London: On his way to be crowned on May 6, King Charles III will travel by gilded coach through streets swathed in red, white and blue Union flags — and past a warning from history.
At Trafalgar Square stands a large bronze statue of King Charles I, the 17th-century monarch deposed by Parliament and executed in 1649. On Saturday, more than 1,500 protesters, dressed in yellow for maximum visibility, plan to gather beside it to chant “Not my king” as the royal procession goes by.
“We’ll try and keep the atmosphere light, but our aim is to make it impossible to ignore,” said Graham Smith, chief executive of the anti-monarchist group Republic.
The coronation, he said, is “a celebration of a corrupt institution. And it is a celebration of one man taking a job that he has not earned.”
Republican activists have long struggled to build momentum to dislodge Britain’s 1,000-year-old monarchy. But they see the coronation as a moment of opportunity.
London’s Newington Green Meeting House, a gathering place for religious dissenters and radicals for 300 years, is holding an “alternative community party,” complete with food, drink and “radical and republican” music.
Opinion polls suggest opposition and apathy to the monarchy are both growing. In a recent study by the National Center for Social Research, just 29% of respondents thought the monarchy was “very important” – the lowest level in the center’s 40 years of research on the subject. Opposition was highest among the young.
“I think it’s definitely shifting,” said Smith, whose group wants to replace the monarch with an elected head of state. “People are quite happy to criticize Charles in a way they weren’t willing to necessarily in public about the queen.”