Charles is King.
Of course he’s *been* King since his mother drew her last breath, but today’s coronation service formalized that fact. Oaths were administered and taken: not in a write-your-own-vows spirit or express-your-unique-individuality style, but oaths prescribed by centuries of ecclesiastical tradition. Oaths codified in legislation. Symbols of office were presented and accepted. Vestments heavy with tradition and just plain heavy were worn and then removed: Dressed simply and on his knees, Charles-the-man was anointed King behind a privacy screen, slightly jarring in a world in which our whole lives can be public. It reflected the sacredness of the act, at least as understood by those participating.
The participants were a remarkably inclusive group. The clerics, choristers, and members of the congregation were female and male, old and young, and came in all the shades and shapes of the human phenotype. A Hindu read part of a letter from St. Paul to the Colossians. Clerics from other Christian traditions said a prayer for, and gave a blessing to, the King. Clerics from other faiths greeted the King as he left the Abbey.
As pageantry it was above reproach but it didn’t address, much less answer, the substantive question: Is monarchy an historical relic, a defensible institution, or a privileged abomination? Opinions vary. Mine varies on different days but today my opinion is this: It is what it is.
It is a fine thing to hear “Your undoubted King” proclaimed from the four corners of the Abbey: a fact beyond politics. It is a welcome reminder that, no matter how they see themselves, politicians are not the embodiment of Canada, nor even of our government. In our constitutional monarchy, the Crown embodies our system of government and the living monarch embodies the Crown.
Is that good news or bad? On this matter, your answer might depend on what you think of Charles: Is he just a silly old man or will he be a worthy monarch? Opinions vary. Mine varies on different days but today my opinion is this: He is what he is. Just as the person in the monarch’s role can be good or bad, wise or silly, magnificent or pathetic–and maybe all of these in different ways and at different times–so, too, can we be all these things. The stories of Charles and of Canada have chapters yet unwritten. We can’t write the rest of his story, but we can write the next chapter of our own. Indeed we must and we will, whether by action or by inaction.
As we head out to do or not-do just that, there’s one more thing to consider. In a world where people make money and take power by fostering divisions, it is a fine thing when for even one moment our voices rise as one–whether that’s scripted liturgical responses by congregants, or practiced hurrahs by Commonwealth troops standing at attention in a soggy field, or spontaneous singing of God Save the King by rain-dampened crowds lining the streets.
God save the King, indeed. God save us all.