Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in the February 17 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
The British monarchy is entrenched in symbolism. Time and again we’ve seen instances where members of the Windsor clan use subtle messaging in what they say, do, use and wear. Sometimes it’s an understated nod to an ancestor, while other times it’s a hat-tip to royal tradition or a historic occasion.
The late Queen Elizabeth II was well known for masterfully using her wardrobe as an alternative means of soft diplomacy, as well as identity. So, when the emblem for King Charles’s coronation was unveiled by Buckingham Palace, it came as no surprise that subtle symbolism was threaded throughout its design.
The emblem is essentially the logo that’ll be used in all official marketing and comms around the coronation and will be featured on merchandise and at key events, like the Westminster Abbey service and Windsor concert, as well as national events such as street parties and community gatherings. But it’s not just a decorative element.
At face value, the insignia has a lot of floral motifs, which would make sense when trying to reflect a King known for being a decades-long crusader for the environment. But take a closer look and you’ll notice there’s a rose for England, a shamrock for Northern Ireland, a thistle for Scotland and a daffodil for Wales. Combined, these four flowers represent the four nations of the United Kingdom and make up the shape of St Edward’s Crown, which will be placed on the King’s head on May 6. Then there’s the color palate of red, white and blue – a clear nod to the Union Flag.
The flowers – chosen by British former Apple design guru Jony Ive – represent something much deeper. Ive confirmed the design his team came up with was “inspired by King Charles’ love of the planet, nature, and his deep concern for the natural world.”
He said: “The emblem speaks to the happy optimism of spring and celebrates the beginning of this new Carolean era for the United Kingdom. The gentle modesty of these natural forms combine to define an emblem that acknowledges both the joyful and profound importance of this occasion.”
Another example of how royals use symbolism came this week in the form of the Queen Consort’s choice of jewel-encrusted crown for the coronation. Buckingham Palace revealed that she would use Queen Mary’s Crown during the ceremony on May 6, which has been removed from the Tower of London to be resized.
It will be the first time in recent history that a consort has opted to reuse an existing crown rather than commission a new one to be made. The palace said Camilla’s choice was “in the interests of sustainability and efficiency.”
That’s not to say that Camilla isn’t making some “minor changes and additions” while it’s in the workshop, which the palace said was “in keeping with the longstanding tradition that the insertion of jewels is unique to the occasion.”
The Queen Consort also wants to honor her mother-in-law by resetting the crown with some diamonds – the Cullinan III, IV and V – from the late monarch’s personal collection. While the Cullinan diamonds have been set into Queen Mary’s Crown before, they were often repurposed by Queen Elizabeth II as brooches.
Her choices also avoid the use of the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond, a 105-carat jewel set into the Queen Mother’s crown, which has been the source of a decades-long contention between India and the UK amid questions over its ownership. Following Queen Elizabeth II’s death, there was speculation Camilla would use that crown during her coronation, sparking renewed calls from people in India to return the diamond.
But not everyone is happy about the upcoming coronation and subtle hints – and messaging will do little to change that. King Charles was greeted by anti-monarchy protesters while visiting Milton Keynes on Thursday to celebrate its new city status. Amid the large gathering of supporters, there was a smaller cohort of anti-monarchists brandishing signs that read “Not My King.”
Among the demonstrators was Graham Smith, from the campaign group Republic. While there he questioned the need for “a pointless coronation” instead of a debate over whether the monarchy was still relevant today, according to a statement from the group. “We believe the British public should be asked, do you want Charles or a choice? The tide is starting to turn against the monarchy and we need a serious debate about its future,” Smith added.
According to the UK’s PA Media news agency, another protester shouted, “why are you wasting money on a coronation Charles?” but other members of the public started singing “God Save the King,” drowning out the dissent. King Charles still made sure to greet members of the public in front of where the protesters had gathered. And while he appeared unfazed by the hecklers present, there have now been a few instances of anti-monarchists turning up at royal engagements to voice their grievances against the institution – something we didn’t see as overtly while the Queen was alive.
News of the week
Palace reschedules Camilla event.
Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen Consort will host a literary reception at Clarence House to celebrate the second anniversary of her Reading Room initiative. This was one of the events Camilla was forced to cancel this week after again testing positive for Covid. Initially Buckingham Palace had said she was suffering from a “seasonal illness.” A royal source had told us: “We hope that a new date can be found for them before too long.” The Queen Consort had been due to join the King in Milton Keynes. This is the second time Camilla, who is fully vaccinated, has caught Covid – she previously had it in February 2022. But with one of her postponed engagements back on the books, it perhaps signals to royal-watchers that the Queen Consort is on the mend.
In the royal diary
William and Kate’s glamorous night out.
The Prince and Princess of Wales will leave their three kids at home to attend the EE British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards ceremony on Sunday night. The couple haven’t attended the event since 2020. Last year, Prince William’s busy schedule meant the president of BAFTA was unable to attend, while the year before he opted against going as it took place just a few days after the death of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh. This time round, the couple will watch the awards before meeting winners and the nominees in the EE Rising Star award category. Meanwhile, veteran actor Helen Mirren, who has portrayed Queen Elizabeth II on multiple occasions, will lead a special tribute to the late monarch at Sunday’s ceremony, PA Media reported.
Photo of the week
King Charles on Tuesday met with volunteers in London who are helping to send aid to quake-stricken regions in Turkey and Syria. The two nations were devastated after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit last week, killing more than 42,000 people. The King started by visiting a west London charity that is coordinating aid to be sent over before heading to a pop-up support center in Trafalgar Square. King Charles appeared visibly upset while talking to members of the Syrian diaspora, including a former White Helmet volunteer rescue worker.
How to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Following the harrowing natural disaster, both countries have called on the international community for help. If you would like to donate to organizations on the ground, head here to help.
What else is happening?
Swedish King to undergo heart surgery.
Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf is scheduled to have heart surgery next week, according to a statement from the country’s royal family. The 76-year-old monarch will undergo “a technique known as a heart tap” on Monday following advice from the King’s surgeon, the statement said. “After the procedure, a period of rest is recommended.” Due to the King’s operation, all planned engagements between February 20 and March 3 have been postponed to later in the spring. “The King is doing well and his official programme up to the day of the operation is being carried out as planned,” the statement concluded. (From CNN’s James Frater in London)
William and Kate sent a message of support to New Zealand following the devastation left in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle earlier this week. The country declared a state of emergency for the third time in its history on Tuesday as the cyclone pounded the North Island with wind and rain, knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes.
The royal couple said they were “thinking of all the communities who have been affected,” adding “we are in awe of the valiant efforts of emergency responders risking their lives to help those in danger.”