King’s coronation: Eyewitness account from inside Westminster Abbey | UK News

In the cavernous amphitheatre of Westminster Abbey, we were hit by what felt like a wall of sound. 

A larger choir and full orchestra in the loft creating the most dramatic musical entrance for the King and Queen, a ceremony of ancient ritual about to unfold before us, it was like we were watching a piece of theatre.

As a royal correspondent, I was offered a seat to attend this momentous ceremony.

At the centre a couple whose own tumultuous back-story made this moment all the more extraordinary to witness, as we saw Charles and Camilla crowned alongside each other.

King Charles III wearing the St Edward's Crown and Queen Camilla wearing the Queen Mary's Crown during their coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Saturday May 6, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Coronation. Photo credit should read: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
King Charles III wearing the St Edward’s Crown and Queen Camilla wearing the Queen Mary’s Crown

This was a scene that only a few years ago would have caused uproar among some in this country, but now, there they were, occupying those ornate thrones, supporting each other in their 70s as you could see their faces etched with the enormity of this moment.

All of us in the congregation had been asked to arrive early, and there was a lively atmosphere of people chatting and milling around as our pack of reporters were walked to our seats.

Queen Elizabeth leaves Westminster Abbey
Queen Elizabeth leaves Westminster Abbey in 1953

In 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II, a sea of peers in ermine robes surrounded her; this had the feel of a spring wedding, intentionally more meritocratic as well as inevitably aristocratic.

As I walked down the aisle you could see sitting in the front row people from across the UK who have served their own communities wearing their best dresses, hats and suits, sitting alongside former royal staff, political figures, and those of other faiths and nationalities dressed in their own religious or indigenous dress.

A cheer for Ant and Dec, as well as a steady stream of other celebrity faces was another change from 70 years ago.

Ant and Dec sit as guests arrive to attend Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla's coronation ceremony
Ant and Dec attended the ceremony

That sense of modernity and inclusivity was deeply woven into the service, no doubt at the request of a King who right from the death of his mother has shown his desire to promote a diverse multicultural Britain.

We saw a gospel choir and hymns in the languages of all of the nations of the United Kingdom, the King giving a rare smile in the service as he was greeted by other faith leaders as he departed.

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The almost mythical traditional elements of course remained, including the King anointed behind a screen.

However as they moved the screens away and we saw him kneeling, dressed in a simple white tunic, this felt like a man contemplating the weight of the expectation he now faces, summed up by the archbishop in his sermon as he talked of the “weight of the task given you today”.

Of course the pageantry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, hence the protests this weekend. And that’s why his family could not be more important, it will take a team effort to deal with the challenges of a less deferential age.

Anti-monarchy protesters boo King Charles' crowning moment
Anti-monarchy protesters boo King Charles’ crowning moment

Starting with Camilla. As one reporter said to me she is not one who normally enjoys formality, but as she adjusted her own crown, we saw a wife again doing whatever it takes to support her husband.

Then there was William and Kate bringing all their children, even five-year-old Louis. If they want to make sure the monarchy survives, they ultimately have the hardest job of all, appealing to the younger crowd.

Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales attend Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla's coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, in London, Britain May 6, 2023. REUTERS/Phil Noble/Pool
The Prince and Princess of Wales attended the ceremony with all their children

Prince Harry in the third row, well behind his brother, was a reminder of the tricky dynamics that have shaken the family’s reputation.

But probably one of the most touching moments, the King looking visibly emotional as William pledged his allegiance, appeared to show at least one son committed to being by his father’s side in a way that hasn’t always been visible in recent years.

The Prince of Wales touches St Edward's Crown on King Charles III's head during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Saturday May 6, 2023.
The Prince of Wales touches St Edward’s Crown on King Charles III’s head

The musical soundtrack of this history-making moment reached a crescendo as the King and Queen made their final procession through the abbey and the congregation around me joined a rendition of God Save the King.

But as the monarch made his way towards the door I couldn’t help but think that while the crown, the robes, the regalia seemed so apt inside the historic setting of Westminster Abbey, how fitting would they appear as he stepped out in the rain?

Coronation over, remaining relevant is the challenge they now face.