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English churches mark coronation with prayer, festivities

by Frank E. Lockwood | May 20, 2023 at 3:06 a.m.
Winchester Cathedral, southwest of London, was the site of a coronation celebration earlier this month. The last English king to be crowned in Winchester was King Edward the Confessor, who ruled from 1042 until his death in 1066. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood)

LONDON -- The eyes of the world were on Westminster Abbey earlier this month as Charles III was crowned king of the United Kingdom, but churches across his realm have been the site of celebrations as well.

At St. Bartholomew-the-Great, said to be London's oldest, a crowd gathered to offer Evensong Prayers Before Coronation, asking God to bless the sovereign "so that under him this nation may be wisely governed, and thy church may serve thee in all godly quietness."

The celebration lasted throughout coronation weekend, with trumpets and barbecue on tap for Sunday's grand finale.

Thousands of other parishes have held observances of some kind.

"An awful lot are having at least a party and having at least a big service. Some are going all out. I think we're enjoying it a lot," said Father Marcus Walker, St. Bart's rector.

"It's a wonderful time to celebrate what it means to be British, to be part of the Commonwealth, to be under the king, to share the king with so many nations," he said.

Rather than crafting his own prayers, Walker researched those that had been offered in the days surrounding the coronations of King George V in 1911, King George VI in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

He also dusted off the long-neglected second verse of God Save the King, which asks the Almighty to "scatter his enemies and make them fall; confound their politics, frustrate their knavish tricks."

Like other clergy between 1952 and 2022, Walker took an oath of allegiance promising to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law."

It's a vow he and others take seriously.

"For the Church of England, he's our supreme governor. We're still the state church. Our relationship with the king is intimate. It's really, really close. So I think there's a particular reason why the Church of England is praying hard for him, but we're not the only ones," he said, noting that Jews, Catholics and others were doing likewise.

While much of the ceremony was focused on London, other cities were eager to brag about their regal roots as well.

Kingston Upon Thames, 12 miles southwest of London, sits near the borders of the old kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex.

According to the ancient Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, two 10th-century rulers were consecrated in Kingston: Æthelstan, the first king of All England, and Æthelred the Unready.

The Royal Borough held a parade through its ancient marketplace, not far from the location of its ancient coronation stone, and a coronation thanksgiving service, featuring mace bearers, a bishop, a member of parliament and Worshipful Mayor Yogan Yoganathan.

With lilacs and roses blooming and much of the landscape aflower, organizers had invited participants to pick a posy and take it to the church.

Winchester, 55 miles to the southwest, held a great celebration of its own in its ancient cathedral. Thanks to Alfred the Great, Winchester was once the center of the British universe.

"This was the historic capital of England for its first 300 or 400 years," said Andy Trenier, the cathedral's canon precentor.

Edward the Confessor was crowned king in Winchester on Easter Day in 1043.

"He was the last one to become a saint," Trenier noted.

"We're using several parts of that service in this evening's service -- the very words, the very music and the very same prayers," Trenier added.

Additional services were held in the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace, at St. George's Chapel beside Windsor Castle, at St. Paul's Cathedral and at St. Giles-in-the-Fields, where prayers of thanksgiving were followed by sherry, port and a post-service toast to King Charles, capped with three "Hip Hip Hoorays."

  photo  Dean of Winchester Catherine Ogle and Vice-Dean Roland Riem relax outside Winchester Cathedral following the Service of Thanksgiving for the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III. An estimated 1,200 people attended the gathering. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood)

Print Headline: Churches around England celebrated Charles’ coronation


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