World·Royal Fascinator

King Charles's coronation is over — now what?

While the reign of King Charles began the moment his mother died last September, the coronation a couple of weeks ago also symbolized a new start for him. And yet, many of the issues Charles will face involve longstanding challenges that have been front and centre for the monarch — and the monarchy.

Trying to show relevance of monarchy and visibility of Royal Family could be issues

Two people shake hands as other people look on.
King Charles, right, speaks with British television personality June Sarpong during a special industry showcase event hosted by the British Fashion Council in London on Thursday. (Jonathan Brady/The Associated Press)

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While the reign of King Charles began the moment his mother died last September, the coronation a couple of weeks ago also brought with it the potential for another beginning for the new monarch.

"The coronation has symbolized a new start," Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian, said in an interview.

When Charles succeeded to the throne, much of the analysis of the new monarch was in the context of mourning Queen Elizabeth and comparing Charles directly with his mother, Harris said.

"Now after the coronation, we're going to see King Charles III and Queen Camilla really gaining confidence in their new roles and being judged on their own terms and not simply within the context of Queen Elizabeth II's legacy."

As much as that judgment will be on Charles and Camilla in their own right, it will inevitably involve longstanding issues and challenges that have been front and centre for the monarch — and the monarchy. 

"They are mostly the same issues. They haven't gone away because of the coronation," Bob Morris, a member of the honorary staff of the constitution unit at University College London, said in an interview.

Several people talk with one another at a market.
King Charles, left, and Queen Camilla meet members of the local community and business owners during a visit to Covent Garden market in central London on Wednesday. (Daniel Leal/The Associated Press)

Maintaining political impartiality

High on the list, as Morris sees it, is Charles having to observe "total political impartiality."

"There's been criticisms of him in the past on this score," Morris said, noting that he isn't sure they've been well-founded.

"He certainly pressed the interests of certain bodies and so on and so forth, but it hasn't been party political, and he says he's learned that lesson, and I'm sure he has, and I don't expect any difficulty on that score."

The coronation brought with it much debate about the role of monarchy in society, an issue that will also be front and centre for Charles. 

As Harris sees it, a significant challenge for the monarchy as a whole will be "demonstrating the monarchy's continued relevance in the 21st century and the role of a constitutional monarch who is above party politics."

Charles, she noted, has had strong views on several "very topical 21st-century issues," such as climate change and sustainable development. 

WATCH | Highlights of the coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla:

Missed the coronation of King Charles? See the highlights

22 days ago
Duration 2:15
King Charles was crowned, alongside his wife Queen Camilla, in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday. See highlights from the ceremony — and the moment the newly crowned King greeted the public from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

"But in that role as head of state, he needs to remain above politics and so it's going to be a challenge in terms of setting the tone for the reign ahead of undertaking those duties as a constitutional monarch, while still being perceived as relevant to the concerns of the 21st century."

Strained royal relationships

Challenges also lie within the Royal Family itself, particularly given the strained relationship between Charles and his younger son, Prince Harry. And even though Charles's brother, Prince Andrew, has stepped back from official royal duties in the fallout of his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, speculation involving Andrew still surfaces from time to time. 

"It used to be said that behaviour of individual royals didn't matter because the institution was strong enough to overcome that," said Morris. "We can't take that for granted now."

Harris expects to see increased scrutiny on the relationship between Charles and other members of his family and the royal household, something that was coming to the fore in recent days as headlines swirled over royal housing arrangements, particularly involving various accommodations near Windsor Castle.

Any change in reign brings some shuffling of royal residences, but some recent media coverage has focused on Angela Kelly, the late Queen's dresser, apparently moving out of the house she had lived in while working closely with Elizabeth. 

Other headlines and much speculation have also been swirling over Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who now live in California, being asked to fully move out of Frogmore Cottage, clearing the way for Prince Andrew to move in. In doing that, Andrew would leave the much larger Royal Lodge, perhaps clearing the way for Prince William, Catherine, Princess of Wales, and their three young children to move into that residence.

A large house is shown from a distance and behind some trees.
Who will live at Frogmore Cottage, near Windsor Castle in Windsor, England? Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who live in California, have reportedly been asked to fully move out, leaving the recently refurbished home available perhaps for Prince Andrew. (GOR/Getty Images)

"There's going to be a lot of scrutiny about how much are these decisions motivated by efficiently making use of the housing that's available to members of the Royal Family and how much is this motivated by some of the controversies associated with Prince Andrew and Prince Harry," said Harris.

Keeping Royal Family visible

Family also plays into another issue looming for Charles: just who will be supporting him as he looks toward a slimmed-down monarchy and how that will affect the level of visibility of the Royal Family itself.

"There's some dangers here because, as the Queen used to say, she had to be seen to be believed," said Morris.

"If you lower the amount of visibility, then the monarchy has less impact on ordinary people and questions will tend to arise about, well, what are they there for and so on."

Harris also sees a challenge for Charles in the extent to which the Royal Family may remain visible to the public.

Several people stand beside two people wearing crowns.
Members of the Royal Family stand with King Charles, centre, and Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace after the coronation on May 6. They are, from left, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent; Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester; Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester; Tim Laurence, Princess Anne, Prince William, Catherine, Princess of Wales; Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh; Princess Alexandra; and Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh. (Hugo Burnand/Royal Household/The Associated Press)

"One of the main issues that he's facing is having a smaller core of working members of the Royal Family undertaking public engagements, patronages, Commonwealth tours," she said.

"There's going to be challenges having enough members of the Royal Family to be visible undertaking royal duties, especially in the Commonwealth realms, before Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis are able to take on full-time schedules of royal duties."

Another issue Harris sees for Charles lies in how well-known he is to the public, unlike his mother, who came to the throne at the age of 25 but remained rather enigmatic to the public throughout her long life.

"They knew that she enjoyed dogs and horses and spending time with her grandchildren but there was a great deal about the Queen's private thoughts that wasn't particularly well-known," said Harris

"Whereas a challenge Charles III faces is that the public is very familiar with his views on a wide variety of subjects. 

"So even when he's undertaking ostensibly neutral duties like convening events or receptions or garden parties, there will likely be scrutiny of who's invited and people looking back to views that King Charles III has expressed in the past to try to get a sense of what he is trying to achieve as King."

Leading the sovereign's escort

Mounted police officers ride horses along a street.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers ride in front of King Charles and Queen Camilla’s carriage during the procession following the coronation in London on May 6. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

As the Gold State Coach made its way from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey to pick up the newly crowned King Charles and Queen Camilla, five members of the RCMP's Musical Ride led the way.

The Mounties, riding horses the force had given the Royal Family over the years, also led the elaborate coach on its way back to Buckingham Palace after the coronation.

"All five horses were just absolutely magnificent. I couldn't have been happier," Sgt. Maj. Scott Williamson, the RCMP's riding master, said in an interview.

One horse, however, was under particular scrutiny. Noble, a seven-year-old mare given by the RCMP to the King a few weeks ago, was making her debut in a major ceremonial event, complete with all of its surrounding noises and distractions and crowds.

"Noble was the one that we were mainly focused on and I guess you could say concerned with because this was going to be her first time," Williamson said.

Any concerns about the horse that had been chosen for the King because of her calm disposition, among other qualities, were allayed as Noble steadily progressed along the route with George, Elizabeth, Sir John and Darby.

A person pats the nose of a horse as other people look on.
King Charles, second left, is officially presented with Noble, a horse given to him by the RCMP earlier this year, during a ceremony in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, on April 28. (Andrew Matthews/The Associated Press)

"She was absolutely tremendous," said Williamson. "It was like she had done it 100 times."

In the end, the crowds didn't bother the horses at all.

"We expected the crowds to be quite loud," said Williamson, "and what we didn't want is for any sharp noises to potentially bother the horses, so we actually plugged their ears to soften and muffle any of the sound."

Williamson, who had ridden with other Mounties in the procession after the Queen's funeral last September, wasn't riding this time.

"Once we got the horses in the place where they were going to be for the procession, I stepped aside and I was actually right to the side of the abbey as His Majesty and Her Majesty exited," Williamson said. "And then they went by me in the carriage so I got an opportunity to give them a good salute and they made eye contact with me and it was quite a special moment, actually."

For Williamson, it was an honour and "incredibly humbling" to be involved in the RCMP's role leading the sovereign's escort.

WATCH | King Charles receives ceremonial RCMP title: 

King Charles accepts ceremonial RCMP title

29 days ago
Duration 2:03
King Charles III has accepted the ceremonial role of Commissioner-in-Chief of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The honorary title contains many levels of symbolism and significance. An RCMP honour guard will march ahead of the King at his coronation in London, England, on May 6.

But more so, he said, there was a feeling that they were representing all of Canada.

"That's really what means the most to me, and … I  said quite often actually when we were there [that] I hope that the Canadians who didn't get to do what we did, who didn't get to participate in that event, I hope they got to feel a sense of pride that we felt." 

Williamson said it was also a really special moment for the RCMP, particularly as he looks back on the relationship the force had with Charles's mother.

"I can't help but think of the very first horse that we gifted the Queen," he said, referencing Burmese, given to Elizabeth in 1969 and which she rode at Trooping the Colour, marking her official birthday, for 18 years. 

A person rides a horse sidesaddle in front of soldiers standing in formation.
Queen Elizabeth rides Burmese for the final time during Trooping the Colour in London, England, in June 1986. (The Associated Press)

"It was an all-black mare born and bred in the province of Saskatchewan and then now … the very first horse that we give the King is an all-black mare named [by] a young child from Estevan, Saskatchewan," said Williamson.

To Williamson, it seems to be a "full-circle moment."

"It was really proud to be a piece of that history, even if it was just a small piece."

Marching for Canada and the King

A person wearing a dress naval uniform stands in a parade ground in front of a large building.
Sailor 2nd Class Erin Marsden says marching with other members of the Canadian Armed Forces during the procession after the coronation of King Charles left her feeling proud. (Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Canadian Armed Forces)

Sailor 2nd Class Erin Marsden and 44 other members of the Canadian Armed Forces were marching up the flag-lined thoroughfare near Buckingham Palace in London when they heard the cheer ring out: "God save the King."

The 23-year-old Ottawa naval reservist couldn't see what was going on inside Westminster Abbey as the crown was placed upon Charles's head, but loudspeakers brought the moment to her ears.

"Then the cannons went off and everybody just started cheering," Marsden said a few days after returning home to Canada. "And I was almost holding back tears to realize that I was in that moment, like part of history, that the King was being crowned as we were marching up The Mall."

The CAF contingent had landed in the U.K. several days before, and along with service members from the U.K. and around the Commonwealth, practised intently and repeatedly for their marching on May 6.

"Every single day we woke up really early and we were just doing drill practice," Marsden said.

"I was definitely in awe seeing all the different Commonwealth countries' uniforms. We took lots of pictures with them. It was great to march alongside them."

People in military uniforms march along a wide street lined with flags.
Members of the Canadian contingent march on The Mall as part of the coronation procession in London on May 6. (Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Canadian Armed Forces )

A full dress rehearsal for the 7,000 or so military representatives marching on coronation day took Marsden and the other CAF members to the streets of central London in the very early hours of May 3.

"There was actually a lot of people out there cheering us on, even at 2 a.m." she said.

On coronation day, Marsden and the others in the Canadian contingent didn't actually get that close to Westminster Abbey.

"We just marched up The Mall and then we halted there and waited for the King to join us in his carriage. And then we all went to Buckingham Palace from the top of The Mall." 

For Marsden, the day was one of happiness and meant "having a smile on my face the whole time."

Back home now, she says the lasting impression of her coronation experience is one of pride.

"To be able to tell my kids, my grandkids in the future that I was a part of it, it's just definitely my greatest honour thus far."

  • Two Regina Symphony Orchestra musicians travelled to London to play among seven orchestras from across the United Kingdom during the coronation. Click here to read about their experience.

Harry, Meghan and the media — again

When word broke on Wednesday that Prince Harry, his wife, Meghan, and her mother were involved in a car chase involving paparazzi in New York City, a spokesperson for the couple described it as a "near-catastrophic" incident.

When the New York Police Department, which said it had assisted the couple's private security team, offered some comments a few hours later, it noted "there were no reported collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests."

WATCH | Prince Harry and Meghan involved in chase with paparazzi: 

Prince Harry and Meghan blame paparazzi for ‘near catastrophic’ car chase

11 days ago
Duration 2:51
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, claim paparazzi in New York City subjected them to a two-hour car chase that could have ended in a catastrophic crash, after they left a public event with Markle’s mother.

Headlines exploded on both sides of the Atlantic, however, as the incident brought to mind memories of Harry's mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in Paris in 1997 after the car she was riding in crashed as it sped away from paparazzi.

The media has long been a target of Harry's ire, and its treatment of him and his family was cited in 2020 as one of the reasons he and Meghan were stepping back from the upper echelons of the Royal Family. 

WATCH | Taxi driver drove Harry and Meghan for a brief time:

Taxi driver who briefly drove Harry and Meghan wasn't nervous

11 days ago
Duration 4:54
Taxi driver Sunny Singh told CBC News there was paparazzi following his cab while he was briefly driving Harry and Meghan in New York City Tuesday but, while they were nervous, he was not. "Their experience can be different than mine," he said.

Royally quotable

"We hold many fond memories of our visits to Western Canada and know that those affected will rise to this challenge with customary Canadian strength, resilience and determination."

— King Charles, in a message to Canadians regarding the wildfires in Western Canada. Charles said he and Camilla were "deeply concerned" to learn of the fires, and expressed admiration for first responders and volunteers working to bring the fires under control while supporting their neighbours and communities in need.

Royal reads

  1. Canadian monarchists have sent a strongly worded letter to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon chastising her for suggesting recently that there may need to be "conversations" about a future without the royals — and taking note of King Charles's unpopularity. [CBC]

  2. King Charles has marked his coronation with a fresh photograph of himself and his two heirs, Prince William and Prince George. [ITV]

  3. Penny Mordaunt, the lord president of the U.K. Privy Council, has revealed how she took painkillers before her role of carrying the ceremonial sword during King Charles's coronation. [The Guardian]

  4. Queen Elizabeth's funeral and events during the period of national mourning cost the British government an estimated 162 million pounds, the Treasury has said. [BBC]

  5. Collaborating with Prince Harry on his memoir, Spare, meant ghostwriter J.R. Moehringer spent hours with him on Zoom, met his inner circle and gained a new perspective on the tabloids. [The New Yorker]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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