On the eve of the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey tomorrow, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, looks ahead to the spectacle that will unfold and reflects on a couple of busy days in London in the build-up to the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.
At the Service, the Primus has the honour of presenting the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross to the Archbishop of Canterbury at what is an important and symbolic moment at the heart of the Coronation.
“We’ve had two days of rehearsals in the Abbey on Wednesday and Thursday, and it was noticeable how the atmosphere changed on day two,” says the Primus. “Wednesday felt slightly chaotic, but on Thursday there was a change in atmosphere at the dress rehearsal, as the sense of anticipation grew.
“I get the same sense of anticipation in London. The city is not as busy as I thought it would be, but things are changing. I was back at Westminster today [Friday] for a television interview with STV, and by Saturday I expect the same journey is going to be very different.
“It’s fair to say I have not quite been able to travel without being noticed, in purple shirt and cross. There’s no escaping the fact that I’m a bishop, but there’s also no escaping the realisation that bishops don’t often travel on the London Underground.”
The Primus continues: “It was a long day on Thursday from 9am to 6pm, with a lot of it spent standing, but that was probably realistic preparation for the real thing. Just about everything was run through as it will happen on the day, including celebrating Communion.
“On Saturday, the procession of faith leaders will go into the Abbey three-quarters of an hour before the King arrives, and take our places. I will first go to the North Transept, then to the Ambulatory behind the High Altar. I will be among ecumenical guests who I know, sitting in a pew with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Archbishop of Armagh and the Archbishop of Wales.
“As the time draws closer, the sense of being part of such a historic occasion is starting to sink in. It is a privilege to be here, representing the Scottish Episcopal Church and offering our prayers as a new King is crowned.”
(Inset picture by Chris Jackson)