur magician, Charles joined the Magic Circle in 1975. He certainly presided over a magical spectacle – one that will live forever in our collective memory.
In all its rich imagery and sounds, the Coronation served as a captivating reminder not only of our enduring greatness as a nation but also our global influence as a cultural superpower. Few other countries can rival our contribution to the story of mankind.
Ours is the land that built the hallowed edifice of Westminster Abbey, that produced the language of Shakespeare, that pioneered the concept of Parliamentary governance under a constitutional monarchy and that still possesses Armed Forces of unique distinction. Britain is also a rapidly changing society, but here again the Crown is a vital bulwark of stability because of its benevolent capacity to bring all races and creeds together.
Far from representing a kind of nationalist supremacy, the Union Flag bunting that bedecked our streets is a welcome emblem of inclusion. As promoted by the monarchy, patriotism is a bond that reinforces a sense of belonging.
That shone through at the Abbey as tradition was adapted for diverse multi-faith Britain in contributions from non-Christian religious leaders and a compelling performance by the Ascension gospel choir.
The Crown’s credentials in combating discrimination, as demonstrated in Charles’ work at the Prince’s Trust in helping disadvantaged youths, expose the emptiness of vicious claims from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex about racism within the Royal Family.
Prince Harry and wife Meghan thought they could inflict lasting damage on the monarchy by detonating their bomb of charges about bigotry, but it blew up in their faces.
What was so striking at the weekend was the huge popularity of the King, the Queen and their immediate relatives compared to the isolation of Harry as he went furtively in and out of the Abbey on his flying visit from Californian exile.
Our monarchy has endured for over 1,000 years. As Charles starts his first week as a crowned King, he can be satisfied the institution is as secure as at any time in its history.