Life & Culture

As an Orthodox Jew I'll be cheering the King, but I can’t watch on TV

What a shame I won’t be able to watch the coronation as it happens from the comfort of the sofa


Like so many others around the UK, I will be hosting my family for a coronation lunch on May 6. I’ve purchased the Union Jack serviettes, coronation chicken is on the menu, and I might even attempt red, white and blue mini pavlovas for dessert.

But as keen as we are to get into the spirit of all the pomp and circumstance, the one thing we definitely won’t be doing is watching the service.

Because, of course, May 6 is a Saturday, the coronation chicken is our Shabbat lunch and TV is strictly off limits.

When the first tentative news snippets about the Carolean coronation began to filter through last autumn, and the possibility of a Saturday ceremony was mooted, we Orthodox Jews were optimistic that it wouldn’t pan out that way.

The new King had notably announced his intention to be “Defender of Faith” rather than “Defender of the Faith”. He had even brought forward a planned meeting with faith leaders on the eve of his mother’s funeral in order to allow the Chief Rabbi to attend before the start of Shabbat.

While appreciating the complexity of the arrangements that needed to be made, we were hopeful that a Saturday ceremony could be avoided, and that the Sabbath-observant among us would be able to sit in front of our tellies waving Union Jacks just like the rest of our compatriots.

Alas it was not to be. I was brought up on stories of how my Holocaust-survivor grandmother took my mother, aged just one, in her Silver Cross pram, to watch the Queen’s coronation (held on a Tuesday) in 1953, and how those fortunate enough to own televisions flung open their doors to the neighbours for communal viewings.

But sadly, for the first coronation in so many of our lifetimes, Orthodox Jews have little choice but to catch the highlights on motsei Shabbat, rather like a very special royal episode of Match of the Day.

It’s truly a disappointment. I can’t deny that it’s been fun reading the bits and pieces about how the Chief Rabbi is to be accommodated at Clarence House the night before the event, with a special 6am minyan laid on for him at Western Marble Arch synagogue on the big day.

The concept of a House of Windsor Shabbaton certainly sparks the imagination — will there be a hot-water urn set up at the Royal Residence so the Chief can enjoy a cup of coffee before Shacharit, one wonders?

King Charles has famously announced his intention to go to bed at 6pm on Friday evening, but will he wake up in the middle of the night with the tantalising aroma of slow-cooking cholent tickling his nostrils?

All well and good, but as a member of a WhatsApp group I’m part of grumbled, “it’s a shame this consideration for other faiths only extends to one Jew and not to the thousands of others who would have liked to watch the coronation”.

As it happens, I know at least one other Jew who’ll be part of the action on Saturday. My dear friend and former CEO of the Board of Deputies, Baroness Gillian Merron, will be presenting His Majesty with the rather impressive sounding “Robe Royal” as part of the ceremony.

The fact that I can’t shep naches watching her receive this honour is probably the most galling part for me.

Despite all this I will, mentally at least, be joining the “chorus of millions” swearing allegiance to King Charles on Saturday morning and I’m certain the prayer for the Royal Family in shul this Shabbat will take on an extra aura of significance. Here’s to a rousing rendition of God Save the King — Shabbat coronation Shalom!

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