Britain will see its first coronation in nearly seventy years this month with the crowning of His Majesty King Charles III. The ceremony will be held on Saturday 6 May at Westminster Abbey in London and Charles will be crowned alongside his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort. The coronation will be part of a three-day celebratory weekend, with a special Bank Holiday on Monday 8th. Charles actually acceded to the throne on 8 September 2022, on the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. The period of time between her death and the coronation is considered normal in terms of the necessary mourning process and the need for preparations.
operation golden orb
Preparations for the coronation, under the code name Operation Golden Orb, have been going on for many years. Yet many of the details of the coronation ceremony are still secret. Buckingham Palace officials have declared that “The coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in long-standing traditions and pageantry.”
Radically Different Times
Charles III is king of a generation of Britons radically different from that of the 1950s, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. The coronation, and the King’s future behaviour, will be affected by the social changes that have taken place over the last seven decades. The army is much smaller than seventy years ago, there is greater religious diversity, and terrorism concerns dominate any public event. All of this could be reflected in this month’s coronation. There will probably only be around two thousand people in the Abbey. The heart of the coronation is a religious service, but now less than 50 per cent of the population identify as Christian, and one third of the population of England and Wales say they have no religion. The ethnic and religious diversity of Britain has grown radically since the 1950s. Charles has spoken of a wish for “good value” in the ceremony. There could be a so-called “cost of living” coronation, one sensitive to the hardships that many Britons face today: less expensive, shorter in time, with fewer invitees, but also more representative of different faiths and community groups. Guests will include members of the Royal Family, representatives of Parliament, foreign royalty and heads of state.
Unique to Britain
The coronation will be an incredible spectacle and will probably be used as a diplomatic opportunity to show the country to the world, exerting Britain’s soft power. But it is also unique in many ways. No monarchy in Europe requires a coronation except the British. Only the British monarch is head of an established church, the Church of England. And only the British monarch is anointed with holy oil by a priest within a Christian rite that proclaims a divine blessing.
History is an integral part of the coronation process. When the St. Edward’s Crown is placed on the head of King Charles III, it will be part of the thousand years of traditions and pageantry of British monarchy. Since 1066, the site of the Abbey has been the location of the coronations of thirty-nine English and British monarchs.
The Coronation Ceremony
The ceremony formalises the monarch’s role as head of the Church of England and marks the handing over of titles and powers from the previous monarch. Charles will swearto uphold the law and the Church of England. He will then sit in the Coronation Chair, while the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints his hands, breast and head with holy oil made to a secret recipe. He is then presented with the Royal Orb, representing religious and moral authority, then the Sceptre, representing power, and finally the Sovereign’s Sceptre, a symbol of justice and mercy. The Archbishop then places the solid gold St. Edward’s Crown on his head — only briefly, as it weighs 2.23 kilograms! After the ceremony, the King is expected to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace alongside the core Royal Family: the Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales their children, although at the time of writing Prince Harry had not yet confirmed his or Meghan’s attendance.
The Coronation Weekend
The coronation weekend will include multiple activities around the country. There will be street parties, drone displays, and a concert at Windsor Castle featuring global music icons Take That, the Spice Girls and Lionel Richie. Notably, crowd favourites Adele, Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles and Robbie Williams all declined to perform. There will, however, also be a performance from a special choir including refugees, National Health Service workers, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. And iconic locations around the UK will be lit up using lasers and drones. On Monday there will be neighbourhood activities around the country.
The Future King
Charles is the longest-servingheir to the throne and the oldest new monarch in British history. But what kind of king will Charles be? As a prince, he was used to speaking out as a campaigner on issues, but a monarch is supposed to be neutral. Charles himself once said: “I’m not that stupid. I do realise it’s a separate exercise being sovereign. The idea that somehow I’m going to carry on exactly in the same way is complete nonsense.” Many experts think that he will also prefer a “slimmed down” monarchy, with a smaller core group of working Royals. When a new monarch takes the throne, the royal profile on the country’s coins is changed to face in the opposite direction. Will Charles’ reign also have a different profile to that of his mother?
The Last Coronation
Britain’s last coronation, the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II in 1955, was a ceremony full of pomp and pageantry. It was a reflection of Britain’s high-ranking position in the world at that time. More than eight thousand guests, representing 129 nations, squeezed into Westminster Abbey, with stands eleven tiers high! Outside there were stands for 96,000 paying guests (seats at £130 at today’s prices.) The government was paying for the event and the costs were huge. The procession to the Abbey beforehand included forty thousand British and Commonwealth service personnel. The ceremony lasted three hours and was watched by twenty million people in the UK (the first live televised royal event), with eleven million more listening on the radio. This time hundreds of millions around the world will be watching. The event was very important in the cultural history of the UK. Historian Ben Pimlott thought that the coronation “helped to define, not just royalty, but the British identity for the next generation.”
the coronation emblem
The emblem pays tribute to The King’s love of the natural world, unifying the flora of the four nations of the United Kingdom; the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the daffodil of Wales and the shamrock of Northern Ireland. Together, the flowers create the shape of St Edward’s Crown, with which His Majesty The King will be crowned during the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, 6th May. The emblem has been designed using the red, white and blue of the union flag.
the crowns of the kings and queens
St. Edward’s Crown is the coronation crown of the kings and queens of England. It is used only for the very specific moment of crowning the monarch. St. Edward’s Crown was last seen in 1953, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. When not in use, it is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels on display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. The crown is a copy of that first used by the 11th-century royal saint, King Edward the Confessor. Made in 1661 for Charles II, it possibly includes fragments of the original. Only six monarchs have actually worn this crown at their coronations, including three from the last century. Made of solid gold, it is set with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. The crown symbolises “the sovereignty (or authority) of the monarch” and is the most important and sacred of all the royal crowns. British monarchs have seven crowns, but some have fallen out of use, are kept only for display, or are for other members of the Royal Family. They include the Small Diamond Crown of Queen Victoria, the Imperial Crown of India, the Imperial Crown and the Crown of Scotland (actually the oldest crown, dating back to 1540.) Elizabeth II wore four crowns during her reign. The crowns belong to the Royal Family and pass on to the next monarch.