As one of his first orders of international business since his re-election last month, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley joined world leaders in witnessing the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on May 6 in London.
He was joined by Governor John Rankin and two members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force.
Amid a weekend full of ceremony, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby conducted the coronation at Westminster Abbey. Throughout the morning of May 6, finely dressed world dignitaries entered the historic abbey hall to organ music, and they all rose as the king entered followed by other members of the royal family.
The 74-year-old walked down the aisle wearing crimson and cream robes with a long train, and the choir music swelled as he took centre stage. During the religious ceremony, which lasted nearly three hours, King Charles swore to serve the people of the United Kingdom, and the archbishop placed the St. Edward’s Crown on his head.
The sparkling purple symbol of the monarchy, which was made in 1661, was last used to crown Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Two police officers — acting Inspector Jacqueline Tom and acting Chief Inspector Dean Robin — also represented the VI at the celebrations.
Before the coronation, Ms. Tom told the National Police Chiefs’ Council she was excited to attend.
“It’s great to meet other officers, and we all learn something from each other,” she said. “I expect this weekend to be a spectacular event, and I can’t wait to be part of it.”
Like other overseas territories, the VI also celebrated locally, with Acting Governor David Archer Jr. hosting a coronation brunch on May 6 at the Government House. Festivities included a 21-gun salute, inspection of police officers, and remarks given by Mr. Archer and acting Premier Vincent Wheatley. The governor also officially declared May 8 as a public holiday.
The coronation brunch started off with a brief ceremony with a police guard of honour, which was inspected by the acting governor.
“I am pleased that we are making this occasion in the BVI also one of memory,” Mr. Archer said. “Their majesties the king and the queen consort hope that the coronation weekend will provide an opportunity to spend time and celebration with friends, families and communities.”
Mr. Wheatley also helped set the tone of the ceremony by sharing a brief history of the coronation proceedings.
“It was the first coronation since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in June of 1953,” Mr. Wheatley said.
Mr. Archer also explained that the three-day holiday weekend sought to bring together the community through an initiative that promotes volunteerism.
“Monday also marks The Big Help Out, a campaign championed by King Charles III which gives us a chance to help out in our own communities,” he said.
Similar events were held in other overseas territories as well.
In Bermuda, leaders unveiled a plaque and planted a tree to open the King’s Coronation Garden.
The Falkland Islands held community tea parties and youth activities. Others simply watched the festivities from afar, with nearly three million people tuning in to the live broadcast of the coronation.
The coronation followed a mourning period in honour of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Sept. 8.
She was the longest-serving British monarch in history, and during her 70-year reign she visited the Virgin Islands twice.
Dr. Wheatley and Mr. Rankin also attended the Queen’s state funeral last September.
While the coronation was celebrated by people worldwide, some leaders also used the occasion to turn a spotlight toward the UK’s history of colonisation.
A dozen indigenous advocacy groups in former British colonies published a letter on May 6 jointly calling for the monarchy to “acknowledge the horrific impacts on and legacy of genocide and colonisation of the indigenous and enslaved peoples” of those countries.
Though no VI group signed the letter, several of the signatories are based in nearby countries: They included Antigua and Barbuda, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The letter called for a formal apology and the start of a process for making reparations.
Dr. Wheatley said he plans to attend to other business while in the UK this week as well. Engaging with UK leaders to continue developing a better “modern partnership” between the two is a main goal of his UK visit, the premier said in a recent press conference.
Plans included meeting with Lord Zac Goldsmith, the UK minister for the overseas territories. Last month, Mr. Goldsmith expressed concern that Commission of Inquiry-inspired reforms were not progressing rapidly enough. Dr. Wheatley and Deputy Premier Lorna Smith also witnessed the unveiling of new stained-glass windows depicting the VI’s coat of arms at Speaker’s House.
Caribbean leaders are also participating in the annual overseas territories Joint Ministerial Council meeting this week.