After overnight dress rehearsal, RCMP say they’re ready to play key coronation role
May 3, 2023 By The Canadian Press
May 3, 2023, Canada and United Kingdom – Londoners up in the early hours of Wednesday morning were treated to a full dress rehearsal of King Charles’ coronation procession – including five RCMP members riding just ahead of the gold state coach that will carry the King and Queen Consort to Buckingham palace after Saturday’s ceremony.
The rehearsals began after midnight and culminated in a 3 a.m. procession down the Mall – the road to Buckingham Palace – which is already draped with flags and lined with metal barricades ahead of the coronation.
Hundreds of troops, on foot and on horseback, marched to the sound of military bands under the cover of darkness, in front of a few diehard royal fans who stayed up all night for a coronation sneak peak.
Canadian Armed Forces members could be seen marching alongside a Canadian flag, in a section of the parade featuring troops from around the Commonwealth. Several dozen members are expected to take part in the coronation procession, including Canadian army, navy, air force, and special operations command members.
The five RCMP members will ride at the head of the sovereign’s escort, leading the contingent of household cavalry that rides just ahead of the coach that will carry King Charles and Camilla on their route back to the palace.
On Wednesday morning, there was a buzz of excitement from the small crowd as the ornate, four-tonne gold coach rolled past, pulled at a walking pace by eight grey horses.
Sgt. Maj. Scott Williamson, the riding master for the RCMP, said even participating in a dress rehearsal felt special.
“When you round that corner and come down the Mall and see Buckingham Palace in the foreground, the Mall lined with all the flags of the Commonwealth and the Union Jack, it certainly hits you right in the soul,” Williamson said after the rehearsal.
“It makes you realize this is a very big event, and we have a lot of pressure on us but we’re ready and willing to take it on.”
Williamson noted that the royal family has a long history with the RCMP, which has participated in royal processions since Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
The royal family and the RCMP have also been gifting horses back and forth to each other since 1969, including at least one that went on to be one of Queen Elizabeth II’s personal riding horses.
Last week, King Charles was named RCMP Commissioner-in-Chief – a ceremonial title previously held by his mother.
At the same time, he was gifted a horse named Noble, who is one of the horses the RCMP will ride in Saturday’s procession. The other four are all horses that were previously gifted to the queen.
Williamson believes the RCMP’s key place in the procession is a testament to the closeness between the force and the royals, but also to King Charles’ attachment to Canada.
Williamson said that riding in the procession is meaningful for RCMP officers, who swear an oath to the King or Queen and his or her heirs when they enter the force.
“It’s very personal to me, and I know it’s very personal to members of the RCMP as well,” he said.
He said the horses and riders all performed well in the dress rehearsal, with minimal nerves.
There were some differences from the real event, of course. The gold coach was empty, and the RCMP wore black uniforms and short-brimmed caps instead of their red serge and their stetsons – which Williamson said could get warped by rain.
Williamson was on foot beside the five horses and riders who will march in the procession, ready to lend a hand if a horse got excited. While he rode in Queen Elizabeth’s funeral procession last year, he decided to stay on the sidelines this time to give other officers a chance.
While that funeral procession took place in front of a hushed, sombre crowd, he expects Saturday’s to be “quite loud and boisterous, and more of a celebration tone.”
The moment he’s looking forward to the most is hearing the fanfare trumpets that will proclaim the coronation has occurred, and the procession is about to begin.
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