Coronation commentary

King Charles III after being crowned with St Edward’s Crown by The Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Reverend Justin Welby during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Saturday May 6, 2023. Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS

The weeks and days leading up to the Coronation of Charles III today have been busy for me, as the media have shown great interest in my knowledge of liturgy, ritual and ceremonies – not something usually at the top of the current affairs agenda! It all began with the publication of the Coronation invitation on 4 April, which provoked a great deal of discussion because it featured a figure of the ‘Green Man’, on which I was asked to comment on account of my interest in the origins of British folklore. I spoke to Slate, and wrote an article on the subject for The Spectator (provoking a riposte from Sebastian Milbank at The Critic!). I was also interviewed for BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme about the Green Man, but never made it to air. As the Coronation ceremony approached I began to focus on the ritual of Coronation itself, and wrote an article for The Critic about the character of ritual itself. As a consequence of beginning a month-long Twitter thread on Coronation history, I was also asked to write an article about the history of Coronations for Parliament’s in-house magazine, The House. On 28 April BBC Radio 4 invited me to speak briefly about the Coronation regalia on the World At One programme alongside Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who carried the Orb in procession at the Coronation.

When the Coronation order of service was finally published on 28 April, I was the first to make a detailed comparison between the 1953 order and that of 2023, elucidating exactly where the new Coronation service innovated and departed from tradition. I gave journalists and commentators permission to make use of my analysis, and I know it has been used by commentators as far afield as Israel and the United States. In a further article for The Critic I analysed the order of service. I also wrote another article for The Spectator, this time about the liturgical conservatism of Coronations and the extraordinary ritual survivals they perpetuate. Furthermore, I spoke to Damian Thompson’s ‘Holy Smoke’ podcast about the Coronation in relation to the Reformation, and my research on the Coronation was cited in the House of Commons Library’s official briefing to MPs on the Coronation.

In addition to these articles, I contributed an article to First Things about the magic of monarchy, and I have spoken to journalists from The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail as well as Poland and Lithuania about the Coronation; my commentary on the religious dimension of the Coronation will go out on LRT (Lithuania’s national broadcaster, whose journalists I also advised on Coronation-related matters) tomorrow. I have also featured on several podcasts talking about the Coronation, including Nathan Eckersley’s podcast and a special Coronation episode of the ‘Religion Off The Beaten Track’ podcast. I was also flattered to receive a mention in one of the episodes of ‘The Rest Is History’ (one of my favourite podcasts!) dedicated to Coronations.

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