Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis has paid tribute to the King’s commitment to Britons of all faiths, saying he “welcomes enormously” his historic decision to include them in Saturday’s coronation.
Speaking to the JC, the Chief Rabbi also praised the King’s sensitivity in ensuring the laws of Shabbat are observed, by providing kosher food when he and his wife spend the night before the ceremony at St James’s Palace, and by making clear that when Mirvis makes his contribution to the ceremony, his words will not be amplified.
The Chief Rabbi, far left, with the King (Getty Images)
“We as a community are blessed, as are members of all faiths in the UK, in having in Charles III a champion, and we welcome enormously the extent to which he is going to include us in the coronation for the very first time in history,” said Rabbi Mirvis.
“The role that I will have is relatively small, but it’s nonetheless very significant.”
According to the coronation order of service published by the Church of England, Mirvis and four other faith leaders will step forward in a line to stand in front of the King at the end of the Westminster Abbey ceremony, and then “extend good wishes and blessing to him”.
The text has already been agreed. Mirvis and the other four faith leaders — the Sikh journalist Lord Singh; Aliya Azam of the Christian Muslim Forum; Radha Mohan Das, on behalf of the UK’s Hindus; and Bogoda Seelawimala Thera, leader of the London Buddhist Vehara.
They will tell the King: “Your Majesty, as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service. We unite with people of all faiths and beliefs in thanksgiving, and in service with you for the common good.”
Rabbi Mirvis said: “I think this is wonderful. And because it will be Shabbat, no microphone will be placed in front of us when these words are being said. Here is one of many examples of the King’s sensitivity to the Jewish faith.”
The King will then acknowledge their greeting and then proceed to leave the Abbey in a gilded coach.
The published liturgy states the King is grateful “for exploring ways in which such an act of unity could be produced, and especially to the Jewish community for finding ways to make this possible without compromising the observance of Shabbat”.
Rabbi Mirvis and his wife Lady Valerie will have spent the night at the palace on the eve of the coronation after attending Friday shul. They will also attend a special early minyan at 6am at Western Marble Arch Synagogue before walking to Westminster Abbey.
He said: “The palace has put on a kosher caterer for us and we will be having traditional Shabbat meals, both on Friday night and on Shabbat morning.”
However, the Chief Rabbi said he doubted whether the King would be joining him for kiddush or the Shabbat meals, “because I am assuming he will be exceptionally busy at that time, looking after many, many matters — I have no idea but I doubt it.”
Rabbi Mirvis said the King’s warmth towards Britain’s Jews had been manifest for years, recalling that when he was installed as Chief Rabbi in 2013, the then-Prince of Wales interrupted his holiday at Balmoral to fly down to attend it.
“For me on a personal level, I was very touched,” he said. “And this was, of course, the first time that a member of the royal family had attended a ceremony of this kind.”
He added that there were many other examples of the King’s empathy and support, “such as his concern for Holocaust survivors, and his championing of the necessity for our society to remember what happened during it.
“I believe his relationship with our community will be a key theme of his reign. Already since last September he has paid visits to a number of Jewish organisations and therefore we very much look forward to a continuation of this.”
He said he had met the Queen several times “and found her to be an exceptionally gracious, warm and caring person”.
The Chief Rabbi also had warm words for William, Prince of Wales.
He said: “Like his father and his grandmother, Prince William is very well disposed to the Jewish faith and to the aspirations of the Jewish people.
“I spent some precious time with him when he paid a visit to Israel a number of years ago, and I could see then how concerned he was about the need to guarantee that the world never forgot what happened during the Holocaust.”
He backed, the Chief Rabbi said, “a proper and responsible way of teaching people about the evils of racism and antisemitism in particular”.