'Operation Golden Orb' Has Begun

Coronation of King Charles III, wife Camilla kicks off in London
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 6, 2023 5:30 AM CDT
'Operation Golden Orb' Has Begun
Workers prepare the balcony of Buckingham Palace ahead of King Charles III coronation ceremony in London on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

King Charles III is being crowned Saturday at Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony built on ancient traditions, at a time when the monarchy faces an uncertain future. More than 2,000 guests, thousands of troops, tens of thousands of spectators, and a smattering of protesters converged in and around the abbey as the king traveled from Buckingham Palace in a gilt-trimmed, horse-drawn carriage, per the AP. It was the final mile of a seven-decade journey for Charles from heir to monarch. The ceremony will be filled with pomp and pageantry, with crowns and diamonds, soaring music, purple robes, magnificent hats—and a rousing cheer of "God Save the King" inside the abbey and in the streets outside.

As guests arrived, the church buzzed with excitement and was abloom with fragrant flowers and colorful hats. Streaming into the abbey were celebrities, dignitaries, and world leaders, including US first lady Jill Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, eight current and former British prime ministers, as well as stars Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, and Lionel Richie. Thousands of people from across the UK and around the world camped overnight along a 1.3-mile route. The crowds grew during the morning, in intermittent rain, along the route, which the newly crowned king and Camilla, the queen consort, will take back to the palace, this time in a 261-year-old gilded carriage accompanied by 4,000 troops, forming Britain’s biggest military parade in 70 years.

Heir to the throne Prince William; his wife, Kate; and their three children were all in attendance. William's younger brother, Prince Harry, who has publicly sparred with the family, arrived alone. His wife, Meghan, and their two children remained at home in California. To the royal family and government, the occasion—code-named "Operation Golden Orb"—is a display of heritage, tradition, and spectacle unmatched around the world. Dean of Westminster David Hoyle, who will help lead the service, predicted it would be spectacular. "I'm used to ceremony on a national level. Even I think this is pretty jaw-dropping," he said.

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But to republican protesters who gathered to holler "Not my king," it's a celebration of an institution that stands for privilege and inequality. The anti-monarchy group Republic said six of its members, including its chief executive, were arrested as they arrived at the protest. Police have said they'll have have a "low tolerance" for people seeking to disrupt the day, sparking criticism that they're clamping down on free speech. For 1,000 years and more, British monarchs have been crowned in grandiose ceremonies that confirm their right to rule. These days, the king no longer has executive or political power, and the service is purely ceremonial, as Charles automatically became king upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September. The king remains the UK's head of state and a symbol of national identity. This is a developing story. Check back on Newser for updates.

(More King Charles III coronation stories.)

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