King Charles III and Queen Camilla thrill coronation crowds with smiles and waves

Tens of thousands of people pack route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey

Royal fans decked out in British colours on The Mall. Laura O'Callaghan / The National
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Young and old royal fans who had patiently awaited the procession outside Parliament, enthusiastically broke into song when God Save the King began to sound on loudspeakers to accompany the first public appearance by the newly crowned monarch.

As the Gold State Coach, carrying the royal couple away from the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, made its way around Parliament Square, en route to Buckingham Palace, the king and queen smiled and waved at throngs of people under the shadow of Big Ben. The elaborately decorated horse-drawn coach has been used at the coronation of every monarch since William IV in 1831.

The 74-year-old monarch appeared at ease — and even relieved — that the main ceremonial aspects of the day were behind him.

The king and queen’s carriage was closely followed by another carrying the Prince and Princess of Wales, seated opposite their three children.

Prince William smiled at the adoring crowds while his wife Kate was seen gesturing to the youngsters to wave to them.

As the rain beat down on crowds of well-wishers pressed against barriers in London, The National witnessed as Britain’s King Charles III and Queen Camilla family revel in the smooth unfolding of the historic event.

All eyes were on Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis as they offered the public the smiles, waves and attention they craved.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh were next in the procession, accompanied in their carriage by their children Lady Louise and James, Earl of Wessex. Sophie beamed as she craned her neck to take in the extraordinary scenes under the shadow of the Houses of Parliament.

The Princess of Wales 'stole the show'

Martin Rowley, a councillor from York, was among the thousands of guests seated in Westminster Abbey for the coronation.

He told The National the king looked nervous as he entered the royal church.

“He looked petrified but appeared to be humble. A great king,“ he said.

“I saw Prince George and Princess Charlotte,” he said. “And thankfully Prince Louis managed to behave himself.

“But it was the Princess of Wales who stole the show, in the way she presented herself. She’s an amazing future queen.”

Yvonne Abba, who works for the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, opened up about the momentous day in which she witnessed her “friend” King Charles crowned alongside his wife.

Ms Abba had a dress specially made for occasion after being invited to the ceremony.

“The green in my dress represents Ghana, where I am originally from, and also the environment because he is passionate about [tackling] climate change,” she said.

“It was beautiful,” she said of the atmosphere inside the church.

“I know him personally. He is a king but to me he is a friend.

She said the king was "a good person, very human".

"I get tearful talking about him. He is here to serve and that resonated throughout the ceremony,” Ms Abba added.

The royals' journey from the abbey to the palace — known as the Coronation Procession — came more than two hours after the same route was taken by the king and queen.

Parents and grandparents hoisted children on to their shoulders in the 20-deep crowds lining The Mall in the hope of catching a glimpse of the couple in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. The coach is fitted with air-conditioning and electric windows and is significantly more modern and comfortable than the Gold State Coach.

The throngs of people — many of whom had been camping out in tents for days — appeared unperturbed by the drizzle and dared not budge from their coveted positions as they watched the coronation procession.

Naz Sheikh, from Lahore, wearing traditional Pakistani dress, watched the spectacle with his extended family. As his young son and nephews had Union flags painted on their faces, he told The National the day represented a celebration of the royal family and also British values.

“This is our legacy, to tell our children about the royals and democracy,” he said. “It’s important to be part of this day.”

Saima Aslan, his sister-in-law, said: “It’s a great day for everyone and we’re glad to be here.”

Sisters Anna and Grace Klein, from Berlin, got up at dawn to prepare to watch the procession. The pair set up a traditional British picnic on The Mall as they eagerly awaited the king and queen consort’s arrival.

“It’s quintessential,” Anna told The National. “I love the history and traditions of Britain and the royal family.”

Jeannette Hopkins waved a Union flag as she explained her reasons for attending. “It’s important to be here, to be part of the atmosphere and witness it all,” she said.

She also said her attendance was to support King Charles, and therefore staying at home was not an option.

“We couldn’t have stayed at home and watched it in TV,” she said.

“I think he’s doing a great job. It’s a very big job to do.”

Her daughter Karen McBride said the day of celebrations will be poignant as she will also be remembering the late Queen Elizabeth II.

“There will never be another queen like her,” she said.

'Everyone in our village loves Charles'

Ileana Bozai and her husband Ioan stood out from the crowds milling around the palace as they were dressed in traditional Transylvanian attire. The couple, from a rural Romanian village called Breb, proudly showed off a photo of Charles visiting their community in 2004 when he was Prince of Wales.

The then-heir to the throne met with locals and bought a house in the tourist region. With the help of a translator, the couple told The National that it was “special” for them to visit King Charles’s celebrations on his big day after he had visited them.“

“He came to Breb,” Ileana said. “It’s a small village with 1,000 people. Everyone in the village loves him.”

While the vast majority of people crammed along the railings of The Mall were there to celebrate the coronation, The National saw about a dozen antimonarchy protesters.

Police swarmed around them, questioning the group and searching their bags and pockets. At least one was arrested.

The demonstrators held giant banners reading ‘not my king’ and chanted the same slogan as the procession got under way.

Elliott Lee, a member of the Republican group, said he and his group came to raise awareness about their cause.

“King Charles does not have a mandate to serve as head of state,” he told The National. “Why does he believe he can represent the people?

“Ideally, we would have an elected head of state. This would mean equality and fairness.”

Stewards approached parents with young children to issue wristbands for the youngsters. They advised mothers and fathers to write their names and phone numbers on the bands in case their children became lost in the crowds.

A scream was heard as a woman tumbled off a plastic stand. While she did not appear to have been hurt, the fall prompted police to issue orders to the crowds.

“Get down off the railings!” they bellowed. “It’s not safe to stand on wet railings.”

After the king and queen consort had passed, many fans hunkered down under ponchos, umbrellas and sought shelter from trees as they awaited their return journey.

The coronation of King Charles III — in pictures

Updated: May 06, 2023, 5:52 PM