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The coronation of King Charles III

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

King Charles III was crowned today in a display of pomp and pageantry in London.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: God save the king.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: God save the king.

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MCCAMMON: It was the United Kingdom's first coronation in 70 years and a chance for the new king to put his stamp on the monarchy with a scaled-back, smaller ceremony than his mother's. But not everyone was won over. The parade route was lined with well-wishers, but also some protesters. NPR's Lauren Frayer watched it all unfold and sent us this report.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: King Charles and Queen Camilla rode to their coronation in a horse-drawn carriage - but a modern one with power windows, AC and hydraulics to keep it from swaying.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing, inaudible).

FRAYER: They processed into Westminster Abbey, draped in velvet fur-trimmed robes. They were anointed with holy oil from Jerusalem, and they were crowned according to a rite practiced here for more than a thousand years. There were some differences, though - a shorter parade route, a role for leaders of other faiths besides Christianity and some contemporary music, including a coronation theme song.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing, inaudible).

FRAYER: Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber of "Cats" and "Phantom Of The Opera" fame. First Lady Jill Biden was there. So were Lionel Richie and Katy Perry. Another famous American, Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, was not.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Serving up flags and ponchos.

FRAYER: Outside, tens of thousands of people braved at times heavy rain to witness the spectacle. Katie Francis (ph) and her 6-year-old, Benjamin (ph), traveled from Windsor, outside London.

KATIE FRANCIS: I loved the crowning itself, the coronation itself.

FRAYER: To watch the bejewelled purple velvet crown go on the king's head, she says...

FRANCIS: Something that sends shivers down your spine. You feel the weight of the responsibility going onto Charles's head, literally.

BENJAMIN: The crown must be very heavy for him.

FRAYER: Benjamin had a waterproof Union Jack hat on and ice cream all over his face.

MARION PETERS: And then the gold carriage was amazing to see with my own eyes.

WENDY: Yes. It was like something out of a fairytale, wasn't it?

FRAYER: Those last two voices were Marion Peters (ph) and her mother, Wendy (ph), from Morpeth in northeast England. They're royalists who somehow ended up in a crowd of protesters.

PETERS: So that made it quite interesting because they would start up now and then, and we had to try and drown them out, shouting God save the king or whatever.

FRAYER: There were no clashes and the protesters were outnumbered. One of those chanting not my king was retired, Dr. Phillipa Birkett (ph). She's upset this coronation is costing taxpayers around $125 million at a time of economic crisis.

PHILLIPA BIRKETT: It's just expensive theatrics. We're suffering. You know, there's food banks and people in real financial crisis.

FRAYER: Neither protests nor rain disrupted the king's itinerary. Only the military flyover had to be scaled back. Fewer jets, more helicopters because of the bad weather. Political scientist Anand Manon says if Britons go home from this coronation feeling like they had fun or that it was worthwhile...

ANAND MENON: That gives King Charles a springboard and a wellspring of sort of good faith from the British people on which to build. But it's just a staging post. What we don't know is, longer term, what public opinion on the monarchy will do.

FRAYER: Polls in recent months show it's been waning, especially among the youth. For now, though, one of those watching, Mary Wahrman (ph), says after all of today's events, she can only imagine what the king is thinking tonight.

MARY WAHRMAN: I think he will be mightily relieved it's all over.

FRAYER: Lauren Frayer, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.