'The best seats in the house? We had the best seats in the world for the coronation'

Jewish community representatives share their experiences of being involved in the momentous day


LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06: King Charles III and Queen Camilla stand on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on May 06, 2023 in London, England. The Coronation of Charles III and his wife, Camilla, as King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the other Commonwealth realms takes place at Westminster Abbey today. Charles acceded to the throne on 8 September 2022, upon the death of his mother, Elizabeth II. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Jewish community representatives invited to the coronation of King Charles said they had not just enjoyed “the best seats in the house. We had the best seats in the world."

Neil Martin, chief executive of JLGB, of which King Charles is patron, was among 50 members, staff and volunteers from the organisation seated prominently in the grandstand close to Buckingham Palace.

Taking part in the celebrations in a Shabbat-compliant way – “the Palace was hugely accommodating,” Martin stressed - the JLGB group were in their places by 7.30am.

Wearing specially-branded coronation raincoats – much appreciated given the weather – “we got waves from the King and Queen. It was the culmination of the journey of JLGB’s relationship with the King and will inspire the next generation.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable. There was so much enthusiasm, energy and wonderment. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Martin added that when the JLGB participants were chosen, “they couldn’t believe it. People have been queuing for weeks and we had prime seats.”

Redbridge mum and daughter Emma and Sophia Wallman were also among the JLGB group. “We won the golden ticket,” they said. “What a special occasion. How lucky we were to share it together. JLGB has always been part of our family. We could not be more proud to have been chosen to represent this wonderful organisation on such a historic day.”

Had the coronation not been on Shabbat, JLGB members would have been actively involved in roles such as stewarding.

Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis was one of five faith leaders to stand in front of the King at the end of the Westminster Abbey ceremony and “extend good wishes and blessing to him”.

Being Shabbat, no microphone was placed in front of Rabbi Mirvis, “one of the many examples of the King’s sensitivity to the Jewish faith”.

Rabbi Mirvis and his wife Lady Valerie had a palace sleepover on Friday night and attended a 6am minyan at Western Marble Arch Synagogue before walking to Westminster Abbey.

For former Board of Deputies chief executive, Baroness Merron of Lincoln, presenting the Imperial Mantle, or Robe Royal, during the coronation was “a celebration of a life of service to the community”.

The 3kg ceremonial cloak symbolises the divine nature of kingship and has been worn by previous monarchs during their coronations, including Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Barnoness Merron, the former Lincoln MP, presented the cloak on behalf of the Jewish community, accompanied by Hindu, Muslim and Sikh representatives. She handed it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, with Prince William, placed it over the King’s shoulders.

Also among the guests was Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, who said: “I was honoured to attend the coronation as a lay leader of the Jewish community.

“The inclusion of those of all faiths and none truly made this a 21st century coronation.”

Historian, author and broadcaster Simon Sebag Montefiore, a long-time friend of the King, said the day had been “momentous, magical and successful, both traditional and modern – and such an honour to be there for [wife] Santa and I.

“As a Jewish person and a historian, it says a lot about modern Britain that so many Jews were there and I was very proud to be one of them.

“I think probably like every Jew there, I was thinking: ‘If only my mother had been alive to see this’.”

Others invited included Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi of the S & P Sephardi Community, Lord Rothschild, playwright Tom Stoppard, Sir Lloyd Dorfman, vice-president of Prince’s Trust International, and author and broadcaster Stephen Fry.

Dorfman said that having observed the work of the King at close quarters, "I have no doubt that the British Jewish community could have no greater friend. I am hugely honoured to be a part of this historic and momentous occasion."

Fry described the ceremony as “absolutely remarkable”, praising the “beauty of the service and extraordinary quality of the music”.

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