Coronation ceremonial gives way to communal celebration

The ancient ceremonials and military marches that attended the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday have given way to parties and events across Britain, as the UK enjoys a special Bank Holiday weekend.

King Charles and his wife Queen Camilla were crowned at Westminster Abbey and later greeted a large crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace; it had been 70 years since the coronation of the monarch’s mother Queen Elizabeth.

A peak domestic television audience of about 20mn — just under a third of the country’s population — watched the ceremony, by far the biggest audience of the year. However that number was substantially down on the 29mn who watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral last September.

On Sunday the formality of the coronation was replaced by events including the “Big Lunch” in which neighbours were invited to share a communal meal.

On a leafy avenue in London’s Regent’s Park, most of several hundred people gathered around trestle tables and union flag bunting were celebrating a long weekend and spring sunshine as much as the coronation.

Some attendees, among the families and older residents of the well-to-do neighbourhood of Primrose Hill, wore home-made crowns, flags fashioned as capes, and ate cupcakes iced with Charles’ face, while sipping prosecco from plastic cups. A brass band, booked by organisers and surrounded by cheering crowds, played covers of chart hits rather than patriotic anthems.

Dolly Begum, 35, a teaching assistant from east London, said she was there to celebrate the coronation but had also enjoyed the neighbourliness. She and her family had taken the chance to visit Regent’s Park and mosque as well as enjoy the picnic. “We just wanted to go out and have a nice day”.

John Dauth, 76, a former press secretary for King Charles and Australian high commissioner to the UK, had set out his table with a plastic union flag cloth and bouquet of red, white and blue flowers. The picnic was one among several coronation parties he planned to attend over the bank holiday.

The new king offered “continuity”, he said: “not everything is right in this country, but there’s one thing that is”.

Artist Celia Washington said the day was a “lovely” chance “to have a picnic with friends” regardless of individual feelings about royalty. “It’s lovely pageantry and history — you don’t have to be a monarchist to celebrate it.”

In spite of the national mood of celebration, support for the monarchy has been falling and some concern surrounded the number of arrests made by police at Saturday’s coronation events.

Washington and friend Elizabeth Renzoni, both in their 60s, expressed disquiet over the arrests. “If Britishness stands for anything it’s freedom of speech,” Renzoni said.

Rishi Sunak, prime minister, will be among those hosting a coronation lunch — more than 67,000 are taking place — with guests including youth groups and families who have come to Britain to escape war in Ukraine.

Sunday’s weather was an improvement on coronation day, providing relief to organisers of street parties and allowing time for soggy bunting to dry out.

From 8pm a concert will be staged at Windsor Castle, showcasing Britain’s diverse arts scene, along with performances by Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Take That.

The Royal Ballet, Royal Opera House, Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal College of Music will also be represented, and a light show has been billed to be spectacular.

The Lighting Up The Nation project will feature shows across the country, including drone displays — an increasingly common feature at public events in Britain.

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