King knights Archbishop of Canterbury in first investiture ceremony since cancer diagnosis

The Archbishop holds the blue sash of the Royal Victorian Order, which was presented to him by the King for his services to the crown
The Archbishop holds the blue sash of the Royal Victorian Order, which was presented to him by the King for his services to the crown - Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

The King has knighted the Archbishop of Canterbury in his first investiture ceremony since being diagnosed with cancer.

The monarch, 75, appeared delighted to honour the Most Rev Sir Justin Welby for the key role he played in the Coronation, while the Archbishop beamed proudly as the blue sash of the Royal Victorian Order was placed over his shoulder.

Having been granted permission by his doctors to return to public duties last month, the King greeted 52 recipients one by one at Windsor Castle for the event.

Typically, around 60 people, or sometimes more than 70, are invested with their honours at the ceremonies, while their chosen guests watch on.

But in an apparent nod to the King’s health, the ceremony took place on a slightly smaller scale than usual.

Sir Justin said after the ceremony that the King seemed in “very good spirits indeed” and was “looking very well”.

The Archbishop was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order for his personal service to the Crown during the Coronation at Westminster Abbey in May.

As well as conducting the historic service, he had the momentous task of anointing and crowning the King and the Queen.

Asked about his personal memories of the Coronation, Sir Justin said: “I was very keyed up, a lot of adrenaline, but not nervous because we’d rehearsed so much [and were] very focused.

“The anointing and the crowning were obviously supreme high points, particularly the anointing – [a] great sense of the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit of God.

“It was a really deeply moving moment.”

Sir Justin said being part of such a hugely historical moment was “surreal”, adding: “You sort of keep thinking you’re going to wake up.”

The Archbishop beams proudly as the royal blue sash is placed over his shoulder by the King
The Archbishop beams proudly as the royal blue sash is placed over his shoulder by the King - Jonathan Brady/PA

He admitted that he had hoped he would never have to lead the Coronation because of his affinity with Elizabeth II, who died in September 2022.

Speaking about the legacy of that day, Sir Justin said: “What I hope is remembered is the solemnity and the authenticity with which the King said to the small boy at the beginning: ‘I come not to be served, but to serve in the battle of Jesus Christ.’

“That summed up everything we were trying to say in the current nation.”

The Archbishop has since described the “extraordinary” moment of crowning the King as “a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime”, admitting he was worried he would drop the heavy St Edward’s Crown.

In an interview recorded for the Coronation Roll website, he said that, for him, the anointing - which took place behind a screen - was the most “significant” part of the ceremony.

“There was a stillness there, an absolutely mysterious and almost mystical stillness and a sense of the presence of God,” he said.

“It felt almost as though we were alone.”

Damehood bestowed on bestselling author

Awards of the Royal Victorian Order are in the King’s gift and are bestowed independently of Downing Street to people who have served the monarch or the royal family in a personal way.

The ceremony also saw the monarch bestow a damehood on Dame Jilly Cooper, the bestselling author known for her steamy fiction focusing on scandal and adultery in upper class society.

Dame Jilly, who was honoured for her services to literature and charity, has written a number of hit titles, including Riders, Rivals, Polo, Mount! and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, along with her most recent work Tackle!

She is a long-standing friend of the Queen and partially based her fictional seducer Rupert Campbell-Black on Camilla’s ex-husband, Andrew Parker Bowles.

Other recipients honoured for their role in the Coronation included the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev Dr David Hoyle, who became a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO), and Household Division Brigade Major Lieutenant Colonel James Shaw, who was made a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO).

Lt Col Shaw, on the horse Sovereign’s Shadow, led more than 4,000 servicemen and women in the grand Coronation procession from the Abbey to the Palace, which saw the King and Queen travel in the Gold State Coach after the historic ceremony.

Labour’s Dame Margaret Beckett, who is standing down at the next election after 40 years representing Derby South, will be made a Dame Grand Cross.

The last investiture ceremony conducted by the King took place on December 19, a month before he was admitted to hospital to be treated for an enlarged prostate.