Leap of Faith: the coronation

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Leap of Faith: the coronation

Would King Charles’ scaled down coronation meet with King Solomon's approval?

King Charles III’s coronation takes place on Saturday 6 May 2023 in Westminster Abbey. The three-hour-long coronation of the late Queen Elizabeth II was in the presence of more than 8,000 guests from nearly 130 countries and was the first mass televised event, watched by 27 million people in the UK alone.

Speculation has it that the guest list for King Charles III could be thousands lighter, the ceremony reduced to closer to an hour, and the spending on it much reduced. The Financial Times (11.10.22) reported an official in the royal household saying: “The government, the royal household, the Earl Marshal [who is organising the ceremony] — everyone is very conscious of the financial circumstances in the country.”

Records of coronations in the Bible are brief. They start with the coronation of Saul, first King of Israel (1 Samuel 11:15), when a great simcah was held and sacrifices made on his behalf. There is no detail about the coronation of King David (2 Samuel 5:3), just a peace treaty in Hebron that makes him King of Israel. The coronation of the seven-year-old King Jehoash is rather bigger in scale (2 Kings 11) with a huge guard of honour, trumpets blasting throughout his kingdom, the rather grisly murder of the mother of a potential rival, the smashing up of temples of Baal and national rejoicing. In other words, what was needed by the times and the situation of the people is exactly what happened.

King Solomon’s coronation is not recorded but his later actions were extraordinarily lavish. He built the first Temple in Jerusalem, aiming to unite the peoples of Israel and Judah in one place for all festivals and religious life. He extended forced labour to 30,000 men to build the Temple and made it extraordinary, covered in gold, built from cedars of Lebanon, and with not just one gold menorah to give light but ten. His conspicuous displays of wealth, in the service of God and to aggrandise the Israelite kingdom, enabled him to make alliances with others and bring peace to Israel during his reign. So it was what was needed for the times.

If his coronation is lower key than that of 1953, King Charles III will be doing the same. He will be matching the celebration of his accession with the times that we are living in, and it will be all the better and more uniting for his United Kingdom for this choice.


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