A grand and solemn ceremony, with a few personal touches: Westminster Abbey was the scene of a perfectly orchestrated choreography for the coronation of King Charles III.
When the king and queen arrive just before 11 a.m. local time (00 a.m. GMT) at the abbey, some 10 guests have already taken their seats.
Among them crowned heads, foreign dignitaries including Jill Biden, the wife of the American president, and French president Emmanuel Macron, parliamentarians and ministers but also members of civil society. Also present are staunch Republicans, such as Scottish Prime Minister Humza Yousaf and the leader of Northern Irish Sinn Fein Michelle O'Neill.
With a serious face, the 74-year-old king walks up the central aisle of the imposing Gothic abbey where the funeral of his mother Elizabeth II took place on September 19. Her eldest grandchild, Prince George, nine, carries her heavy train alongside three other little pages. As King and Queen Camilla pass, in ivory dresses embroidered with flowers, the guests bow or bow.
Welcomed by a 14-year-old chorister, Charles III solemnly declares:
"I come not to be served but to serve"
In the monumental church a respectful silence settles, while floats a sweet smell emanating from the flowers from the four corners of the United Kingdom chosen by the king, a great lover of nature.
In the front row took place his eldest son William, his wife Kate and their two youngest children, Charlotte and Louis, 8 and 5 years old. His second son Harry, at odds with his family, whom he harshly criticized, was relegated to third place, without his wife and children who remained in California.
He then takes an oath on the Bible. Then comes the most sacred but also the most secret moment of the ceremony.
Hidden from the public eye by embroidered screens, Charles III receives the anointing with holy oil, the Holy Chrism, from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
He then dons a white linen tunic, the "Colombium Sindonis", as well as a sumptuous cloak of golden silk known as the "supertunica", garments symbolizing both humility and splendor.
He receives the royal attributes including the royal robe, the orb (a golden globe surmounted by a cross), two scepters.
Then the archbishop places the crown of Saint Edward on his head, taking care to adjust the heavy solid gold crown set with rubies, amethysts and sapphires, to ensure that it does not slip.
cheers and yawns
The king is crowned and the assembly acclaims him again with a thunderous "God Save the king". At the same time the crowd gathered outside in the rain cheers: for many it is the first coronation they have ever seen, seventy years after that of Elizabeth II in 1953.
William, the heir to the throne, kneels, pledges allegiance to his father the king and places a kiss on his cheek.
In the audience, several hundred people also recite an oath of allegiance that the whole country is invited to pronounce at the same time, an initiative that bristled the less royalists.
After this tribute, Camilla receives the anointing - this time for all to see - then is crowned. It is a recognition for the one who has long been shouted down by part of the British who accused her of having broken the marriage of Charles and Diana.
After about two hours of the ceremony, which seemed a bit long for his grandson Louis, caught yawning several times, Charles III left the scene, wearing on his head the sparkling Imperial State Crown, with its 2.868 diamonds.
While carefully respecting a ritual steeped in history, he added his own personal touch to it, insisting, for example, on involving representatives of the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh cults, in a spirit of interreligious dialogue.
He is the 40th monarch to be crowned in the abbey, nearly a millennium after William the Conqueror in 1066.
Editorial staff with AFP