The King and Wales: An institution which divides a nation

“We want the King!”

“King? No thanks.”

These two very different statements were heard in chants and seen on placards when the King visited Cardiff in September last year.

While many welcomed him to Wales‘s capital by waving flags and cheering, others were far from pleased to see him, with audible boos from protesters and placards which reiterated their opposition.

Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, further questions have been raised about the relevance of the Royal Family to Wales.

For many Welsh people, doubts about the monarchy persist – despite successful visits by the new Prince and Princess of Wales recently.

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‘Rooted in respect’

When the King visited the Senedd for the first time as monarch in September 2022, the presiding officer (called Llywydd in Wales), Elin Jones, said she hoped the relationship between Wales and the Royal Family would be “rooted in respect”.

“It is my sincere hope that the modern relationship between this Senedd, this country and the Royal Family will be rooted in respect and sustained by understanding,” she said.

She added the Senedd would “look forward to the King’s future association with the Senedd and our work on behalf of the people of Wales”.

‘Money buys everything’

That respect is not there for many Welsh people.

Campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) will hold a rally in Caernarfon on the Bank Holiday Monday of the coronation weekend (8 May).

The movement argues the coronation is a “symbol of the order that rules Wales where privilege and money buys everything, including our land and our houses and is destroying our communities”.

The King has made efforts to slim down the scale of his crowning.

He has asked people to participate in voluntary work on the bank holiday after his coronation, in a bid to keep things simple. Buckingham Palace is thought to mindful of the current cost of living crisis.

But Cymdeithas is asking people to volunteer by “taking a stand for everyone who cannot afford to buy or rent a home in their own communities”.

The gulf between the rich and the poor makes the monarchy too difficult to stomach for many Welsh communities.

King treasures the spirit of Wales

There is another side to the debate, though.

On a visit to Wrexham in December, the King said that he had “come to know and value” the spirit of Wales.

He said at the time: “The motto of Welsh football – Gorau Chwarae, Cyd Chwarae [Team Play is the Best Play] – sums up the spirit of community, and of joint endeavour, which is so important to Wales, and which, over the years, I have come to know and value more than I can possibly say.”

As the Prince of Wales, the now King made an effort to learn the Welsh language. It is a country he has come to love.

His efforts to appreciate Wales were not without success. Remember those chants of “we want the King” competed with the anti-monarchy sentiment in Cardiff on his first visit as King.

The questions remain much debated here, however.

Perhaps they will be asked out in the open more often during his reign, certainly when compared to his mother’s.

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Where to celebrate the coronation

Whatever the competing views in Wales, there’s no doubt people will seize the chance to celebrate a long weekend in their droves.

For those who want to celebrate the historic occasion of the King’s crowning with others, a free public coronation screening will be held in the grounds of Cardiff Castle on Saturday, 6 May.

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On the Sunday of the coronation weekend, a “Right Royal Picnic” will be held at the same location, with people and their families invited to attend.

Similar events will be taking place in communities across Wales over the long weekend, including a coronation proms in St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, on the evening of Friday 5 May.