Tens of thousands of people of all ages, from Britain and across the globe, massed in rainy central London on Saturday to witness King Charles’ coronation and enjoy the unique atmosphere, with many donning crowns and cloaks of their own.
From the early hours, people dressed in red, white, and blue and clutching Union flags lined the streets for the first coronation in Britain for 70 years and a vast display of pomp and pageantry.
As Charles and Camilla made their way in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, thousands applauded and held up their phones to capture the moment.
Many had brought stools or steps, to be able to see over the crowds.
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Michelle Fawcett, a 52-year-old barrister said, standing along the procession route on a wet day in London.
“No one else in the world does the pomp and ceremony like us,” the lawyer added.
Those gathered had different reasons to be there. Many older visitors wanted to show their support for Charles and the monarchy, others noted the beginning of a new era.
Several younger observers spoke of a desire to witness history and some wanted to join a huge party.
Many had lined the streets for the queen’s funeral and wanted to return to the capital for a more celebratory affair.
Mark Strasshine, 36 and in the crowd with his parents, said it was a moving occasion to be there.
“It makes you feel the heart of the nation in you a little bit, and stirs you a little bit inside,” he said.
The coronation is taking place amid a cost of living crisis and public scepticism, particularly among the young, about the role and relevance of the monarchy, and its finances.
Charles, who had the longest wait for the throne of any British monarch, is not as popular as his mother, Queen Elizabeth, and his coronation did not draw the millions who thronged the streets to watch her crowning in 1953.
But polls show the public generally approves of Charles as king and a majority still support the monarchy, even if younger people are far less interested.
A few hundred protesters from the anti-monarchy group Republic gathered among the wellwishers along the route, booeing as Charles and Camilla went past and holding up signs saying “Not My King”.
The leader of the group was arrested before the procession started.
Crowds on the grand Mall boulevard leading up to Buckingham Palace were 20-deep in places, with many wearing paper crowns, plastic tiaras, elaborate costumes, and waving flags. In the nearby St. James’s Park, thousands watched on a big screen, with many holding umbrellas.
Sam Mindenhall, a 27-year-old cafe worker from Bristol, southwest England, said he thought Charles would balance the tradition of a monarchy that dates back almost 1,000 years with the modern face of Britain.
“I think a lot of the issues that he cares about are quite important,” he said.
He added that Charles appeared to be “trying to be more inclusive and bring more people into our nation”.
Fabrizio, a 47-year-old who moved from Italy nine years ago, said he also thought Charles would do a better job of connecting with younger people, given his decades-long interest in inter-faith relations and environmental issues.
“I think regardless of his age the king will reach out to younger people, I think he’ll be more connected to the youth than the queen,” he said.
Louise Fellows, 50, from Worcestershire, said she had been in London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
“We had such an amazing time we thought we’d come again.
“And I love dressing up and I loved the monarchy and it’s just such a fantastic atmosphere,” Fellows added.