The King’s Champion is ready, Gold Stick in Waiting is on hand – the Coronation of King Charles could be about to get interesting. For confirmation has just come through that a potential pretender to the throne will be taking their seat in Westminster Abbey as the crown is placed on His Majesty’s head. Enter Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein.
Sophie is second in line to the British throne according to the Jacobite Succession, the alternative line of rulers that has taken shape since King James II was deposed in 1688. James lost his crown for a number of reasons. He wasn’t that good at reigning but he was also a Catholic at a time when the ruling classes were decidedly Protestant. He was removed in favour of his Protestant daughter but despite going into exile, he never lost hope of regaining his throne. That claim was passed down to his son and grandson who both took a tilt at taking the crown. Their supporters, the Jacobites, also kept the claim going. And even when the direct line from James II died out, the alternative royal succession didn’t.
It just passed to other parts of the family and now rests with Franz, Duke of Bavaria who, according to the Jacobite Succession, could be King Francis II of Great Britain (King Francis I has already reigned, you just missed it, it was early 19th century). He has no children so his heir is his brother, Max. And Max’s heir is the eldest of his five daughters – Sophie. Which means that the Princess of Liechtenstein who has just confirmed she’ll be at the Coronation with her husband, Prince Alois, is number two on the list of Jacobite successors.
To be fair, Sophie and her family have always said they have absolutely no intention whatsoever of pursuing the claim. Support for the Jacobite Succession has also petered out from its heyday when challenges from the Stuarts were big problems for the British throne. The princess is there on behalf of the Royal Family of Liechtenstein, not to eye up St. Edward’s Crown for size.
Besides, there’s the small problem of Britain’s succession laws to get around. Catholics still aren’t allowed to take the throne, the only faith group barred from succeeding. Although it might seem an anachronism in the 21st century, at a Coronation ceremony built around multi faith participation, Princess Sophie could be stopped in her tracks from any potential claim by the Prime Minster waving the law at her.
That aside, Coronation ritual means there are plenty of barriers to anyone snatching the Crown from King Charles. The King’s Champion, Francis Dymoke, will be in attendance. He inherited that role which has been with his family from the 12th century. His predecessors used to ride into the Coronation Banquet in Westminster Hall which followed the crowning, ready to take on anyone who disputed that the monarch had a right to rule. .Francis will be sitting on a chair for the Coronation although there will be horses outside, should the need arise.
What’s more, Gold Stick in Waiting is also present. It’s another ancient role and was originally intended to provide a personal bodyguard for the Monarch. It dates back to the reign of Henry VIII when someone was mad enough to threaten the tyrannical Tudor. After that, one of his courtiers had to be on hand at all times to defend him immediately. They got a stick decorated with gold – hence the name – but the role is now purely ceremonial. It is shared between the Colonel of the Life Guards and the Colonel of the Blues and Royals. The latter will exercise the function at King Charles III’s Coronation and they are better known to you and I as Princess Anne.
Maybe in another century, Princess Anne and Princess Sophie might have squared up as the true path of the Crown was debated. In the 21st century, one will ride in the procession behind the Gold State Coach while the other will represent the royal house she now helps to run – Sophie’s husband has been regent of Liechtenstein for almost twenty years.
But it’s another historic element to a day steeped in history. One Crown, so many stories and a Coronation to remember.