It was one of the central moments of the Coronation ceremony and also one of the few instances where traditions were adapted to include the wishes of the King for a more inclusive vision of the monarchy and his role.
And so it was that, shortly past 11:20 am London time, the Archbishop of Canterbury began administrating the Oaths to King Charles III. Yes, oaths, plural: the King had to pronounce several of them, according to all of his powers as monarch.
The first one was the one in which the new, more inclusive formula was inserted. The Archbishop of Canterbury asked King Charles: “Your Majesty, the Church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain, is committed to the true profession of the Gospel and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely. The Coronation Oath has stood for centuries and is enshrined in law. Are you willing to take the Oath?” to which the King responded: “I am willing.”
This inclusion of “people of all faiths and beliefs” represents an extraordinary novelty and was added upon the express desire of His Majesty, who wished to convey a monarchy that, while not changing its fundamental principles and core values, is adapting to the inevitable truth that the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth are home to an increasingly diverse range of people.
This was also reflected in the extraordinary opening of the entrance procession in Westminster Abbey with leaders of different faiths and the stop that the King made before exiting the Abbey to receive a short blessing from leaders of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions.
The second Oath administered to the King was about the governance of the people of the United Kingdom, Realms and territories “according to their respective laws and customs,” to which the King replied: “I solemnly promise so to do.”
The third Oath was about the administration of justice: “Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?” The King replied: “I will.”
The final Oath was the longest one and was about the defence and preservation of the Anglican Faith and Church, as well as the people who serve in it, to which the King answered: “All this I promise to do.”
The King then promised with a hand on the Bible to “perform and keep” all the oaths he had previously sworn before he pronounced the final Oath formula: “I, Charles, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.”
It was then time for the moment every attentive royal follower was dreading: the King had to sign twice for the two copies of the Oaths that the Lord Chamberlain had presented.
And, given the King’s previous experience with fountain pens, many feared that the King would have to, once again, wipe leaking ink from his hands. It happened in Northern Ireland, shortly after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II as the King and Queen were meeting leaders of the local political scene, there was a moment during which His Majesty was signing a document when he realised that his pen was leaking ink, leading him to voice his frustration.
Undoubtedly, before the Coronation Oaths were offered to the King for him to sign, members of his staff will have ensured that the pen was leak-proof. Ink on garments that are hundreds of years old would be a nightmare for the conservation team.