FOR the first time in 70 years, the UK witnessed the coronation of a monarch in 2023.

But as we look back on the start of a new era for the British royal family, events have made it clear it’s more than just the face on our coins that has changed.

We spoke to Tristan Gray, convener of Scottish anti-monarchy group Our Republic, to look back on a year that has proved royalism is no longer a majority view.  

The coronation of King Charles

Although Charles was crowned in London on May 6, Scotland was unable to distance itself from the pomp hundreds of miles away.

Charles also had what was coined a “Scottish coronation” on July 5 at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh where he was presented with the Honours of Scotland.

Much like his mother before him, the ceremonies at both ends of the UK were filled with flamboyance, but this time they came with loud calls of rejection.

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Inside St Giles, chants of “Not My King” could be heard during the service, while at the other end of the Royal Mile, Our Republic invited politicians to speak about why Scotland should do away with the monarchy.

Gray said: “There were railings all the way down the Royal Mile and then when the day happened, there was no one there.

“We thought we’d have to fight our way up the street and there was no one.

“Charles has a pretty good poker face but he couldn’t hide the fact that in the bits where nothing was happening during the service and you started to hear the chants, he looked so glum.”

Fewer than 12 months before, the Royal Mile had been packed for the late Queen’s funeral procession.

“Royalists have said to me Charles would get that emotion, he just needs to be King, and I think his Scottish coronation was evidence that’s not true,” said Gray.

‘He keeps breaking the illusion’

But why are so many people now rejecting the royal family? Is it the lavish ceremony for a man indescribably wealthy because of his family during a cost of living crisis? Is it simply the passage of time and most just feel they don’t represent Britain anymore?

Gray said: “I think it’s Charles. Everything he said he stood for while he was prince has now fallen away. It was the year of Charles’s no clothes.

The National:

“I think that was highlighted especially during the coronation. He spoke about having a more modern monarchy and then for the coronation in London we are straight back to the gold-trimmed chariots and a police crackdown on people who dared show dissent.

“The Queen was the edifice of the monarchy, she wasn’t really a person in her own right. Charles doesn’t understand that. He doesn’t understand he is not someone who people love in his own right.

“Monarchists just want him to be a statue that represents the institution but he keeps doing things that break the illusion and that’s why I think the popularity of the institution is starting to collapse.”

That said, the costs surrounding the ceremony were difficult for most to stomach. The Scottish Government picked up the cost of a £22,000 sword named The Elizabeth, commissioned to replace the current sword in the Honours of Scotland gifted to James IV.

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Then there was the more than £47,000 it cost to move the Stone of Destiny from Edinburgh to London for the coronation and that’s before we get to councils like Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders which used funds they could have put towards children's toys and helping foodbanks on coronation celebrations instead.

Gray said: “I think it would have been a compelling moment if he’d asked the people of Scotland for the Stone. But he didn’t think to ask.

“I think numbers get thrown around all the time about how much things cost, but people have stopped understanding what they mean. A sword costing £20,000 isn’t the point, the point is that the cost had to come from the Scottish Government and not the King.”

Medals and portraits

The costs were not just contained to the ceremony. The Scottish Government also had to shell out more than a quarter of a million pounds for around 13,500 silver medals commemorating the coronation for police officers.

To throw salt in the wound, the medal was announced by the UK Government as a “thank you gift from the nation” to commemorate the coronation.

The UK Government also announced an £8 million project for schools to hang an A3 portrait of the King in “ceremonial dress with decorations” up in classrooms.

“It is almost Soviet-style propaganda to stick portraits of the leader in every classroom so that kids learn to associate them with everything they should look up to,” Gray said.

The National:

“I can just imagine being a kid now and reading about how the British Empire treated India and then on the wall next to them, a portrait of a smiling Charles." 

The darkness of the Duchy of Lancaster  

In November, it emerged the King had directly profited from the deaths of thousands of English people whose money was being used to upgrade his property empire, the Duchy of Lancaster.

An investigation by The Guardian revealed that the monarch was using the feudal concept of “bona vacantia” to hoover up the estates of people who died without a will or known next of kin.

The Duchy of Lancaster claimed that after costs, any profits from bona vacantia estates are passed on to charity. But, The Guardian reported, internal documents show funds were being used to renovate properties which are owned by the king and rented out for profit. 

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The estate then announced it would transfer more than £100m into ethical investment funds following the backlash.

Gray said: “I think renovating homes is especially egregious because one of the things people are struggling with is shelter and Charles - who is one of the biggest landlords in the UK - is taking that money off people and pumping it into making sure he can make even more money from his property estates that he’s renting out to people.”

The numbers don’t lie

Polls throughout the year have consolidated the notion the royal family is losing its relevance.

In the run-up to the coronation, a YouGov poll showed three-quarters of Scots did not care about the coronation. Meanwhile, over in the likes of Canada and Jamaica, polling showed people there would vote to rid Charles as their head of state if there was a referendum now.

Gray said 2023 has proved the end of the monarchy is inevitable but campaigners need to make sure that happens sooner rather than later.

He said: “I not be shocked if by the 2050s, the monarchy is a solely British edifice. By 2100, I’m certain there will not be a monarchy at all, but our job is to speed up that process.”