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Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation (1838)

A modern coronation: How King Charles III's crowning will be different

Image: Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation (1838) | Public Domain

While the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla will have all of the pomp that you’d expect, it will differ from previous coronations in some very interesting ways.

1. The Queen Consort will wear a ‘recycled’ crown

According to a centuries-old tradition, the crown used by a queen consort is specially created for the coronation in question. However, ‘in the interests of sustainability and efficiency’, Camilla will be re-using a crown from a previous coronation. This will be the first time this has happened since 1727, when Caroline, consort of George II, wore the crown which had been created in 1685 for Mary of Modena, consort of James II.

Notably, Queen Consort Camilla has chosen to recycle the crown used by Mary, consort of George V, during the 1911 coronation. She is therefore bypassing the crown which was used by her immediate predecessor, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, during her coronation alongside George VI in 1937.

There’s a big, glittering, imperialistic reason for this: the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is mounted on the 1937 crown and is perhaps the world’s most controversial jewel.

The history of the Koh-i-Noor (‘Mountain of Light’) is long, mysterious, glamorous and bloody. Its exact origins remain unknown, though we know it was once set within the Peacock Throne, the eye-wateringly lavish seat of power of the Mughal Empire in India. After being taken by the Shah of Iran during his conquest of northern India in 1739, the jewel passed between various rulers in Asia before falling into the hands of Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire known as the ‘Lion of Punjab’.

Following the British annexation of the Punjab region in 1849, the Koh-i-Noor was taken in circumstances that remain highly controversial, and even Queen Victoria voiced unease about how the diamond had come into her possession.

With India, Pakistan and Afghanistan all staking a claim to the Koh-i-Noor, it’s little wonder that Camilla will be tactfully sticking with the safely innocuous 1911 crown.

2. The ceremony will (likely) be more inclusive

Way back in 1994, the then Prince Charles sparked controversy when he suggested that as king, he’d want to reflect the multicultural nature of modern Britain by taking the title ‘Defender of Faith’ rather than the more traditional ‘Defender of the Faith’ (i.e., Anglicanism).

Almost a decade later, he clarified his thoughts on the matter, emphasising that he would indeed adopt the time-honoured ‘Defender of the Faith’ title while at the same time being a ‘protector of faiths’. So, will this inclusivity be demonstrated during the coronation ceremony?

It’s impossible to know for certain, although it has been reported that church officials and palace aides may potentially add extra words to the coronation oath to reflect the King’s commitment to representing all his subjects. It’s also been reported that the King has expressed his desire for a diverse ceremony, perhaps with readings by representatives of a range of faiths.

3. It will be far smaller than the last coronation

Still undeniably lavish and grand, the King’s coronation will be a ‘slimmed down’ affair. While his mother’s coronation in 1953 lasted almost three hours, this ceremony is expected to be done and dusted within an hour.

There will also be far fewer people in attendance, with around 2,000 guests and dignitaries rather than the whopping 8,000 who were crammed in for Elizabeth II. This means only a limited number of backbench MPs and peers will be able to watch in person.

The military procession accompanying the new King and Queen Consort will also be around seven times smaller than what was assembled for Elizabeth II. That said, there will still be around 6,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators from the UK and Commonwealth taking part in what will be the biggest ceremonial military operation for 70 years.

Speaking of processions, this coronation will also break with tradition by diminishing the role of the iconic Gold State Coach. The historic coach has been used in every coronation since 1831 and will still be used for the epic procession that comes after the coronation ceremony has concluded.

However, for the pre-ceremony procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, they will use the Diamond Jubilee State Coach: a state-of-the-art vehicle built in 2010 which boasts hydraulic suspension, an onboard heating system and electric windows. It certainly provides a far comfier ride than the Gold State Coach, which is as rickety as it is resplendent. William IV said that riding it was like being on a ship as it was tossed around on a rough sea, and Elizabeth II said her coronation journey on the Gold State Coach was ‘horrible’.

4. There will be environmental and socio-economic considerations

Organisers of previous coronations didn’t have to be mindful of their environmental impact, or the wider socio-economic context of their event. In 2023, with unprecedented concern around the climate emergency, and many struggling due to the high cost of living, things are rather different.

It’s been reported that King Charles, a long-standing advocate for sustainability and climate action, wants to keep the whole event as low-carbon as possible. This may mean visiting dignitaries being encouraged to take scheduled flights rather than private jets. It’s also been reported that many VIPs from around the world may be told they really shouldn’t feel the need to attend, given that so little time has passed since the funeral of Elizabeth II.

According to a source quoted in The Telegraph: ‘The King, as well as his religious and state advisers, will be very aware that the coronation will be coming off the back of a very difficult winter for people and they will not want the event to be discordant with the mood of the nation.’