In this post, #1 New York Times bestselling author Christopher Andersen shares an excerpt from his “gasp-worthy” (Kirkus) book, Game of Crowns, that discusses what will happen on the day Charles takes the throne from Queen Elizabeth II. Don’t miss Game of Crowns and Chris’s other “riveting” (People) bestsellers, available in print and ebook now!
In his 2016 campaign for the White House, Donald Trump rarely used the word “administration” to describe an American president’s time in office. According to The Donald, the War in Iraq occurred during George W. Bush’s “reign” and ISIS was born during the “rule” of Barack Obama. Such Freudian slips only serve to underscore that, despite the fact that we live in the world’s greatest democracy, the imperial trappings of office—from Hail to the Chief and glittering state dinners to Air Force One—often make the new president seem more like a monarch than we care to admit.
Still, when Elizabeth II vacates the throne—as she inevitably must, one way or the other—the coronation that follows will by comparison make our American inauguration look like a high school pageant. After all, when it comes to Britain’s Royal Family, pomp and ceremony (and did I say pomp?) are what it’s all about. Here is a mere taste of what lies in store, from the pages of Game of Crowns…
After the Archbishop of Canterbury leads the communion service and prayers are said, the Lord High Chamberlain removes Charles’s crimson robe, and the new monarch is seated in King Edward’s Chair. Every anointed sovereign since l308 has been seated in St. Edward’s Chair, encasing the legendary Stone of Scone, at the moment of coronation. “Sirs,” the Archbishop of Canterbury declares to the assembled throng before anointing the monarch, “I here present unto you King Charles, your undoubted King, wherefore all of you who are come this day to do your homage and service, are you willing to do the same?” Their answer thunders through the abbey: “God Save King Charles!”
Charles is then invested with two coronation robes–one white and the “great golden mantle,” the Imperial Robe–while the Great Lord Chamberlain touches the king’s heels with St. George’s Golden Spurs (no longer actually buckled onto the monarch’s ankles since the coronation of Queen Anne in l702 because Anne’s ankles were too thick to fit them.) Then he is handed two swords by the assembled bishops and archbishops–the Great Sword of State and the Jeweled Sword of Offering–which he passes to a cleric who lays them on the altar.
The Archbishop then hands Charles “Golden Orb” encrusted with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies symbolizing “the world under Christ’s dominion” before slipping the coronation ring onto the fourth finger of the new king’s right hand. This ruby and sapphire ring represents the sovereign’s “marriage” to the nation.
Still seated in St. Edward’s chair, Charles now takes in his right hand the Royal Scepter, symbol of regal power and justice. It is mounted with the largest cut diamond in the world, the 530-carat Star of Africa.
It is at this point that a memory from Charles’ childhood surfaces–the moment when, as a very bored-looking boy of three, he stood in the gallery between the Queen Mother and his aunt, Princess Margaret, to watch his mother become queen. The night before her coronation, Elizabeth, then just twenty-five, had practiced walking with the heavy crown on her head in front of Charles and his sister Anne, dissolving in giggles as she struggled to keep her balance. This would be one of his fondest memories of a mother who, from that point on, had little time to dote on her lonely, emotionally isolated eldest son.
Now, at last, it is Charles’s turn–the moment in history that has defined his entire life, his raison d’etre. His eyes widen perceptibly as St. Edward’s Crown is brought to the Archbishop of Canterbury on a red cushion. It is especially fitting that this, the traditional coronation crown, was actually made for the crowning of the last King Charles–Charles II–in 1661.
The Archbishop carries the crown aloft as he walks toward St. Edward’s Chair. Once he reaches it, the Archbishop raises the crown high and pauses for a moment before bringing it down and placing it firmly on Charles’s head. The new monarch’s eyes are vacant; he is utterly expressionless. It is the classic out-of- body experience.
“God save the King!” Kate, William, and Camilla shout loudly with everyone in the Abbey. “God save the King! God save the King!” There is fanfare of trumpets, and the Archbishop raises his right hand to speak. “God crown you,” he intones, “with a crown of glory and righteousness.” While the orchestra and choir launch into William Walton’s soul-stirring “Coronation Te Deum,” church bells ring across the kingdom and guns thunder in the royal parks–from Hyde Park to the Tower of London.