The Mounties are to feature in King Charles III’s slimmed-down coronation procession in May, as part of a prominent Canadian contingent, including the Governor-General.
RCMP riders are to accompany the Household Cavalry as part of the King’s official mounted escort in the procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.
But the cavalcade will be significantly scaled back from the four-kilometre-long spectacle for Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation. That grand procession though central London featured 12,000 military personnel and 10 carriages carrying Commonwealth prime ministers and colonial rulers including the sultan of Zanzibar. The carriage of Canada’s then-prime minister Louis St. Laurent was escorted by four Mounties riding horses they had brought from Canada.
This time the Mounties are to ride some of the RCMP horses given to the Royal Family. The horses include George, ridden by Charles while he was Prince of Wales during the trooping of the colour, and Sir John, given to the Queen in 2016 to mark her 90th birthday. This past weekend, the Mounties presented the King with a seven-year-old black mare called Noble.
The RCMP’s ties to the Royal Family date to 1904 when King Edward VII bestowed the title of Royal to the North-West Mounted Police.
Four Mounties led the Queen’s funeral procession last September in plans approved by the Queen herself during her lifetime.
“While plans are still evolving, we can confirm that an RCMP mounted contingent, similar in size to the one that took part in the funeral procession for Queen Elizabeth, is being planned for the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III,” said Corporal Kim Chamberland, an RCMP spokesperson.
Buckingham Palace said on Monday that the plans for the coronation are still being finalized. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been invited, but it was reported in the British media on Sunday that their children – three-year old Archie and one-year-old Lilibet – have not been invited as they are considered too young.
The ceremony is to be attended by Governor-General Mary Simon, who is the sovereign’s representative in Canada. She told The Globe and Mail she feels “privileged” and “excited to be there to represent our country.”
Charles has spoken repeatedly about his affection for Canada, which he has visited several times on both official and private visits while Prince of Wales. During his visit last year to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, he said Canada was a “truly great country” populated by “outward-looking, big-hearted” people.
During a visit to Newfoundland in 2009, he declared: “Every time I come to Canada … a little more of Canada seeps into my bloodstream and, from there, straight to my heart.”
Robert Finch, chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, said it was “important to remember that the coronation is not just a British event, but also the crowning of the King of Canada.”
He said he expected the oath that Charles will swear as sovereign to include a reference to governing Canada, as it did at the Queen’s coronation in 1953.
Camilla, the Queen Consort, will also be crowned at the ceremony, which is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In the pared-down ceremony, some arcane traditions dating back almost 1,000 years are expected to be dispensed with.
It is not known whether presenting the monarch with golden spurs – a tradition dating to 1189 at the coronation of Richard I – will survive, or whether the hereditary King’s Champion, Francis Dymoke, will issue a challenge to single combat to anyone who disputes the King’s right to the crown. The role of champion dates to the time of William the Conqueror whose rule began in 1066.
In 1953, Canada’s then-high commissioner Norman Robertson had a ceremonial role, handing the Canadian standard to the Barons of the Cinque Ports in the nave of the cathedral, before taking his seat.
Millions of people worldwide are expected to watch the occasion broadcast live in May. In 1953, TV footage of the Queen’s coronation – the first to be televised – was flown to Canada in canisters by the Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force after the ceremony. The mission dubbed Operation Pony Express meant that Canada was the first to broadcast it in North America, beating the Americans by half an hour.