Royalists, rozzers and rain: Charles III Coronation in pictures

Royalists, rozzers and rain: Charles III Coronation in pictures

Photographer Theo McInness captures a day of contradictions in London, as Royalists celebrate and peaceful protesters face crackdowns from the police.

Did you know that 40 monarchs have had their Coronation in Westminster Abbey? And that every Coronation since William the Conquerer's in 1066 has taken place there? Did you know that each part of the ceremony has its own name, some of which have not changed for a millennia?

Like me, you may be one of millions to have a myriad of pieces of useless Royal trivia thrust upon you in the last few days as the media worked themselves into a frenzy and ran out of interesting ways to cover the placing of a very expensive hat on the head of a very old man.

The eight months that have passed between the death of Elizabeth II and the Coronation of Charles III have, for many, been some of the most difficult in living memory. A perfect storm formed over winter, driven by a cost of living crisis, a weakened economy, and years of cuts and underfunding. More food bank parcels than ever before were given out in the 12 months up to March 2023, and for the first time a nationally co-ordinated effort to provide 'warm banks' – places where people could go and keep warm for free – saw the opening over 4,000 spaces.

Despite herculean efforts, there were still those who could not be reached. Last month, an inquest into the death of a 87-year-old grandmother in Rochdale heard that the pensioner died from hypothermia after refusing to put her heating on, fearing high energy costs. 

Stories of pain, horror and suffering from the last few months continue to come to light, but they would not deter the Royals pushing ahead with a lavish Coronation. The parade, complete with brand new gold carriage, is reported to be costing the public £250 million. 

Some revellers were in situ as early as six days before the event, braving torrential downpours under tents and tarpaulin. As the day of the ceremony drew into view, more crowds began to gather along the route of the parade. Union Jacks, fake crowns and joyful sycophancy flooded the streets of Westminster, though all was not necessarily well.

At 7am on the morning of Saturday 6th May, a number of members of staff from the anti-monarchist campaign group Republic, including their CEO Graham Smith, were arrested by Metropolitan police officers. Their arrests, which happened as the staff members unloaded placards from a van close to the agreed site of their protest, came after extensive conversations between Republic and the Met in order to facilitate the anti-coronation protest. 

The group, which is the country's largest republican organisation, released guidance to supporters ahead of the event detailing these conversations, stating they had received assurances from the city's police force that the protests would be able to go ahead. In the days up to the Coronation, the Met released statements to similar effect. 

Throughout the day of the Coronation, reports of arrests and detentions on the Mall and in Trafalgar Square, as well as further across the city, continued to drip through. 

In statement released at 5pm, the Metropolitan police reported that they had made 52 arrests for offences including affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. 

Commander Karen Findlay, who led the policing operation, stated: "We absolutely understand public concern following the arrests we made this morning. Protest is lawful and it can be disruptive. We have policed numerous protests without intervention in the build-up to the Coronation, and during it. Our duty is to do so in a proportionate manner in line with relevant legislation. We also have a duty to intervene when protest becomes criminal and may cause serious disruption.

“This depends on the context. The Coronation is a once in a generation event and that is a key consideration in our assessment. A protest involving large numbers has gone ahead today with police knowledge and no intervention.”

As the protest referred to in Findlay's statement wrapped up, its organisers remained in police custody, only being released late into the evening. The following morning Smith released a statement on Republic's website:

"Yesterday, as we prepared for a peaceful and lawful protest, a number of Republic's team were arrested and detained for the rest of the day.

These arrests are a direct attack on our democracy and the fundamental rights of every person in the country. Each and every police officer involved on the ground should hang their heads in shame. They showed no judgement, no common sense and no basic decency. This was a heavy handed action which had the appearance of a pre-determined arrest that would have occurred regardless of the evidence or our actions."

As the fallout continues, questions weigh heavy around the conduct of the Metropolitan police force, as well the health of a democracy in which basic dissent is unable to be expressed. 

It was, in many ways, a day of contradictions. A lavish display of wealth and privilege on the streets of a city where millions are in poverty. An outpouring of joy and excitement playing out next to brutal repression of basic human rights. The celebration of an ancient and undemocratic form of government by champions of democracy. Huck photography Theo McInness was on site to capture all that and more.