5th May 2023

The Coronation is a great event, but great for who? Obviously for the man being crowned king, on his way to this day since the age of four. Great for his wife too, who will be crowned queen. Great for the royal family, more recently the Crown providing stability and continuity in our peculiar system of constitutional monarchy, someone above party politics. And, of, course, it’s all great for TV and radio; British pageantry, prestige and pride; and  beneficial to the national economy.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of twelve composers from whom the new king has requested new music to complement the splendour of Westminster Abbey. Indeed, Lord Webber has been commissioned to write the coronation anthem, no less! But… where to start? It had to be something, Webber said, of great celebration and joy. So he turned to Psalm 98 for inspiration: ‘Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things… all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God… Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music’. All this for the king… but not Charles, says the composer: ‘the Lord is king’.

Yes indeed: with great attention focussed on Charles, we could be forgiven for thinking amid all this pomp and circumstance, he is the one who really matters. But he would be  first to acknowledge that he is not. His Christian faith attests to there being a higher power, who has both made this day possible, and whose purposes all its words and rituals are designed to serve. ‘Long live the King!’

David Bell