Michiganians, British expatriates celebrate coronation of King Charles III

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

Warren — British expatriates and Michiganians alike gathered at the Commonwealth Club in Warren Saturday morning to watch and celebrate the coronation of Charles III, King of the United Kingdom and its 14 other Commonwealth realms.

The ritualistic coronation ceremony dates back to the 8th century and still contains many of the original traditions and pageantry, with some 21st-century updates. King Charles' coronation at London's medieval Westminster Abbey is the second to ever be televised and is also the first one to occur in the lifetime of anyone born after 1953.

Members of the Commonwealth Club and guests serve themselves a full, traditional English breakfast, Saturday morning, May 6, 2023.

Thousands of world leaders, celebrities and even more spectators converged on London this weekend for the coronation.

Warren's Commonwealth Club, the country's oldest continuous British club according to president Lori Monley, was only filled with well-wishers for the new King who took the throne at age 74. Members gathered for a traditional English breakfast, complete with tea, while they watched the festivities.

"It's the coronation of His Majesty, we would be derelict in our duties as a British club if we didn't acknowledge that," Monley said. "The first coronation (at Westminster Abbey) happened in 1066. So fast forward to 2023 and a lot of those same traditions are still in place."

Douglas O'Brien, 73, is from North Staffordshire in England but moved to Warren in 1985 for a job in the auto industry. He's been going to the Commonwealth Club since 1990. The pageantry, history and tradition mark how Britain presents itself to other world leaders and make the coronation a special occasion, he said.

"If you're under 70, you've never seen a coronation," O'Brien said. "You'll only probably see one in your lifetime so that's what makes it special."

Clinton Township couple Rick and Judy Maynard joined the Commonwealth Club about five years ago. They enjoy getting dressed up for events at the club. Rick sported a Scottish top hat for the coronation party while Judy wore a formal headpiece called a fascinator and gloves, in British fashion she said.

Professional Santa Claus Rick Maynard, left, of Clinton Township, and co-club member Maxine Brooke, of Sterling Heights, talk before breakfast is served, Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, at the Commonwealth Club in Warren.

America doesn't have anything like the British royal coronation but Judy said it's important to be respectful of the English traditions and be a part of it when you can.

"That's their tradition, so you don't want to step on anybody's toes or tradition but if you can follow along I feel you should," she said.

The Commonwealth Club aired a recording of the coronation at 11 a.m., five hours after the ceremony began in London. But some members, like Marion and Alan Thompson, woke up at 5 a.m. to watch it live.

Marion and Alan are also from the United Kingdom, Bristol and Essex respectively, but have lived in Royal Oak since 1977. Alan remembered watching Queen Elizabeth II's coronation when he was a child.

Cathy Bonilla, left, hands her husband, Tim Caird, both of Royal Oak, tea bags as they get shortbread and pastries with Carol Harrison and her husband, Stan, both of Shelby Township, Saturday morning, May 6, 2023, at the Commonwealth Club in Warren.

"They do a good job at this, this is what nobody else does," Alan, 83, said. "The monarchy is like England's ... unique selling proposition. It's something we've got that pretty much nobody else has."

Many English people love having the royal family while others are not so keen, Marion said. Hundreds of protesters who want to see Britain become a republic gathered in London on Saturday to holler "Not my king.” They see the coronation as a celebration of an institution they say stands for privilege and inequality, in a country of deepening poverty and fraying social ties. A handful were arrested.

Marion, 73, thinks the monarchy needs to remain.

Boxes of traditional English shortbread, books and "The Coronation Of His Majesty King Charles III And Her Majesty Queen Camilla," the official souvenir program, are displayed at the Commonwealth Club in Warren, Saturday morning, May 6, 2023.

"You could see by the number of people that were in London, in the rain, there were thousands and thousands of them," she said. "But it's gonna be really hard, I think, in the next two generations, to maybe keep it going."

She appreciates the royal family's efforts to engage with the public more, especially Charles', and thinks that he will be a good king.

"He's obviously, he learned from the best," Monley, the club president, said. "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second will always hold a special place in all of our hearts but this is a new chapter and I'm excited. He's got a lot of wonderful ideas in terms of the environment."


The Associated Press contributed.