At Charles’s Coronation, Everything Olde Was New Again

The coronation of King Charles III was billed as a chance to usher in a new kind of monarchy — slimmer, more accessible and more inclusive — for the 21st century. Though Saturday’s ceremony had its share of modern flourishes, it was hard to escape the sense that they were mostly tweaks to an ancient ritual which, like the monarchy itself, can’t escape the heavy burdens of the past.

As it happened, the coronation was a huge success by most measures. It proceeded on time and on schedule. No one dropped anything. Prince Harry came, saw and left, without apparent incident. King Charles looked burdened, and then relieved, by the responsibility of it all; Queen Camilla looked radiant.

And Britain thrilled at the spectacle of Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, successfully wielding an eight-pound jewel-encrusted sword while wearing a blue dress-and-cape ensemble, like some sort of proud English Valkyrie. (She was a big hit on social media. “The Penny is mightier than the sword,” Chris Bryant, a Labour member of Parliament, tweeted.)

But it’s hard to use the word “modern” to describe a ceremony that included, among many other exotic elements, an ancient 350-pound rock from Scotland called the Stone of Destiny; a hollow gold “Sovereign’s orb” encrusted with emeralds, rubies and sapphires, resembling a magnificent Fabergé egg, topped by a cross; numerous embroidered robes and jewel-studded crowns; two golden monarch-conveying carriages; and thousands of people in elaborate military costumes processing like some sort of fancy-dress army along the vast Mall that runs between Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.

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