The coronation of King Charles is full of religious symbolism


Saturday is a historical moment for the United Kingdom. After more than 70 years, the country will get a new monarch. Charles III will be crowned in the Westminster Abbey. It turns out that the ceremony is full of religious symbolism.

Britain's King Charles III (C) and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort are shown a First Edition King James Bible and a rare early 14th century chalice by Reverend Jason Bray as they attend a celebration at St Giles' Church in Wrexham. Photo AFP, Dominic Lipinski

With the coronation, Charles becomes the head of the Church of England, the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad points out. English kings and queens have held this position since the Church of England broke with the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century.

To show that Charles takes on the leadership of the Church of England, he will be acknowledged, sworn in, and anointed. Also, he will receive the symbols of power and the tribute. These elements are a standard part of the coronation of British monarchs.

When Charles enters the Westminister Abbey, he will be greeted by Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the Anglican community. After that, the royal family and other important guests will walk in the procession to the front of the Church. In the meantime, Psalm 122 can be heard. “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”. When Charles reaches the centre of the Church, those present shout: “God save the King!”

Defender of the Faith

In addition, Charles takes the coronation oath. With that vow, he swears to rule England and the other areas under his rule according to the current laws. He also promised to protect the rights and freedoms of the Church of England and enforce the “Protestant Reformed religion”. As king, Charles will also receive the title Defender of the Faith.

The oath is sworn on a special King James Bible. Charles will speak the following words: “The things which I have here before promised I will perform and keep. So help me God.” He will also receive the Bible to remind him of the Law and the Gospel of God as a rule for the life and rule of Christian monarchs.

The coronation procession makes its way towards Admiralty Arch during the rehearsal for King Charles III coronation in London. Photo EPA, andy Rain

Olive oil from Jerusalem

After the confession of faith, the present choir will sing the hymn “Veni, Creator Spiritus”, in which the Holy Spirit is asked for help. After that, the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the hands, the chest and the head of the new king with holy oil, just like the kings of the Old Testament were anointed. The oil is a special and secret recipe containing olive oil, orange blossom, roses, Jasmine and cinnamon. The olive oil comes from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, symbolising the deep historical bond between the coronation, the Bible and the Holy Land, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in March. The anointing is meant to set apart the king and to initiate him so that he can fulfil his tasks well.

After that, the king kneels on a special footstool. The Archbishop concludes the ceremony of anointment with prayer.

During the coronation, Charles also receives two golden sceptres. One with a cross, which symbolises worldly power and a good reign. The other one has a dove, which is a symbol of spiritual power. He also gets the coronation orb, which symbolises the Christian world.


The coronation Chair, also known as St Edward's Chair or King Edward's Chair, is pictured inside Westminster Abbey in London. Photo AFP, Dan Kitwood

Other faiths

Even though the coronation is full of Christian symbols, Charles’s personal faith remains foggy. It seems that he is not as devout as his mother, Queen Elizabeth III, Dagen reports. Earlier, Charles requested to replace the title Defender of the Faith with Defender of Faith, arguing that he also defends other faiths besides Christianity.

In addition, Charles is said to have studied the Koran and even tried to learn Arabic. He is also the High Patron of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies at Oxford University. In a speech from 1993, Charles said that “Islam can teach us a way of understanding the world and a way of living in the world.” That speech was considered to be the most pro-Islam speech ever given by a British royal.

Historical importance

During the coronation, Charles will also be greeted by representatives from other faiths besides Christianity, Regards Protestants writes.

Also, some Roman Catholic representatives are present, which is of historical importance, considered the anti-Catholic attitude of the Church of England, Kerknet reports. At the same time, these representatives do not play a role in the coronation.