World leaders among thousands in abbey for Coronation of King Charles III

The King’s coronation, the first in the UK for 70 years, is taking place at Westminster Abbey.

A military band played the national anthem as the King and Queen Consort set off from Buckingham Palace, and crowds erupted into thunderous cheers.

In the abbey, Charles was proclaimed as the “undoubted King” in the first stage of the ceremony.

The congregation was then asked to show their homage and service, shouting “God Save the King”.

The Coronation began at 11:00 BST and will last around two hours, with its main theme being service.

That theme was reflected in the oaths and prayers King Charles made, and the sermon delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

“I come not to be served, but to serve,” the King said in his first prayer after reaching the Abbey.

“We are here to crown a King, and we crown a King to serve,” the Archbishop opened his sermon with.

“The King of Kings, Jesus Christ, was anointed not to be served, but to serve. He creates the unchangeable law that with the privilege of power comes the duty to serve,” he added.

Yet among the music and oaths, there were moments of complete silence as each stage of the ancient ceremony finished.

In the most sacred part of the service, the King was shielded from public view by anointing screens while choristers sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest – performed at every coronation since 1727.

Some 2,300 people are inside the abbey for the service, with Prince Harry arriving alongside his cousins.

Celebrity guests are also there – including actress Emma Thompson and US singer Katy Perry.

US First Lady Jill Biden, and her granddaughter Finnegan, arrived in a three-car motorcade. President Joe Biden is not in the UK.

French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska are also in the abbey, as are Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and leaders of the Commonwealth countries.

As the King arrived at the abbey in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach on Saturday morning, he was seeing smiling and waving.

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WATCH: Prince Harry arrives at Westminster Abbey

Following the ceremony, the King and Camilla will return to Buckingham Palace.

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, arrived from the United States on Friday on a commercial flight, and was seen entering the abbey with his cousins Princess Eugenie and Princess Beatrice.

It is the first time since he has been in public with his brother, Prince William, since his memoir, Spare, was released.

It is thought Prince Harry will fly back to the US just hours after the ceremony to rejoin his wife Meghan, as their son Archie is celebrating his fourth birthday.

King Charles at Westminster AbbeyIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
The Princess of Wales arriving at Westminster AbbeyIMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA

On the procession route, umbrellas started to pop up as the rain arrived.

But despite the very English weather, there was a celebratory atmosphere on The Mall, with periodic Mexican waves and police officers and security guards being cheered.

Among the spectators was Alexandra Hornyak, 57, from Montreal, Canada.

“I’ve known for years that I would want to attend this day, and the day that it was announced, I was driving to the office, and my husband just called me and said ‘May 6’,” she told the BBC.

“I knew exactly what it was. And I jumped on the phone to get a hotel reservation and we went from there.”

Karen Daly, 54, from Birmingham, said: “We could have done this at home, but the atmosphere is so good and everyone’s really happy.

“When the Queen died, we couldn’t make it because we all couldn’t get out of work. So we booked off as soon as we knew about the coronation.”

Jill Biden arriving at Westminster AbbeyIMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
Image caption,

Jill Biden arriving at Westminster Abbey

Charles became King of the United Kingdom and 14 other realms in September, when his mother Elizabeth died after 70 years on the throne.

Months of intense planning have gone into the coronation celebrations – the 40th to take place at Westminster Abbey since 1066.

Unlike the procession route, there were no crowds outside the abbey, as it was closed to the public ahead of the service.

The service is being led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, assisted by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.

“There have been wall-to-wall rehearsals this week, and indeed last week,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“None of us have done this for a very long time, so working out the choreography has been complex”.

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Watch: Guests entertained by music in the Abbey

The high point of the ceremony will come when the St Edward’s Crown is placed on the King’s head, a moment that will be marked by the abbey bells and a gun salute in nearby Horse Guards Parade.

Camilla will be crowned alongside Charles – and after the couple’s long and often complicated relationship, she will now be officially described as “Queen Camilla”.

The ceremony will emphasise diversity and inclusion, with more multi-faith elements than any previous coronation, with contributions from Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh representatives.

A Bible lesson will be read by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is Hindu, and music will be sung in Welsh and Scottish and Irish Gaelic.

There will be women bishops taking part in the service for the first time in a coronation service that goes back almost a thousand years.

After the service, at around 13:00 BST, King Charles and Queen Camilla will travel in the Gold State Coach back to Buckingham Palace, in a spectacular mile-long (1.6km) procession, with 4,000 soldiers and 19 military bands.

When they reach the palace, it remains uncertain who will be seen with the King and Queen for the traditional balcony appearance.

There are plans for a flypast when the senior royals are on the palace balcony, but there will be concerns about the weather, with a forecast of cloud and showers.

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What else is happening around the UK on Coronation day?

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The Coronation has also drawn a small group of protesters from Republic, the group campaigning for the abolition of the monarchy.

Around six protesters who were unloading a van of placards just north of the square were arrested.

There will be a massive security operation, with the Metropolitan Police putting 11,500 officers on duty in what it said would be its biggest ever single-day deployment.

Anti-monarchy groups have defended their right to protest, but the police have warned that “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low”.

The guest list was also questioned – with criticism of the invitation of Chinese vice-president Han Zheng, who is accused of presiding over a crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

There has also been some controversy over whether people at home were being asked to pledge their allegiance to the King.

The Church of England has made clear this is entirely optional – and people might instead have a “private moment of reflection”.

Protesters from anti-monarchy group Republic have gathered in Trafalgar SquareIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
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Protesters from anti-monarchy group Republic have gathered in Trafalgar Square

Additional reporting by Marie Jackson, Alys Davies and Aoife Walsh.

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