Read more about Kings and Queens
On 8th September 2022, after 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II passed away aged 96. The moment she passed, her eldest son Prince Charles acceded to the throne. Two days later, he was proclaimed King at the age of 73. Not long after, the date of King Charles III’s coronation was announced.
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming ceremony, as well as the history of coronations in this country.
What is a coronation?
A coronation is a symbolic ceremony whereby the new monarch is crowned. King Charles will be adorned with the St Edward’s Crown, which is made of solid gold.
The ceremony acts as the formal investiture of a monarch with their regal powers. Whilst a coronation has no constitutional purpose, it does have religious significance as the new monarch swears an oath to God, and makes promises to the people they serve.
A coronation is also a time of pageantry and celebration, providing the nation with an opportunity to gather together and herald in the new monarch.
When was the first coronation?
Coronations in England date back over a millennium, with the first one recorded in detail occurring in the city of Bath in the 10th century AD. That was the crowning of the Anglo-Saxon king Edgar in 973 AD.
When was the last coronation?
The last coronation this country celebrated was that of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles’ mother. Elizabeth was coronated on 2nd June 1953.
When is King Charles III’s coronation?
The coronation of King Charles III took place on Saturday, 6th May 2023 that saw Camilla crowned Queen Consort alongside her husband.
For the past 900 years, English coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey in London. King Charles’ will be no different. The Archbishop of Canterbury will conduct the service, a role the Archbishop has almost always assumed since 1066 AD.
Why is the coronation so long after accession?
After the passing of a monarch, there is a period of national mourning. A coronation is a time of celebration, therefore out of respect for the deceased monarch there is an understandable gap between accession and a coronation.
A second reason is that coronations require a great deal of planning and preparation. The plans for King Charles’ coronation weekend have been codenamed Operation Golden Orb.
Will the coronation be a bank holiday weekend?
Yes, the government announced at the end of 2022 that Monday, 8th May 2023 will be a bank holiday across the UK to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III.
What will the coronation ceremony entail?
According to a statement on the Buckingham Palace website, the service ‘will reflect the Monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.’
The Palace website goes on to outline the events for the day: ‘Their Majesties will arrive at Westminster Abbey in procession from Buckingham Palace, known as “The King’s Procession”. After the Service, Their Majesties will return to Buckingham Palace in a larger ceremonial procession, known as “The Coronation Procession”. Their Majesties will be joined in this procession by other Members of the Royal Family. At Buckingham Palace, The King and The Queen Consort, accompanied by Members of the Royal Family, will appear on the balcony to conclude the day’s ceremonial events.’
The ceremony will also see King Charles’ eldest son, Prince William, being formally named the Prince of Wales.
How will the coronation be different to Queen Elizabeth II’s?
King Charles’ coronation will be a less grand affair compared to his mother's. For starters, the ceremony guest list will include 2,000 people, which is vastly slimmed down from the 8,000 who attended Elizabeth's.
The ceremony will also only run for between one to two hours compared to the late Queen's three-hour service. King Charles has also requested Greek Orthodox music be played during the service in honour of his late father Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
As for attire, King Charles will be wearing a military uniform, which is a break from the usual silk stockings and breeches. The change is to reflect the more modern approach the King wishes to take towards the coronation.
Many of the key elements of the ceremony, however, will remain the same. Also, just like Elizabeth’s, the ceremony will be televised live.
Traditionally, new music is composed for coronations. King Charles’ coronation anthem will be written and composed by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber and a further eleven new pieces of music will also be compiled for the ceremony.
What other events are happening around the coronation?
On Sunday, 7th May 2023, the day after the coronation, there will be a special Coronation Concert happening live at Windsor Castle. It'll be broadcast on the BBC and for those wishing to see the concert in person, there will be a ballot with several thousand pairs of tickets available.
Also happening over the coronation weekend will be the Coronation Big Lunch. Just like the street parties held for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022, neighbours and communities will once again be encouraged to gather and celebrate the royal coronation by hosting a Big Lunch.
Finally, on Monday, 8th May 2023, members of the public will be invited to try volunteering by taking part in The Big Help Out. According to the initiative's website: 'To mark His Majesty The King's Coronation thousands of organisations across the country are getting together to give us all the chance to help out in our own local communities.'