Mon | Dec 4, 2023

Key roles for Caribbean women in Charles’ coronation

Published:Friday | May 5, 2023 | 12:45 AMGeorge Ruddock/Gleaner Writer
Baroness Valerie Amos
Baroness Valerie Amos
Rev Rose Hudson Wilkin
Rev Rose Hudson Wilkin
Baroness Floella Benjamin
Baroness Floella Benjamin

LONDON, England:

As the countdown to tomorrow’s coronation of King Charles gathers pace, three outstanding women from the Caribbean have been given key roles in the historic British ceremony which will be held for the first time since 1953.

The three women of Caribbean origins who will be given major roles are Baroness Floella Benjamin from Trinidad; Baroness Valerie Amos, who is originally from Guyana; and Reverend Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, who is originally from Jamaica.

Baroness Benjamin, the former children’s TV presenter, and now an author and peer who chaired the Windrush Commemoration Committee, will carry Charles’s sceptre, traditionally known as the Rod Of Equity And Mercy, which represents his spiritual role.

Baroness Amos, who was invested into the Order of the Garter last year and is the first black woman to serve as a Cabinet minister, will be joining the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Act of Recognition at the beginning of the coronation.

It will be the Archbishop of Canterbury who will also crown the king with St Edward’s Crown later during the ceremony.

Hudson-Wilkin, who is the Bishop of Dover, will present the Queen Consort’s rod during the early stages of the ceremony.

Announcing the full list of roles chosen for the coronation, Buckingham Palace said, “Those undertaking these historic roles in the service have been chosen to recognise, thank and represent the nation due to their significant service.”

According to the Palace, the first processions into Westminster Abbey will be made up of faith leaders, followed by dignitaries from His Majesty’s realms.

The faith leaders will consist of four peers representing the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Jewish faiths and they will all present the king with a piece of regalia. Non-Christian faith leaders have never before been included in the coronation of a British king.

Flags of each realm, including those from the Caribbean, will be carried by national representatives accompanied by the governors-general and prime ministers of those countries.

As chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee, Baroness Benjamin led the campaign to erect the National Windrush Monument in Waterloo Station last year.

She described the permanent monument “as a symbolic link to our past and a permanent reminder of our shared history and of the extraordinary contribution to this country by the Windrush generation”.

Baroness Amos was appointed secretary of state for International Development by Gordon Brown in 2003, becoming the first Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) woman to serve as a Cabinet minister.

She was later appointed under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator with the United Nations, and then in 2015, was appointed director of SOAS, University of London, becoming the first black woman to lead a university school in the United Kingdom.

Hudson-Wilkin was appointed the Bishop of Dover in June 2019. Before that she was chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons and priest in charge of St Mary-at-Hill, London.

Hudson-Wilkin was born and raised in Jamaica. She was educated at Montego Bay High School for Girls and later at Birmingham University. In 2007 she was appointed chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen and in 2010, she became the first female appointed to the position of the 79th chaplain to the speaker of the House of Commons.

Speaking with The Gleaner on the importance of the role she will be playing in the coronation ceremony, Hudson-Wilkin said, “I am excited, surprised and deeply honoured to have been asked to take part in this most historic of events.

“Growing up in St Francis Mission Church in Glendevon, Montego Bay, I would never have dreamt of having a ‘ringside seat’, never mind taking part in the coronation service of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Jamaica has laid the foundations of my formative years, my Sunday school teachers at St Francis; my teachers from Albion All- Age School and Montego Bay High School for girls. You, along with my friends, there have played a significant part in my journey of growing in confidence, and I thank you. You have played a part in all that I have achieved.

“Among all the tradition, pomp and ceremony, we must not forget that this is a religious ceremony where their majesties are committing themselves to a life of service to the nation and the commonwealth. My heart will be filled with prayer for their majesties and their family, but there will also be a special prayer for the people of Jamaica.”

The coronation ceremony of King Charles will take place at Westminster Abbey, London on Saturday and will be viewed by a worldwide television audience.