By Bill Heaney and agency reporters
King Charles III was crowned by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a lavish coronation ceremony in London on Saturday, with the 360-year-old St Edward’s Crown placed on the monarch’s head as he sat upon a 14th-century throne in Westminster Abbey.
The king, who succeeded his mother when she died last September, was earlier presented with an array of historical regalia from golden orbs and be-jewelled swords to a sceptre holding the world’s largest colourless cut diamond.
He became the 40th reigning sovereign to be crowned at Westminster Abbey, Britain’s coronation church since 1066. Before the crowning, the archbishop delivered a sermon to the 2,300 guests.
After the coronation of Charles, Camilla was the focus of the ceremony and the archbishop performed the ancient ritual of anointing and crowning, then called on the queen consort to be filled with “princely virtues”. The crown was made for Charles’s great-grandmother, Queen Mary, for George V’s coronation in 1911. Camilla’s decision to use Queen Mary’s crown is the first time a consort’s crown has been recycled for a coronation rather than a new one being created.
Irish milliner Philip Treacy fitted the crowns worn by the royal couple, describing it later as “the highlight of my career”.
Thousands of people across Scotland and Northern Ireland followed the ceremony from Westminster Abbey live on public screens including at Belfast City Hall, Ballymena, Larne, Carrickfergus, Bessbrook, Antrim, Jordanstown and Coleraine.
In West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, it was exceedingly quiet, however, with house parties taking over from the street parties and other community festivities which accompanied the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953.
And although there is a line in Ulysses, the novel by James Joyce, which says: EDWARD THE SEVENTH: (Dances slowly, solemnly, rattling his bucket, and sings with soft contentment) On coronation day, on coronation day, O, won’t we have a merry time, Drinking whisky, beer and wine!
Whisky beer and wine, it appears, have during the current cost of living crisis to have been substituted mainly by Prosecco and cheaper drinks and drugs, and the sound of popping champagne corks was mostly absent in deprived West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
Some 2,300 official guests were invited to attend the coronation at Westminster Abbey, where the service began. The formalities got under way, when Charles and Camilla set off in the Diamond Jubilee state coach from Buckingham Palace on the two-mile trip to Westminster Abbey accompanied by several hundred cavalry.
Rubber-necking celebrity spotters are speculating that they recognised Lord McFall, Speaker of the House of Commons, local MPs Martin Docherty Hughes and Brendan O’Hara and Penny Mordaunt, who is the MP for many of the personnel at the Clyde Naval Base at Faslane since many of them still have homes in her parliamentary constituency of Portsmouth.
During the ceremony the Jewelled Sword of Offering was carried by Miss Mordaunt and presented to the monarch by a woman for the first time.
The sword was blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury who presented it to to Ms Mordaunt, the UK’s Lord President of the Council. Her Irish roots traced back to a Catholic family from Co Wexford..
Following the coronation the king and queen left Westminster Abbey in the gold state coach for a procession back to Buckingham Palace. They then appeared on the palace balcony to wave to a crowd of thousands of royal fans, who filled the Mall after braving downpours to see a colourful ceremonial military procession.
The royals watched a fly past from the balcony, which was scaled down to include only helicopters and the Red Arrows due to the poor weather.
Among the 100-plus heads of state who attended the event were Irish President Michael D Higgins. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also made the trip, with Ireland believed to be the only country outside of the British Commonwealth with its head of state and head of government invited.
Both leaders also attended a reception at Buckingham Palace on Friday night, where they met Charles and Camilla.
Mr Varadkar said the king and queen consort are long-standing friends of Ireland and have been regular visitors to the country, “supporting good bilateral relations, co-operation, peace and reconciliation”.
“I expressed my hope that his regular visits will continue into his reign. I was pleased to accept the invitation to attend the coronation, alongside President Higgins, symbolising the close neighbourly relations between our two countries.
“This is a historic moment for the British people, for the realm, and for their friends around the world.”
To mark the coronation, Mr Higgins and and his wife Sabina asked the Tree Council of Ireland to plant a native Irish oak in the woodland forest of Aurora in Co Wicklow. The gesture was an acknowledgment of the king’s interest in environmental sustainability.
The US was represented by first lady Jill Biden, while French president Emmanuel Macron, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Chinese vice-president Han Zheng were among those invited. Russia did not receive an invitation as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.
Members of the royal family led by Prince William, the heir to the throne, also took part in the ceremony. William’s son, George, the next in line, was a page boy. Prince Harry also attended despite a very public falling-out with his family — but his wife Meghan was not present.
Celebrities including Kenneth Branagh, Nick Cave, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, Maggie Smith and Emma Thompson earlier shuffled into the Gothic church alongside heads of state and other guests.
London police chief Mark Rowley had warned on Friday that there would be a “very low tolerance for disruption” on the streets in central London where tens of thousands of people had gathered to watch the royal processions.
Police confirmed “a number of arrests“ on “suspicion of breaching the peace”. In addition, four people were arrested “on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance” and three people “on suspicion of possessing articles to cause criminal damage”.
More than 11,000 police officers were on patrol for the coronation, the biggest ceremonial event staged in the British capital for 70 years.
Pictures posted on social media appeared to show demonstrators in yellow “Not my king” T-shirts, including Mr Smith, having their details taken by officers. In one video, an officer says: “I’m not going to get into a conversation about that – they are under arrest, end of.”
Nostalgia came out to play in many areas of the country including West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.
The families of Denny’s Leven shipyard workers celebrated the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in bunting-decorated Leven Street, where Knoxland School now stands in the Newtown.