The explosive crescendo of Handel’s soaring song “Zadok the Priest,” created over 300 years ago for King George III’s coronation, marked the most solemn moment of Charles’ coronation on Saturday.
Around 2,200 people gathered inside Westminster Abbey, where kings and queens have been crowned since 1066, to see Charles’ garment of state removed before he was veiled and anointed with holy oil, then re-emerging as the choir sang “May the king live for ever.”
Minutes later, after Charles was crowned and enthroned, the congregation loudly repeated the same words at the end of a pledge of allegiance to the new monarch, with the refrain echoing round the medieval building before a rousing brass fanfare began.
Until the crowning in 1953 of Charles’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, the coronations of kings and queens were seen only by those in the abbey.
Elizabeth’s coronation was the first to be televised, and 70 years later video technology meant people watching on television and online around the world had better close-up views than almost everyone there in person.
Yet elements of the ceremony, which was a largely solemn and ritualistic service with just dashes of modernity, remained distinctly intimate for those inside the abbey.
The music, a mixture of centuries-old anthems written for Charles’s ancestors and pieces commissioned for the occasion, ranged between unrestrained pomp to quieter choral works that reverberated around the abbey’s vaulted ceilings.
Charles himself looked occasionally meek, as when he knelt before the altar with four members of the clergy surrounding him. The king’s son, William, kissed his father after swearing allegiance to him.
The king, 74, also looked sometimes slightly tired and under strain.
Yet there was a snatched smile between Charles and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby as the clergyman momentarily struggled to ensure the 360-year-old St Edward’s Crown was securely on the king’s head.
His 9-year-old grandson Prince George sparked muffled laughter as he was shown on screens pulling funny faces shortly after his grandfather was crowned.