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What the Coronation offers for English teachers

King Charles III Coronation: A new chapter in British history
Dr Sarah Steadman

Lecturer in English Education (Subject Director PGCE English)

25 April 2023

‘Then Frodo came forward and took the crown from Faramir and bore it to Gandalf; and Aragorn knelt, and Gandalf set the White Crown upon his head and said: "Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!"’ - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

The concepts of kingship and the crown are not uncommon in literature. From Tolkien’s fantastical Kingdom of Gondor to Shakespeare’s representation of historical English monarchs, there is plenty of literary material to explore and debate. The coronation of King Charles III offers a rare insight into the non-fictional world of royal ascent and, for teachers, an opportunity to ground classroom activities in the experienced reality of current events.

The Coronation has already inspired the production of resources for schools, freely available for teachers. The British Coronation Project, a collaboration between King's College London, University of Roehampton and Arts Projects for Schools offers a curriculum-based scheme of work for primary aged children while The Eden Project’s Coronation Big Lunch includes a range of arts and teaching resources to commemorate the occasion. The Royal Collection Trust has produced materials for schools and also offers opportunities to visit the official royal residences throughout the year and for school groups to experience Coronation-themed workshops.

Most of the available resources are aimed at younger students, but there is much that the Coronation can bring to the secondary English classroom. As the blog post from NoSweatShakespeare reminds us, no writer created as many kings as Shakespeare did (the website also helpfully provides a full list of Shakespearean kings and leaders).


Studying Shakespeare invites consideration of the notion of kingship and what it means to rule. There is mileage in exploring adaptations and changes over time. For example, the national pride of Henry V as he rallies his troops to unlikely victory at Agincourt was brought up to date in the recent co-production between Headlong and Shakespeare’s Globe, where the rewritten modern ending situated in an immigration reporting centre drew troubling parallels between Henry’s power over France and our own approach to immigration.

Shakespeare also provides glimpses into the world of coronations, including parody such as in Henry VI Part 3, when Queen Margaret ironically crowns Richard Duke of York with a paper crown. Many students will be studying Macbeth as a GCSE text and analysing the appearance of Banquo at Macbeth’s coronation feast.

Portrait of William Shakespeare. From Israel Gollancz. The book of homage, 1916

Significantly, the crowning of the King of Scotland takes place off stage in Shakespeare’s text, an interesting staging decision that has been overturned by many adaptations including Justin Kurzel’s 2015 film starring Michael Fassbender. There are opportunities here to both debate Shakespeare’s motives, whilst reflecting on how the crowning of such a king would differ from the anointing of the modern Monarch. As an audience do we need to ‘see’ a Coronation in order to accept a new Monarch? Will Charles III only move from Prince to King in the nation’s psyche once his crowning has been witnessed? All interesting discussions for the English classroom.

And through poetry comes the chance to reflect and create. Thomas Hardy’s poem The Coronation, written the year after George V’s 1910 Coronation, depicts the imagined conversation between past monarchs in the crypt of Westminster as they discuss the preparations above. This could serve as a stimulus for creative response, with students imagining the conversations of past and present participants in historical events.

Poems by James Mansfield, undiscovered until 2014, include A Prayer for the King's Majesty, in which the then poet laureate reflects on George VI's Coronation in May 1937. A modern poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy, reminds us that the crown is ‘not lightly worn’ in her poem The Crown written for the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation. Such texts provide openings for both for analysis and creativity, with teachers using poetry as a springboard for discussion.

Most significantly, however, events such as the Coronation give rise to discussions of identity. What does it mean to be a citizen of ‘this sceptred isle’? What does the Coronation of a new Monarch have to do with the lived experience of the students in our classrooms?

Writing for NATE, Lesley Nelson-Addy, Furzeen Ahmed and Harmeet Matharu call for a diversification of poetry in the English curriculum, including consideration of such collections as Daljit Nagra’s British Museum in which Nagra considers his identity as a British Asian and how institutions such as the British Museum and the BBC have guided him on his journey to understanding his culture. As Nelson-Addy, Ahmed and Matharu suggest, in considering the anthology,

"At KS3, students could reflect on their own experiences and consider how the religious or the spiritual has enhanced their life or the life of a family member. They could do research about religious or spiritual elements in their lives or their family’s lives that means something to them. Once they have done this research, they could write their own poems about religion or spirituality."

The formal investiture of King Charles III of his regal powers in a religious Coronation ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey is a significant event in the country’s history and could be used to frame reflections from students on significant events and places in their own history.

The coronation of King Charles III is an opportunity for English teachers. As we inhabit the ‘days of the King’, teachers have a role in making events accessible for students. In the English classroom, drawing parallels and encouraging discussions around fictional representations of kingship and the reality of the Coronation and the modern monarchy could prove productive.

But perhaps the Coronation might best serve as a stimulus for creative explorations of identity and the importance of place for students growing up in culturally diverse post-pandemic Britain.

In this story

Sarah Steadman

Sarah Steadman

Lecturer in English Education

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