King Charles III, whose coronation will take place on Saturday in London, has developed strong links with the Greek Orthodox faith over the last decades.
His coronation will include Greek Orthodox chanting as a homage to the king’s late father, Prince Philip, who was born in Corfu and was a member of the former Greek royal family.
“At the request of His Majesty, in tribute to his late father His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Greek Orthodox music will also feature in the service performed by the Byzantine Chant Ensemble,” said a recent announcement by Buckingham Palace.
The Byzantine Chant Ensemble will be led by Dr. Alexander Lingas, who formed the ensemble especially for the coronation. The ensemble is made up of experienced singers who have served as cantors in cathedrals and parishes in the UK and Greece.
The sacred oil which will be used for the coronation of King Charles has been consecrated in Jerusalem.
Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the city’s Anglican Archbishop Hosam Naoum, consecrated the Chrism oil in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the palace announced recently.
The oil will be used to anoint Charles when he and his wife Camilla are crowned at London’s Westminster Abbey, in what is considered the most sacred part of the solemn ceremony.
Orthodox contributions to the coronation of King Charles III this Saturday.
– Chrism from the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.
– Anointing screen designed by Orthodox Christian iconographer Aidan Hart.
– Byzantine Ensemble, led by Alexander Lingas, chanting in the ceremony pic.twitter.com/CbDhKVIy0f
— Orthodox London (@OdoxLDN) May 2, 2023
In December, during his Christmas message watched by millions in the UK, he made a surprising reference to Greek Orthodoxy.
He spoke about his “life-long wish” to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity which he eventually fulfilled in January 2020.
As he spoke, images of the King with Orthodox priests and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, appeared on TV sets around the UK.
Charles III is a well-known lover of Greece, a philhellene, and regular visitor. He was present at, and gave a speech during, the events to mark the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, and it is known that he has often visited Mount Athos away from luxuries and the limelight.
When King Charles—then Prince Charles—said that Greece is in his blood upon his first official visit to the country, he was not just speaking metaphorically, as both his father and grandfather were born in Greece.
The grandfather of the Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, was born at Tatoi Palace, on the outskirts of Athens in 1882. His father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born on the island of Corfu at Mon Repos Palace in 1921.
Charles is “enamored of the Greek Orthodox faith”
A report by the Guardian newspaper in 2004 suggested that the then Prince Charles had become enamored of the Orthodox faith to the point that he adorned a section of his home at Highgrove with prized Byzantine icons. Many are believed to originate from Mount Athos, the Orthodox world’s holiest site.
“There is no question that the British royal is Orthodox in his heart,” a monk confided to the Guardian as Charles was making a secret visit to Mount Athos. “Sadly, he is very constrained by his position,” the monk added.
The British newspaper reported that when the prince arrived in Athos days after the death of Princess Diana, it was Abbot Ephraim of the Vatopedion Monastery who induced him to join the faith. Closeted in a chamber alone with the abbot, Charles is believed to have made a “spiritual commitment” to Christian Orthodoxy.
This has been denied by Buckingham Palace.
Throughout his life, Charles has displayed an unprecedented interest in world religions, including Islam, Buddhism, and other denominations of Christianity, but his relationship with Orthodoxy is both deep and profoundly meaningful .
Now that he assumes the role of Head of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith, the new King has reaffirmed his commitment to interfaith dialogue and harmony among people of different religions in an increasingly multicultural Britain.
A staunch supporter of religious freedom, it seems unlikely that he will relinquish his intellectual and spiritual commitment to Greek Orthodoxy.