Coronation of King Charles III

Saturday 6 May 2023 marked the coronation of King Charles III, the first coronation since 1953 and so the first in the living memory of most people. It took place eight months after the death of the Queen, whose popularity and length of reign was unparalleled. It was unclear how people would respond to the coronation of Charles, an altogether more divisive figure.

Attitudes to the monarchy have shifted in the 70 years since the last coronation. Deference has diminished; most people have become simply apathetic, but others oppose the institution of the monarchy more actively.

The pressure group Republic has been campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy since the early 1980s, and took the coronation as an opportunity to get their message across. They stood on the procession route and walked with the crowds, holding placards reading “Not My King” and “Citizen Not Subject”. (To Republic, a “subject” is someone under the dominion and authority of a monarch; a “citizen” has rights and representation.)

The police response was typically heavy-handed; 52 protesters were arrested and placards reading “Not My King” were seized.

Protesters hold anti-monarchy signs.
A woman holds a placard with a caricature of Charles and the slogan “Quiche Quiet”, a reference to Charles’s chosen coronation dish – a spinach and bean quiche.
A woman holding a “Not My King” sign is questioned as to her intentions by a police officer.
Protesters join the throng heading towards Hyde Park.

Others took the opportunity to dress up, whether in period costume or just draped in Union Jacks.

A couple dressed in period costume watch the assembling crowds. Apart from the mobile phone, they could have travelled in time from the last coronation in 1953.
A woman shows off her dress, adorned with pictures of Princess Diana, in the crowds assembling to watch the coronation.
A family wearing Union Jack hats watch the coronation on the large screens in Hyde Park.
A family wearing Union Jack regalia walk through St. James’s.

The processional route filled up quickly, and by 9am crowds were being directed to Hyde Park, where big screens had been set up to watch the coronation ceremony.

Crowds move down Piccadilly on their way to Hyde Park.
A woman having a picnic in Hyde Park smiles despite the rain.
Crowds brave the rain to watch the ceremony on big screens.
Charles’s state coach is shown on screen to the crowds.

Any crowd this big is an opportunity to sell, and the coronation was no exception. The route from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park was lined with people selling Union Jack flags, ponchos, paper crowns, and souvenir programmes.

Men selling flags and crowns from suitcases on Pall Mall.
A man sells a cardboard crown on Pall Mall.
A man selling flags and ponchos on St. James’s Street.