While the coronation of King Charles III was a deeply religious and Protestant Church of England ceremony, attempts were made to make it more accessible and relevant to the general public.

The planners had tried to make the ritualistic event more representative of modern Britain by involving other religions and people from a wider variety of backgrounds.

But for some critics the changes were not enough and it would have been preferable for Britain to ditch the coronation and hold a secular ceremony at a nonreligious venue instead.

Some suggested it was outdated to hold such a service to formally install the head of state when the country is increasingly multifaith or many have no faith at all.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (back L) and Akshata Murthy (back R) attend the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on May 6, 2023 in London. (Getty/Kyodo)

Fewer than one million out of a population of 68 million in Britain attend Church of England services on Sundays and in the 2021 census 46.2 percent identified as Christian, down 13.1 percentage points from 2011.

Most monarchies now have constitutional investitures, in which a sovereign swears to uphold the Constitution, as is the case in Japan, the world's oldest hereditary monarchy.

That said, Japan is slightly different to other countries as it does retain some ancient and religious Shinto aspects in its series of succession ceremonies. This has sparked criticism from some quarters, given the separation of religion and state under the postwar Constitution.

In Britain, the coronation ceremony stretches back more than one thousand years and represents God's blessing. King Charles was anointed with holy water and took communion, declaring he will maintain the Protestant reformed faith and honor the Church of England's special legal settlement.

The king must be a Protestant by law and is supreme governor of the Church of England, the established church with special legal privileges that plays a role in some civic events and is represented in Parliament's upper house.

Since the order of service was unveiled for the coronation, experts had been poring over the details to see if the government, monarchy and Church of England had attempted to make it more inclusive for what is now a multicultural nation.

Britain's King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla ride in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach on their way to the king's coronation ceremony in London on May 6, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The government led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was keen for the event to showcase modern Britain.

The coronation involved representatives of other faiths, albeit playing very minor roles, and there were more women involved and fewer aristocrats and bishops.

In addition, the public, rather than selected bishops and aristocrats, was asked to swear allegiance to King Charles in the ceremony.

Both the late Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles, when he was prince, spoke of the need for the Church of England to create a safe environment in which people of other faiths can practice freely.

And this was repeated by the Archbishop of Canterbury before King Charles made his solemn oaths.

Bob Morris, an honorary senior research associate at the Constitution Unit, University College London, told Kyodo News, "The coronation has kept a similar form over 1,000 years but is always changing."

"It reflects the sort of society we have become. We are very different to what we were in 1953," when the last coronation took place, he said.

"We are much less religious, but we are more plurally religious. Nine percent follow non-Christian religions and Christianity is now a minority religion," he added.

Morris said the coronation had been developed considerably by the intervention of the king, and the congregation was very different, with non-Christian religions being represented for the first time.

"It is remarkable that they are there at all. It represents the king...seeing his role that freedom of religion applies to all."

Morris said the problem for the British monarchy is trying to find a way to make everyone feel invested in the coronation. "I think the king has made a fair crack of it actually, in what is a Church of England-led affair," he noted.

Martyn Bennett, a professor of early modern history at Nottingham Trent University, is pictured in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Nottingham Trent University)(Kyodo)


Martyn Bennett, a professor of early modern history at Nottingham Trent University, told Kyodo News the coronation was a national celebration with plenty of pageantry and an attempt to unite England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Outwardly the coronation was similar to the late Queen Elizabeth's in 1953. But Bennett noted there was "a great deal more inclusivity and diversity," extending to gender, sexuality and racial diversity.

The congregation went beyond the upper classes normally associated with royal occasions, with those invited coming from all walks of life and professions, he said.

But the attempts by the king and the Church of England to reach out to wider society did not convince some sceptics.

Megan Manson, head of campaigns at the National Secular Society, wrote on the group's website on May 2 that one of the more "sinister" aspects of the coronation is that it represents the Church of England's supremacy over the monarchy.

She wrote, "Charles' coronation will be exotic not only for those overseas who will watch it. It will be just as inscrutable for a large proportion of Brits, not least because most aren't Christian, let alone Anglican."

Manson repeated criticism, also heard in Japan, about taxpayers' money being used to fund religious succession ceremonies.

"The Church of England has said it sees the coronation as a 'unique opportunity' to convert people to Christianity. We're paying for the Church's active self-promotion," she wrote.

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