12 November 2023

King’s busy coronation year of milestones and royal tours

12 November 2023

The King’s busy year was packed with a coronation and a number of significant firsts for the new monarch.

The head of state, who turns 75 on Tuesday, is said to be operating as a “steady-as-we go” sovereign, adhering to the traditional royal calendar observed by his late mother.

A Christmas Day broadcast, the Commonwealth Day service and the Sovereign’s Parade at Sandhurst have all featured over the last 12 months.

Royal Ascot, Garter Day and Trooping the Colour, along with the royal tradition of holidaying on the Balmoral estate over the summer, also filled the King’s diary.

Charles danced with Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss on a visit to a Jewish community centre in north London in December.

And he was greeted with a traditional Maori hongi as he toured a training site for Ukrainian military recruits in Wiltshire in February.

After Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, Buckingham Palace said the King condemned “the barbaric acts of terrorism”.

In a state of the nation address at Mansion House the same month, the King stressed the “vital” need for mutual understanding among religions in times of “international turmoil and heartbreaking loss of life” as the violent Israeli-Hamas conflict continued.

There were a few updates to well-known royal occasions.

On his official birthday in June, the King, with his face hardly visible beneath his bearskin hat, became the first monarch in more than 30 years to take part in Trooping the Colour on horseback.

The late Queen rode her horse Burmese until its retirement in 1986, after which she decided to use a carriage rather than train another charger.

US President Joe Biden came to visit, dropping in to see the King at Windsor Castle where he was treated to a dose of pomp and pageantry with a Guard of Honour.

There was talk of a protocol breach when Mr Biden placed his hand on the King’s back.

But Buckingham Palace insisted Charles was entirely comfortable with the gesture and it was a symbol of the warmth of their relationship.

An incoming state visit – the first hosted by the King – by the president of South Africa last November saw Charles and the Queen entertain Cyril Ramaphosa with a glittering banquet at the Palace.

The itinerary was kept to a traditional format, but the King put his own stamp on the grand affair.

Displaying his green credentials at the inaugural state banquet of his reign, he requested only sustainable flowers be used.

On the King’s first overseas state visit, he became the only British sovereign to address German politicians from the Bundestag while the parliament is in session.

A tour of Paris and Bordeaux on a state visit to France eventually took place in September after it was delayed by widespread riots.

Charles became the only British monarch ever to speak from the French senate chamber.

There was table tennis playing from Camilla, and a state banquet hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors.

In October the King and Queen went to Kenya – their first state visit to a Commonwealth country – where the couple posed in an electric tuk-tuk, and Charles visited the Karura urban forest in Nairobi.

Compared with the seven decades of the late Queen’s reign, the Carolean era is still in its infancy, but the King, who was the longest serving heir to the throne, is the most prepared for his role in history.

Yet he still had matters to sort in the months after his accession.

Debate over whether the Sussexes’ children would use – or even get to keep – the titles of prince and princess that they became entitled to when Elizabeth II died was resolved in March when Harry and Meghan announced “Princess Lilibet” had been christened, and it emerged there had been correspondence with the King on the matter.

Charles also finally handed the title the Duke of Edinburgh on to his brother, Prince Edward, fulfilling the wishes of his late father and the late Queen.

His slimmed down monarchy has only four working royals under the age of 65 – the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh.

There was also a name change for the Queen, with Buckingham Palace dropping “Consort” from her title to coincide with the coronation, having cautiously let the idea of a new Queen settle into the public’s consciousness in the wake of Elizabeth II’s death.

The crowning of Charles and Camilla took place in May, and the deeply religious ceremony in Westminster Abbey was followed by a weekend of celebrations.

Charles was crowned with St Edward’s Crown, and at his side for her own anointing and crowning was Queen Camilla – a move unthinkable in the 1990s when she was derided for being Charles’s mistress.

The couple, in lavish robes, took to the Palace balcony to see the crowds, joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, and the coronation pages and Ladies in Attendance.

The event brought together around 100 heads of state, kings and queens from across the globe, celebrities, everyday heroes and family and friends of the couple.

In September on the first anniversary of the late Queen’s death, the royal family reflected on her life, and Charles and Camilla gathered for private prayers at Crathie Kirk, close to Balmoral, where Elizabeth II worshipped.

The King opened Parliament for the first time as monarch earlier this month, reading his inaugural King’s Speech.

He was back in the Imperial State Crown and Robe of State with a return to the full pomp and ceremony of the occasion after an absence of crown-wearing and carriages for a number of years.

The King’s schedule shows no let-up before the end of the year.

He is hosting an incoming state visit by the president of South Korea in just over a week’s time and then travelling to Dubai for the Cop28 climate change summit.

Charles’s Christmas broadcast to the nation will need to be recorded before he spends the festive period with his family.

He will still be working at his desk and dealing with his red boxes of papers during his winter break, as well as appearing at church on Christmas Day.

There are unresolved personal challenges ahead for the King, with his ongoing fractured relationship with youngest son the Duke of Sussex and the fallout between Harry and the Prince of Wales.

The King has also yet to travel as monarch to any of his overseas Commonwealth realms including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, with a major tour expected to be on the cards for 2024.

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