The ceremony of naming a King or a Queen becomes an inevitable part of history. An event that will be part of History books and several hours of analysis to follow.
People who support the Monarchy will cheer and celebrate. Those who are against it would point out what they don’t like about this form of government.
Last May 6, the United Kingdom commemorated the Coronation of King Charles III. The ceremony itself presented its own challenges. There are certain challenges that have always been there, such as the volatility of the weather. Then there’s the challenge of persuasion, which, for several decades now, the Royal Family has had to deal with in a global world where monarchies are often more related to the past than the present. The last Coronation that took place in the United Kingdom was in 1953. Since then, the world has seen a Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Cyprus Emergency, the North Yemen Civil War, the Troubles, the Beatles, the Arab Spring, and a significant change in people’s perception of faith, rights, and politics.
When there is a new president sworn in, there is often a narrative implying that things will be different because there is a new person in this role of power. “Things in the past with X, Y, or Z as President were this way, but now things will be this way.” On the other hand, the King’s power is inherited, and there is very little room for change when it comes to decision-making on behalf of the Crown.
The Coronation of King Charles III is full of controversies, history, an attempt to cover history, and history bouncing back again. Let’s debrief the key points of the Coronation and what this means through the Political Fashion lens.
“Coronations are a declaration of our hopes for the future” Queen Elizabeth II
1953 vs 2023
Queen Elizabeth II became Queen when she was only 26 years old. Although her father was sick, and his death wasn’t entirely unexpected, there wasn’t a lot of planification and preparation for the Queen to think of her Coronation ceremony and what would be her priorities and strategies as the Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms. The Buckingham Palace staff understood that she would be a leader who would learn how to do the job along the way. And she did.
In contrast, King Charles III is the oldest person to accede to the throne, 73 years old. He had several years to think of what would be his priorities as King and other aspects to consider when the time for his Coronation came. For instance, King Charles III wanted representation of not just the Catholic church during the ceremony but a diversity of religions that illustrates the wide range of beliefs in the UK and the Commonwealth.
The Expectations of the Crown
For decades, the questions of whether Monarchies are obsolete or if they could keep up with the contemporary, globalized world have been prevalent. How can a series of rituals, beliefs, and protocols be modernized if these carry centuries and centuries of history?
There is also the fact that King Charles III has been a Member of the Royal Family throughout his whole life, but he has never been the main character of the story. It was Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, his second wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla. Now, it’s the grandsons who take a big amount of headlines and tabloids; Prince William and Princess Catherine are enchanting the world with their charisma, trying hard to give a connotation of youth to the Monarchy. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get a lot of attention on their own with their Netflix documentary and the Prince’s memoir. These members of the Royal Family have had the opportunity to build a media presence and develop a character that people can relate to and know better. However, it seems like King Charles III hasn’t been able to build this character, and he may not have had the time to do so during his reign.
King Charles gave Princess Anne the prestigious role of being the Gold Stick at Waiting at the Coronation ceremony. This means that she was the royal bodyguard, a role that for the very first time in history, is occupied by a woman. Previously, the royal bodyguard carried a gold stick with the purpose of protecting the Monarch. As additional safety protocols are taking place now, this role is now symbolic.
In terms of Political Fashion, it stands out that Princess Anne wears a military uniform for the Coronation. With this prestigious role that her brother assigned her for her lifelong commitment and service as a Royal, Princess Anne was the only woman in the ceremony, with the exception of the Grand Duchess of Luxemburg, to wear pants.
Politicians as Global Influencers
According to BBC, about 18.8 million people watched the Coronation ceremony. On top of that, media outlets, bloggers, and commentators shared images of this ceremony on social media, websites, and newspapers. These are a lot of eyes into a very specific moment in time. So it makes sense that fashion houses leveraged the huge audience of this event to give more visibility to their brand.
The Macrons wear Louis Vuitton
Princess Beatrice celebrates British fashion with a purpose.
Prince Harry showed up to his father’s Coronation. He skipped events and protocols following the Ceremony, including an informal lunch after the Coronation with his family, which made people wonder why he decided to attend the Coronation at all.
Katy Perry paid tribute to the UK based fashion designer Vivienne Westwood who passed away in December, 2022. She wore a pearl choker by the iconic designer.
Dr. Jill Biden became the first U.S. First Lady to attend a British Coronation. She celebrated American fashion with a blue Ralph Lauren suit. Her granddaughter, Finnegan Biden, wore a yellow gown by Markarian, a New York based womenswear label. The clothes follow the dress code, and the colors began a conversation about the importance of supporting Ukraine.
The Symbols through fashion
One of the crowns the King wore during the coronation ceremony was St. Edward’s Crown. Made 600 years ago, this Crown was made by King Charles II. This Crown is one foot tall, solid gold, accentuated with velvet, lined with ermine, and embellished with amethysts, sapphires, topazes, tourmalines, rubies, and a garnet. (NPR)
This is perhaps the most recognizable Crown, as it is seen on passports, stamps, and police badges. However, the King only wore this Crown for a short period of time during the Coronation, and it is now back in storage.
The stones in the crown have symbolisms of loyalty, faith, power, and other values that should characterize the leader who carries the Crown.
The Political Fashion at the Coronation
It’s not the first time that we see the kids of Princess Kate and Prince Williams wearing coordinating outfits. These clothes have sent consistently a powerful message of union and communication among the Royal Family, which translates into a positive impression of the Monarchy as a whole.
The Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, wore a pair of earrings that belonged to Princess Diana, the mother of her husband, Prince William.
The dresses of the Queen, and the Princess of Wales have flowers making reference to the four states of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.)
The ceremony was a success, with several protocols, and elements in the ceremony that kept the essence of the Institution while at the same time having a strong social media presence, a huge attention to detail and a stunning international guest list.
In ceremonies like the Coronation, every visual element carries a powerful visual message. These elements have a lot of history, but at the same time, they are subject to interpretation by the millions of people watching the ceremony around the world.
The United Kingdom has now a new King and Queen, with future ceremonies to attend to, and several Political Fashion moments to plan ahead.