Britain’s diverse communities to be recognised in coronation service

The inclusion of non-Christian peers and community leaders in the King’s coronation service is aimed at recognising Britain’s modern society, which has been transformed since the late Queen’s crowning.

Charles has for many years sought to highlight and celebrate the diversity within the UK that has steadily developed during his lifetime.

When Queen Elizabeth was hailed monarch during her 1953 coronation, Britain was in the grip of post-war austerity, and would soon see thousands of citizens from the Empire travel to the UK to replenish the workforce, from the NHS to public transport.

Royal visit to Luton
Charles makes the traditional namaste gesture as he meets volunteers during a visit to the newly built Guru Nanak Gurdwara Sikh temple in Luton (Chris Jackson/PA)

People from Asia, Africa and the the Caribbean brought their own cultures and religions that have changed the nation.

In his first Christmas broadcast as monarch, Charles recognised the work of other faiths during the cost-of-living crisis, saying: “Our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and gurdwaras, have once again united in feeding the hungry, providing love and support throughout the year.”

For the first time representatives from the nation’s faith communities will play an active role in the coronation of a monarch.

And they will be visible from the initial moments, taking part in a series of processions into Westminster Abbey that will culminate with the entrance of the King and Queen Consort.

Among the group will be faith leaders and representatives from the Jewish, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahai and Zoroastrian communities.

Prince Charles – London Buddhist Vihara Monastry
Charles lights a candle during a visit to a Buddhist temple in west London(Martyn Hayhow/WPA Rota AFP/PA)

When the regalia is presented to the King, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish peers will take part, handing over items which do not have Christian meaning or symbolism.

Lord Kamall, a British-born Muslim, will present the Armill to the King, and Baroness Gillian Merron, who served as the Board of Deputies of British Jews’ chief executive for more than six years, will present the robe royal to the monarch.

At the end of the coronation, the King will receive a greeting in unison from leaders and representatives from Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist communities.

They will tell the newly crowned King: “Your Majesty, as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service.

“We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good.”

Queen Elizabeth II death
Charles attends a reception with faith leaders (Aaron Chown/PA)

Charles will acknowledges the greeting.

The group consists of the head of the nation’s Buddhists, the Most Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala Thera, head monk of the London Buddhist Vihara and Chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain.

Another is Lord Singh of Wimbledon, a prominent member of the Sikh community, sitting as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, who has been a frequent contributor to the “Thought for the Day” segment on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Radha Mohan das is a Hindu representative based at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple, a mock-Tudor Hertfordshire mansion in 78 acres, donated by former Beatle George Harrison whose spiritual journey led him to spend time in India with other Beatles.

Muslim Aliya Azam is an Interfaith co-ordinator at the Al-Khoei Foundation which organises a number of events encouraging people of different religions to interact, the most prominent is the Big Iftar which brings people of all faiths and none together during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Prince of Wales visit to Borehamwood
Charles with the Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis during a visit to Yavneh College, an Orthodox Jewish school in Hertfordshire. Toby Melville/PA

The final member is Sir Ephraim Mirvis, only the 11th Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since the office was introduced in 1704. He was installed in September 2013 during a ceremony attended by Charles when he was Prince of Wales, the first time a member of the royal family was present.

The King caused controversy in 1994 when he spoke of his desire to become “Defender of Faith” rather than “Defender of the Faith” as monarch – raising the prospect of a major change in the ancient relationship between the Church of England and the monarchy.

Charles later said in 2015 that he believed it was possible to be “Defender of the Faith” as well as being a protector of faiths, and he was proclaimed Defender of the Faith at his Accession Council in September and will be again during the coronation.

In a reception for faith leaders after the Queen’s death, he described himself as a “committed Anglican Christian”, saying he would take “an oath at his coronation relating to the settlement of the Church of England”.

But he said he believed the sovereign has a less formally recognised additional duty to “protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals”.