Coronation Day: Archbishop of York defends Homage of the People as he prepares for sacred moment King Charles III will be anointed
The King, alongside Queen Camilla, will be crowned today by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Westminster Abbey in a service set to marry centuries of ancient pomp and tradition with modern touches befitting of the first coronation of the 21st century.
Millions are expected to watch the two hour service at events across the country, while in London hundreds of thousands will flock the streets to witness the third seismic royal event in less than 12 months.
The King and Queen are set to process to the Abbey in the Gold State Coach, and later will appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace along with other senior royals expected to include the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell will take a key role in the service as he will be one of just four who is set to witness the most sacred part of the coronation - the anointing of King Charles with holy oil.
This moment will be hidden from view both from the Abbey congregation and the world, as the King has opted - like his late mother Queen Elizabeth II - to keep his privacy.
Archbishop Cottrell said: “There’s only four people behind the screen, the King, the Archbishop of Canterbury, myself and the Dean of Westminster.
“The anointing is one of the sacred holy moments and is a sign of God’s blessing upon the King.
“I think because of its particularity, the King, like his mother before him, lives his life in the glare of the public, and this is one moment he wants to have for himself.
Archbishop Cottrell, who has been in situ since 2020, joked that his arm was “bruised from the amount of times I’ve pinched myself,” after a week which has seen him locked in rehearsals for today at Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.
He said: “I think how blessed am I that these moments of history, that I’ve been the Archbishop who has been in office. I am humbled and honoured, and I hope that I carry with me the people of Yorkshire and the North. I’m there representing them and I can’t quite believe it.
“I’m spending a lot of time with the King and Queen in rehearsals, so there are opportunities to chat. Obviously, they are hugely looking forward to it and I feel they’re probably a bit nervous - who wouldn’t be on such an occasion?
“But you will see the theme that will run through is ‘service’. He follows, in that sense, the footsteps of his mother.
“And in my conversations with him, that’s what I notice.”
The Archbishop also defended Justin Welby’s decision to include The Homage of the People in the service - which will see members of the public invited, wherever they are, to swear allegiance to the King, and has attracted criticism.
He said: “There’s been a little misunderstanding. That bit of the service is an invitation, so yes there will be some people folding their arms sitting grumpy. But I think many, many people will be glad to have that moment they can participate in.
“Nobody has to do this. Some will, and some won’t, and I think it’s appropriate.”