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King Charles III and Queen Camilla are crowned in elaborate ceremony

Britain's King Charles III wearing the Imperial state Crown, and Britain's Queen Camilla wearing a modified version of Queen Mary's Crown wave from the Buckingham Palace balcony after viewing the Royal Air Force fly-past in central London on Saturday.
Oli Scarff
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AFP via Getty Images
Britain's King Charles III wearing the Imperial state Crown, and Britain's Queen Camilla wearing a modified version of Queen Mary's Crown wave from the Buckingham Palace balcony after viewing the Royal Air Force fly-past in central London on Saturday.

Updated May 6, 2023 at 11:54 AM ET

LONDON — King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, were officially crowned king and queen during a coronation ceremony Saturday at Westminster Abbey, the first coronation there since that of Charles' mother, Queen Elizabeth II, back in 1953.

Massive crowds lined the royals' route to and from the ceremony over the course of several hours.

Charles and Camilla began their procession toward the coronation from Buckingham Palace through Central London in a golden carriage led by eight horses.

About 200 members of the British military were mounted on horses as part of the procession, largely drawn from what's known as the Household Cavalry Regiment. On either side of the route to Westminster Abbey were around 1,000 other soldiers, sailors and Royal Air Force personnel.

They disembarked from their three-ton carriage at the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, flanked by church officials and followed by a retinue of support staff dressed in red uniforms.

While bells rang outside, trumpets and singing filled the inside of the Abbey to mark their procession through the nave and past a large choir, before taking their seats at the start of the formal ceremony.

In his first spoken part of the ceremony, Charles said that he has come to "serve, not to be served" and to follow the example of the "king of kings."

After being presented to the audience and repeatedly proclaimed as king, Charles swore a series of oaths that relate to his responsibilities in this new role.

King Charles III, front center, and Queen Camilla, middle center, walk in the Coronation Procession after his coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.
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King Charles III, front center, and Queen Camilla, middle center, walk in the Coronation Procession after his coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey on Saturday.

In his address to the congregation, the most senior clergyman in Britain, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, told those there and those watching on television at home that "we are here to crown a king and we crown a king to serve."

Welby later blessed oil that would be used to formally anoint Charles. As the choir sang again, Charles removed several layers of his robes and entered behind a screen where he was anointed by the oil, hidden from public view, but close to the altar.

Over the course of several minutes, Charles was presented with several symbolic items, including swords and spurs, many centuries old, ahead of his crowning.

The heavy crown was placed on Charles' head as he held two golden rods — one in each hand — as he sat silently upon a 700-year-old wooden throne. Archbishop Welby shouted "God Save the King," and those gathered responded in kind, before thundering trumpet fanfare.

The most senior members of Britain's clergy and Charles' son, Prince William, pledged allegiance to the king before the audience replied with "may the king live forever."

Camilla was crowned as queen shortly after, and sat alongside her husband in identical chairs as the choir began to sing.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, otherwise known as The Red Arrows, fly over The Mall during the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Saturday.
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Getty Images
The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, otherwise known as The Red Arrows, fly over The Mall during the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Saturday.

A light rain had been falling over the course of the morning as thousands of people lined up along the procession route, many of them carrying British flags as they cheered and sang before Charles passed in an ornate carriage.

Inside Westminster Abbey, aristocrats, celebrities and leaders from a variety of Britain's political parties arrived ahead of the ceremony. The congregation included singers such as Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, who will perform at a concert organized to celebrate the coronation this weekend.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak read a passage from the Bible, and several of his most senior ministers also attended the ceremony at Westminster Abbey, alongside the prime minister of Ukraine and Olena Zelenska, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Former British leaders including Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair also attended. U.S. first lady Jill Biden also attended.

A large procession, again featuring a horse-drawn carriage, took the royals back to Buckingham Palace

Royals gather on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to view a flypast by aircraft from the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force following the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Saturday in London.
WPA Pool / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Royals gather on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to view a flypast by aircraft from the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force following the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Saturday in London.

After returning from Westminster Abbey to nearby Buckingham Palace, King Charles and Queen Camilla were welcomed by hundreds of military personnel in ceremonial uniforms arrayed on the ornate garden's vast lawn at the rear of the residence.

The pair then returned to the public gaze on the long balcony at the front facade of the building. Thousands of supporters that had lined the streets were permitted to draw near to the front of the palace, thronging the open area but held back by dozens of police and towering railings.

Select members of Charles' family joined him outside — Princes Harry and Andrew notable by their absences — as helicopters operated by Britain's Army, Navy and Air Force flew overhead.

The rain continued to fall quite heavily as Air Force jets roared overhead, trailing fumes in the national colors of red, white and blue. The King raised his eyes but did not look up like so many of his relatives: His new crown, clearly heavy and delicately balanced on his head, precluded such a dramatic movement.

The British national anthem sounded out once again, as Charles waved to the sea of people below him, then turned and re-entered for a more private celebration.

Police arrest anti-monarchy protesters

The procession accompanying Britain's King Charles III and Queen Camilla towards Buckingham Palace moves past anti-monarchist demonstrators on Saturday in London.
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Getty Images
The procession accompanying Britain's King Charles III and Queen Camilla towards Buckingham Palace moves past anti-monarchist demonstrators on Saturday in London.

On the edge of Trafalgar Square, several anti-monarchy protesters from a campaign group called Republic were arrested before the procession as they began unloading printed signs. The London Metropolitan police force announced a "significant operation" in the city center.

Footage posted on social media appeared to show Graham Smith, the chief executive of the group, being arrested by police alongside five other demonstrators wearing T-shirts that read "Not My King."

Republic criticized the action in response to what they called
peaceful protest, and said the police would not provide a reason for
the arrests.

The coronation is costing taxpayers the equivalent of about $125 million.

More than 11,000 officers were deployed across the capital on Saturday, and the force's chief, Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, had cautioned earlier this week that on the streets near the ceremony there would be a "very low tolerance for disruption."

NPR's Lauren Frayer and Don Clyde contributed to this post.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Willem Marx