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Celebrating the coronation of His Majesty King Charles in Guatemala

Ambassador Whittingham welcomed a wide range of Embassy contacts to this special event. The Ambassador delivered the following speech to the audience:

Good evening and welcome to this evening’s reception to celebrate both the King’s birthday and the coronation of His Majesty King Charles the third and Queen Camilla.

I would like to begin by reading some words from His Majesty:

As my wife and I mark this very special moment, we want to thank all of you in the Commonwealth and throughout the world for your good wishes. We have been hugely inspired by the community spirit on display at Coronation celebrations such as this, and are deeply touched by the many similar events taking place across the globe. We want to express our warmest gratitude to all our friends for your kindness as we embark on this new chapter with you.

I am sure many of you will have seen images or video clips from Saturday’s coronation. It was an event that captured the imagination of the British people and was viewed by about 20 million people across the world. It was attended by 90 heads of state and the representatives of 214 countries – including Guatemala.

It was a day of many spectacles including a military parade, a fly past and much pomp. But for me, one of the most remarkable aspects of the coronation is that many parts of last Saturday’s ceremony are unchanged since the coronation of King Edgar in the year 973. That is more than a 1000 years ago.

There are other elements of the day that highlight that the British are clearly creatures of habit. The ceremony has taken place at the same venue, Westminster Abbey, ever since 1066. And the crown used in the ceremony hasn’t changed since the coronation of the last King Charles, King Charles the Second in 1661. It was only changed then because the original medieval crown was destroyed during the English Civil War.

So the coronation was wrapped in history. It retained symbols, ceremonies and objects from the past. But at the same time it has evolved and was an event that underlined many of the values that underpin the UK in 2023.

For example, it has become a much more inclusive. For the first time parts of the service were in Welsh and the three Celtic languages. For the first time representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish faiths presented the King with regalia. And the role of women was expanded.

These changes reflect the multiracial country that the UK has become. They reflect the importance that the UK attaches to diversity and human rights for all.

The ceremony was symbolically important because it brought together all elements of the UK’s constitutional monarchy. While the King is our head of state, it is of course the elected Government that rules. This separation of powers lies at the heart of our system and is an important characteristic of all healthy democracies be they monarchies, republics or any other form of government.

The transition of leadership in the UK coincides with elections that will lead to a transition of power here in Guatemala. The UK wishes all institutions involved in this civic celebration every success in their work to ensure they are free, fair and peaceful.

Another important aspect of the coronation celebrations was the prominence given to volunteering. Last Monday an activity called “The Big Help Out” took place in which six million British people – including the King – carried out volunteer work with charities or for their communities. This reflected the King’s personal interest in volunteering and the importance he has attached to civil society.

In fact, I had the honor of meeting the King myself in 1985 when, as the then Prince of Wales, has was patron of a youth volunteer programme that I took part in.

It has been a busy year for UK-Guatemala relations. With covid behind us there has been a regular flow of important UK visitors to Guatemala including our Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Americas, our Human Rights Ambassador, our Climate Change Envoy and two Trade Commissioners. The visits focused on key areas important to our wide-ranging bilateral relationship.

I very much look forward to working on these themes, and more, in the year ahead. This work will include the next phase of the Biodiverse Landscapes Fund that will include projects that tackle climate change, protect wildlife and support sustainable development in Trifinio and Selva Maya.

I would like to conclude by thanking all of you, as friends of the British Embassy, for your support and energy over the past year. I should, in particular thank the energy of the members of the British community who got up in the early hours of Saturday morning to watch the coronation live at my home. The event began at four in the morning – so I cannot imagine at what time their alarms went off.

I would also like to thank my amazing team who have worked so hard during the past 12 months – and who organised this evening’s event. An applause please for them.

And I would like to thank Yuehping, my wife, who is here to support me as always.

Please enjoy the music, the British food and have a great evening.

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