On Saturday, May 6, the United Kingdom will officially receive its 40th monarch, King Charles III.
And by extension, this includes Canada, where the King of England is the symbolic head of state (his representative in Canadian government is the Governor General, who is currently Mary Simon.) He has this role in Canadian society because we are a part of the British Commonwealth—a group of independent nations that were once a part of the British Empire, but which still have favourable ties to the UK.
Of course, King Charles has been king since shortly after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022. But this ceremony, called a coronation, is the big event that makes it all really real.
Because Queen Elizabeth was such a long-serving monarch (the second longest in the history of the world!), this will be the first coronation in the UK in 70 years. What can we expect to see? And what will it mean for Canadians?
Coronation (down the) street
Essentially, the coronation is a big public parade through London, England's capital city.
It starts at Buckingham Palace, which is the home of the royal family in the city. And it arrives at Westminster Abbey, a famous church where all of the country's king and queens have been crowned. Then, after a ceremony, the parade happens again, but this time in reverse, returning to Buckingham Palace.
All of the events, including the coronation ceremony itself, will be televised. And the entire event will create a holiday atmosphere across the country. Especially since this will be the first British coronation that most people have ever witnessed. There will even be big screens in public parks so people can watch it together.
What does the monarchy mean?
The tradition of a monarchy in England goes back a thousand years. And while that history is long and a major part of the country's identity, the world has also changed a lot in that time.
In fact, it changed a lot even just during Queen Elizabeth's reign (period of rule).
Today, there are very few monarchs (kings, queens, emperors) in the world. And those who remain usually aren't the real leaders of their countries. Instead, they are figureheads—people who lead symbolically. While elected leaders like prime ministers and presidents do the actual governing, the monarchs are seen as inspirational figures who lead by example.
At least, that is the idea.
But during Queen Elizabeth's reign, the royal family was rocked by many public scandals. These events often brought embarrassment to the crown (a term that also refers to the king or queen, and their extended family). At those times, the one person who was able to steer them through the tragedies was Queen Elizabeth herself. Even in times of great strife, she remained a popular figure.
Will the new king be a fit?
Now that job is King Charles' to perform. And there is some doubt about whether he is a good fit.
Part of this is because of who he is personally. At 74, he is the oldest person to be crowned as king in the UK's history. At a time when so many things in the world are changing, many feel that it is time for a fresher start and voice in monarchy. In the case, that would be King Charles' oldest son, Prince William, who is next in line for the throne.
But then there are people who simply feel that the entire idea of monarchy is the problem. It is an outdated type of government that dates back to an era of global empires and colonization. This is a painful part of history that many people feel is still being ignored, including here in Canada.
Already one country in the Commonwealth that is moving away from the monarchy is Jamaica. Their government says that they are planning a referendum (a vote on a single issue) to decide whether or not to leave the Commonwealth and remove the king as their head of state. Though Canada hasn't made any such plans yet, polls indicate that interest in this coronation is far lower than it was for Queen Elizabeth II.
Is it just a sign of the changing times? Or is there a positive role for the new king in Canada's future? Or maybe even for his son, Prince William? Questions like these have a way of being answered over time.
Will you be watching the parade and coronation ceremony on Saturday?