Charles’s embrace of faith shows how just how much times have changed
Nearly a thousand years ago, a coronation was a time to weep for the Jewish community, but today, it is a time for great celebration
On 3 September 1189, Richard I was crowned King in Westminster Abbey. Jews were barred from attending, but in a spirit of heartfelt goodwill, some Jewish leaders arrived bearing gifts for the new king. They were informed that Jews were not welcome, whereupon Richard’s courtiers stripped and flogged them, and then flung them out of court.
A rumour spread that the King had given an order for all Jews to be attacked. While some Jews escaped, arsonists set fire to many Jewish homes, some Jews were forcibly converted, while others were given sanctuary in the Tower of London. Some thirty innocent Jews were senselessly murdered on the day of the Coronation, including Rabbi Jacob of Orléans, the most senior Rabbi in England at that time.
These tragic events stand in sharp contrast to our experience as Jews in 21st Century Britain.
His Majesty King Charles III has made it clear that he wants representatives of the Jewish community and other minority faith communities to be present for the coronation service. In addition, he has established an unprecedented opportunity, following the service itself, for faith leaders to be incorporated into the formal proceedings. I will be privileged, together with four other senior faith leaders, to greet the King with words of tribute and blessing. At every stage, the Palace has been sensitive to the requirements of halacha (Jewish Law) when considering how best to include us. With this in mind, in accordance with the laws of Shabbat, I will not be using a microphone.
This is in addition to The King and Queen’s gracious invitation to host Valerie and me at St James’ Palace over Shabbat, when we will cherish the extraordinary opportunity to light Shabbat candles, make kiddush, eat our specially catered Shabbat meals, sing zemirot and chant Havdalah within regal surroundings.
We are blessed to have a Monarch who holds a deep, personal conviction that there is great strength in the diversity of our country and who cherishes his warm relationship with British Jews.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are taught that: ‘there is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to cry and a time to dance with joy’. Nearly a thousand years ago, the Coronation of a Monarch was a time to weep for the Jewish community, but today, thank God, it is a time for great celebration. As we enter this Carolean era, may our country be blessed to know many more moments of such celebration, and may God save the King!