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A Look at King Charles’s Coronation in 2023 Amidst Economic Woes, Colonial Controversies, and Calls for an Elected Head of State

In 1953, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was a moment of public joy, as the young Queen represented something progressive simply by being a woman in a world dominated by men. Her coronation was the first to be televised, and many watched the procession on newly-purchased TV sets as three million people lined the streets of London. In contrast, her son’s coronation, 70 years later, will be different. The UK is currently experiencing a cost of living crisis, and some people are concerned about the taxpayer-funded display of pomp and pageantry during the event. Republicans are using this time to campaign for an elected head of state, and people are having conversations about Britain’s colonial past.

The coronation will be the first big test of King Charles’s reign on the world stage in the internet age, where social media gives everyone a chance to be heard. Recent polling suggests that King Charles has some reason to be concerned. A YouGov poll found that there is only 32% of support for keeping the monarchy amongst 18 to 25-year-olds, with more of this age group wanting an elected head of state. A separate survey found that the majority of British adults do not care about the coronation.

Another problem for the royals is the sense that they have a poor record when it comes to racism and unconscious bias. A Panorama poll showed that 49% of people who would describe themselves as being from an ethnic minority believe that the royal family has a problem with race. Efforts to change these perceptions were landed a blow last November when Black charity founder Ngozi Fulani shared her experience of being repeatedly asked where she was from by Palace aide Lady Susan Hussey during a Buckingham Palace reception.

As a 74-year-old white male who has inherited his position, King Charles cannot claim to represent progressiveness himself. But it’s clear that he is trying to send a message with this coronation that he is committed to using his time as King to preside over a progressive institution. The guest list of the coronation ceremony puts the diversity that exists in Britain today front and center. The liturgy has also been modernized, with Charles declaring that he has come “not to be served, but to serve,” and an explanation has been put before his Oath to uphold the Protestant faith that this should be interpreted as a desire to “foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely.”

However, the idea of declaring allegiance to the sovereign and his heirs has already been received with mixed reviews. Other European monarchies have significantly scaled down or done away with this kind of investiture, and there is a sense that the mood towards a grand royal occasion of this kind is more uncertain than it was during Queen Elizabeth’s reign.