Representatives from Britain’s faith communities will play an active role in the coronation of a monarch for the first time in history, Lambeth Palace has announced.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will anoint and crown King Charles, described the service as “foremost an act of Christian worship” but said new elements reflected the “diversity of our contemporary society”.
New ground has been broken in other areas, from the inclusion of female Bishops the first time, to the use of Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic languages and the opportunity for those watching around the globe to join in and pay homage to the King.
When King Charles III is crowned on May 6 at Westminster Abbey, leaders from Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist groups will deliver a greeting to the King in unison, which he will acknowledge.
And when the regalia is presented to the king, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish peers will take part, handing over items that do not have Christian meaning or symbolism.
The move reflects King Charles’s deep held belief in promoting unity between different faiths through championing interfaith dialogue and celebrating the major religions practised in the UK.
“The coronation is first and foremost an act of Christian worship,” the archbishop said.
“The signs, symbols and language we use remind us that our God is the Servant-King. By his anointing in this service, His Majesty King Charles III is set apart to fulfil his vocation of service and duty to us all.
“This is the character of kingship today. In this weighty responsibility, the king will be supported by the loyal service of his wife, Queen Camilla.
“I am delighted that the service will recognise and celebrate tradition, speaking to the great history of our nation, our customs, and those who came before us. At the same time, the service contains new elements that reflect the diversity of our contemporary society.
“It is my prayer that all who share in this service, whether they are of faith or no faith, will find ancient wisdom and new hope that brings inspiration and joy.”
Archbishop Welby followed the long-standing tradition of commissioning new coronation liturgy — the prayers and actions of the coronation service — which has the theme “Called to Serve”.
The senior cleric chaired an advisory group of theology, constitutional history and interfaith relationships experts to draft the service, produced in close consultation with King Charles and the government.
Another first will be a “homage of the people” replacing the homage of peers, with an estimated global television audience of tens of millions invited to make their own homage by sharing in the same words.
A Lambeth Palace representative said they hoped there would be “a great cry around the nation and around the world in support for the king”.
Before the king takes the oath, making a succession of promises including to “maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law”, the archbishop will deliver a preface to King Charles’s declaration — another first.
The senior cleric will tell the congregation that the Church of England, which is headed by the king, will seek to foster an environment where “people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely”.
During the ceremony, King Charles will be declared “Defender of the Faith” by Archbishop Welby, after once speaking of his desire to become “Defender of Faith”.
Another unique moment in the history of coronations will involve the king praying aloud in the Abbey, reading words written for the occasion that reflect the duty and privilege of the sovereign to serve all communities.