Presented with crown, scepter and sword (carried with great aplomb by a lady in a striking blue gown), accompanied by a magnificent repertoire of sublime and uplifting music, the King must have felt a slight sense of déjà vu. The rest of us certainly did. Didn’t we just go through all that?
However, we couldn’t call this a Coronation, even if the Scottish government had tried to do just that. Some of his earlier statements referred to a ‘Scottish coronation’ before being quickly corrected by Buckingham Palace.
This was a service of thanksgiving and dedication. That extraordinary rainy day in May was the moment when Charles III was crowned monarch of the United Kingdom. He definitely hadn’t gone to St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh, to be crowned again.
Rather, this was a celebration and recognition of Scotland’s unique royal heritage and Charles III and Queen Camilla’s place within it. Here too were the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay (as the Prince and Princess of Wales automatically become on Scottish soil). At the center of it all was the Presentation of the Royal Honors of Scotland in front of a congregation of 650 that encompassed all aspects of Scottish public life.
The presence of a small but noisy Republican roadside protest, waving ‘Not My King’ banners, was neither a surprise nor a distraction. The King and Queen seemed genuinely moved by an overwhelmingly warm welcome on the Royal Mile.
King Charles III of Great Britain receives the Scottish Crown, part of the Scottish Honours, during a National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication inside St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh yesterday.
The King will no doubt also have been hailed by a sermon with many nods to the planet and seasoned with a heavy dose of fire and brimstone from the Church of Scotland, literally. ‘Blessed are we when we realize that our children do not inherit this Earth from us, we have borrowed it from them,’ said Sally Foster-Fulton, Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly. And it is our duty to return it still singing and moving and bathing, not cooking to a crisp.
The Scottish crown jewels may not be as extensive as that vast hoard of gold and diamonds in the House of Jewels in the Tower of London. However, they can still pull range. The Crown of Scotland is considerably older than any of those newly arrived crowns the King wore in Westminster Abbey. It was made for James V in 1540 and was used to crown Mary, Queen of Scots.
Ditto, the scepter. It may not have a rock like the 530-carat Star of Africa on its head, but it was a gift from Pope Alexander VI to James IV of Scotland in 1494.
The Stone of Destiny, the throne of the first Scottish monarchs, was also present yesterday. He took pride of place in the Cathedral Sanctuary guarded by two policemen and a doe-eyed cohort of the King’s Scottish personal guard, the Royal Company of Archers. How could anyone hope to pull a 250-pound block of pink sandstone out from under the noses of this staunchly down-to-earth crowd?
That was a new touch. The Stone was not in the cathedral when the late Queen came to Edinburgh to receive these honors in 1953. This time, however, a devolved Scottish government was in charge and eager to put a modern stamp on things. So, marching ahead of her honors on her journey from Edinburgh Castle to St Giles’ Cathedral, came ‘The People’s Procession of Scotland’.
The Prince and Princess of Wales, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay while in Scotland, arrived at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh yesterday.
This included representatives from traditional organizations such as the Boys and Girls Brigades, the RNLI and the Royal British Legion, but also the Robert Burns World Federation, Lothian Buses and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews. This may also be the first state occasion to feature a delegation from Central Taxis, Edinburgh.
Similarly, although the Household Cavalry was seeking the role here, the Prime Minister, Humza Yousaf, and his team had decided not to take the Royal Family up the Royal Mile in open carriages, as the late Queen had done in 1953. The House Cavalry escort cars, instead. Safe but sad. I understand that the Scottish office in Westminster had offered to pay the carriage bills, but the Scottish government held firm. At least the SNP leaders were enthusiastic about the event, realizing that it was a global showcase for Scotland.
He may be an outspoken republican, but Humza Yousaf gave a polished reading of Psalm 19. The previous day it had been an enthusiastic handshake at the king’s garden party at Holyroodhouse. His coalition partners in the Scottish Parliament, the Greens, by contrast, decided to boycott yesterday’s proceedings. Its leader, Patrick Harvie, said he would be attending an anti-monarchy rally at the other end of the Royal Mile.
The king had taken a keen interest in all aspects of this service, just as he had in the order of service at his coronation. Several new pieces had been commissioned at his request, including a delightful Thanksgiving Song sung in the Aberdeenshire Doric dialect. The combination of a new orchestra, the Honors of Scotland Ensemble, the Fanfare Trumpeters of the RAF plus the cathedral organ, produced a grand debut for a processional piece called The Call of Lochnagar (a nod to his children’s book, The Old Man of Lochnagar). Expect to hear that in future royal events.
The Royal Guard of the Domestic Cavalry toured the Royal Mile on their way to the National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication of King Carlos III and Queen Camila.
Protesters on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, ahead of the National Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication of King Charles III and Queen Camilla
The Queen’s appearance at this event in 1953 was not without controversy. Many old-fashioned Scots were disappointed that she did not appear in her coronation robes and arrived in day dress and carrying a bag. Perhaps aware of this misstep, the King, Queen, and Duke of Rothesay all wore the green robes and regalia of the Order of the Thistle. The Duchess of Rothesay, who has yet to be named Lady of the Thistle, wore a Catherine Walker ensemble plus a Philip Treacy hat and necklace from the late Queen’s collection.
In 1953, there was also a great panic at the Palace after the Dean of St Giles insisted that the Queen should hold the Scepter of Scotland when presented to her. The matter went all the way to Downing Street and then to the Lord Chancellor, who warned that any royal grasp of the scepter “would imply that her Majesty recognized Scotland as a separate Kingdom”. He was simply instructed to touch it.
The King did the same thing yesterday, gently touching his treasures instead of using them.
Dame Katherine Grainger carries the Elizabeth sword at a national service of thanksgiving and dedication to the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla
Lord President of the Council, Penny Mordaunt, carrying the Sword of State, in the procession through Westminster Abbey before the coronation ceremony of King Charles III and Queen Camilla
The most spectacular piece of royalty was the newest. With State’s original considered too fragile to leave Edinburgh Castle, a massive new sword of Elizabeth has been added to Scotland’s crown jewels. He also weighs 16 pounds, twice the weight of his Westminster counterpart.
At the coronation, the main sword was carried by the Lord President of the Council, Penny Mordaunt. She became an unexpected star of the show, both because of her blue cape dress and her ability to stand for two hours without blinking.
Not to be outdone, Scotland had invited Katherine Grainger to take on the same role, dressed in an equally elegant blue dress, coat and hat. She was a wise choice. As well as being Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Dame Katherine is a gold and silver medal-winning former Olympic rower.
“I didn’t really have a lot of time to train for this, but I had 20 years of training to back me up,” he explained afterwards. “It’s heavy, but it’s actually very well balanced.”