The ancient ceremonials and military marches that attended the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday have given way to a series of 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 a series of events including the “Big Lunch” in which neighbors were invited to share a communal meal.
On a leafy avenue in London’s Regents’ Park, most of several hundred people gathered around trestle tables and union jack bunting were celebrating a day off and spring sunshine as much as the coronation.
Some attendees, a mix of families and older residents of the well-to-do neighborhood of Primrose Hill, wore home-made crowns, large flags fashioned as capes, and ate cupcakes decorated with Charles’ face, while sipping plastic cups of prosecco. But a brass band booked by event organizers 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 neighborly atmosphere. She and her family had taken the opportunity to visit Regents Park and local mosque as well as enjoying 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 jack 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” to the UK, 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 recently and there was some concern about the number of arrests made by police at Saturday’s coronation events.
Washington and friend Elizabeth Renzoni, both in their 60s, expressed disquiet about 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 such events are taking place — with guests including youth groups and families who have come to Britain to escape the war in Ukraine.
The weather on Sunday was better than on the day of the coronation itself, providing some relief to organizers of street parties and allowing some time for lines of soggy bunting to dry out.
From 8pm there will be a coronation concert at Windsor Castle, showcasing Britain’s diverse arts scene, along with performances by acts including Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Take That.
The Royal Ballet, The Royal Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Royal College of Music will also be represented, and there will be a spectacular light show.
The Lighting Up The Nation project will see a series of shows across the country, which will include drone displays — an increasingly common feature at public events in Britain.