The coronation of King Charles

The coronation of King Charles
Getty Images

All eyes will be on England for King Charles’s coronation this spring – and not just across the pond. Just as millions around the world watched the UK’s biggest royal weddings and Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, we’ll be doing the same with this event. But we might have a few more questions than our British friends about all the pomp and circumstance. Where do these traditions come from, and how are they being adapted for a new monarch, the first to be crowned in Britain in 70 years?

“The coronation has traditional, religious and symbolic significance,” says royal expert Nicoletta Gullace, an associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire who specialises in modern British history. “It is the moment the crown is placed upon the king’s head, and it signifies Charles’s authority in a long line of rulers ostensibly going back to the time of William the Conqueror in 1066.”

In addition to the ceremony itself, there will be plenty of festivities – but not quite to the extent we’ve seen at other royal events, including Queen Elizabeth’s coronation back in 1953. “Charles wants to have a ‘slimmed-down monarchy,’ so he is trying to avoid the appearance of extravagance,” Gullace says. Still, no one does royal celebrations like the Brits, so no doubt the festivities will be filled with all the grandeur we’ve come to expect.

Let’s delve into what you can expect from King Charles III’s coronation, from the timeline of events to the history of the rituals and the crown jewels, as well as the potential snubs and drama. (Harry and Meghan, we’re looking at you!) Plus, find out who from the British royal family tree will be there, what Queen Camilla’s coronation crown will be like and if King Charles III’s role in government will change after the big day.

When is King Charles’s coronation?

King Charles’s coronation date is Saturday, May 6, 2023. “Plans for the coronation of Charles III and his Queen Consort Camilla have been underway for a long time under the code name Operation Golden Orb,” says historian and author Tony McMahon.

How long will it take for Charles to be coronated?

“The coronation will be much shorter than the three-hour royal marathon Queen Elizabeth II endured,” McMahon says. “There’s clearly a sense that attention spans are not what they once were. Shorter will be better.” Expect the ceremony to last an hour or two max. The celebratory events, however, will continue through Monday, May 8.

Interestingly, May 6 is also the birthday of Prince Harry’s son, Archie, who will be turning 4 years old. It is also the date that the late Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s sister) married Antony Armstrong-Jones, as well as the wedding anniversary of Camilla’s daughter, Laura.

Why did the royal family wait so long to have a coronation?

It’s a tradition that dates back centuries. “Shortly after the previous king or queen dies, the new monarch is proclaimed at St. James’s Palace and throughout the kingdom, but there is a gap between that event and the coronation,” McMahon says. “That doesn’t mean we are without a sovereign. The Latin phrase rex nunquam moritur applies in these circumstances, which broadly translates as ‘the king never dies.’ So, we have a monarch – it’s just that a crown has yet to be popped on their head.”

Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was 18 months after the death of her father, so the gap between Charles’s accession to the throne upon her death on September 8, 2022, and his coronation isn’t unusual or particularly long, McMahon says. In fact, it’s quite a bit shorter, at just around eight months.

“The reason for a gap between the accession and coronation is the requirement for a period of respectful mourning, and on the more practical side, getting things organised for the big day,” McMahon says. “If anything, coronations have become bigger logistical nightmares [starting] in the 20th century. Getting guests to Westminster Abbey from all over the world was not a concern for a medieval monarch.” Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, which added considerations for cameras, lighting and audio.

Will the coronation be televised?

Absolutely. Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, famously championed televising her coronation, and major royal events have been standard viewing ever since. In addition to the BBC in England, many international news channels will likely televise the event. (No official announcements have yet been made.) You’ll probably also be able to watch it online via live streaming.

But King Charles’s coronation probably won’t come close to the recent royal weddings in terms of viewership numbers.

“Given the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last summer, her extremely long funeral event and all of Prince Harry’s Netflix specials and book talks, people may be royaled out,” Gullace says. King Charles also doesn’t have the same popularity as the younger royals or the late queen.

Here are 19 official portraits of the British royal family.


What will happen at the coronation?

What will happen at the coronation?

The coronation isn’t just a political event – it’s also a religious ceremony. “King Charles is literally being anointed as God’s chosen ruler,” McMahon says. “That may seem weird to us today in the 21st century, but it’s still what legitimises having a monarch.” At the ceremony, Charles will be affirmed as the head of the Church of England, and his power as the symbolic ruler of the realm will be solidified, Gullace says. “It is a solemn occasion, but it will be accompanied by a festive public holiday, a pop concert, a light show at Windsor Castle, extended pub hours and community luncheons,” she says. Here’s a full timeline of the events.

The procession to Westminster Abbey

From Buckingham Palace, “King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will process to Westminster Abbey through central London,” McMahon says. This is known as the King’s Procession. Westminster Abbey, by the way, also hosted Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s wedding, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding and the queen’s funeral – and it is the spot for royal coronations. “The first coronation at Westminster Abbey was in 1066, when William the Conqueror [who invaded England from Normandy] was crowned king,” says royal expert and author Marlene Koenig. “Charles will be the 40th monarch crowned at the abbey.”

Fun fact: Only two kings since 1066 were not crowned – Edward V, who reigned for two months in 1483 before mysteriously vanishing, and Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936. Having King Charles’s coronation here connects him with his ancestors through the ritual and the place where it will be held, Gullace says.

Check out 43 vintage photos of Queen Elizabeth II before she became Queen.

The coronation ceremony

The coronation ceremony

The ceremony itself has been largely the same since medieval times. “The service is defined in a medieval Latin manuscript called the Liber Regalis, basically a manual for a coronation, which is first and foremost a religious service,” Koenig says. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Church of England, will anoint King Charles with holy oil, and he will swear to uphold the Christian faith and the laws of England.

After taking the oath and being anointed, Charles will be given the orb, coronation ring and sceptre, which symbolise his divinely ordained role as king of the United Kingdom. He will then be crowned – but not quite in the same way as the last king. “Back in 1937, the late Queen Elizabeth’s father King George VI was [also] crowned as Emperor of India, King of the Union of South Africa, the dominions of Canada and Australia, and all the colonies in the empire,” McMahon says. “Charles will be king of a lot less. He may be the last British head of state in some countries where sentiment is growing for a president.”

A representation of other faiths

This will be a change from previous coronations. “King Charles III is the head of the Church of England, but he’s always been keen to position himself as a royal for all faiths,” he says. “There are going to be more representatives of faiths this time round, other than the Church of England. So, expect to see leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Roman Catholic faiths playing some kind of role.”

Prince William’s tribute to the king

Prince William’s tribute to the king

Only Prince William, as heir to the throne, will pay homage to the king, but none of the other royal dukes will, as they did in previous coronations. “Charles scrapped this to avoid Andrew and Harry having a role in the coronation,” Koenig says. (Charles’s brother Prince Andrew, Duke of York, was involved in a sexual-assault scandal and stripped of his royal duties; and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, relinquished his royal duties.)

However, the decision also excludes the other royal dukes, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent, from paying homage. Prince Edward, Charles’s youngest brother, who was just given the title Duke of Edinburgh, will also unfortunately be left out because of the new rule.

What does paying homage entail? “William will say, ‘I, William, Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die against all manner of folks. So help me God,’” Koenig says.

Camilla’s anointing

Camilla’s anointing
Getty Images

“Camilla, queen consort, will also be anointed with holy oil and crowned,” McMahon says. Interestingly, only female consorts are crowned at coronations, not male consorts. “We are used to the image of Queen Elizabeth II sitting alone in 1953 while Prince Philip watched, but this coronation will see two crownings, not just one,” McMahon explains. “Camilla will be crowned in a similar way to the queen mother in 1937, when she sat alongside King George VI.”

Although public sentiment has shifted in Camilla’s favour over the last few decades, since the death of Charles’s first wife, Princess Diana, there’s still a major question remaining. “One mystery will be whether Charles dares to drop the word consort from Camilla’s royal title, making her queen of the realm,” Gullace says. As a second wife, she didn’t automatically receive that title.

Camilla’s family may also have a role in the ceremony. “There were reports that the queen’s five grandchildren would carry the canopy, normally carried by duchesses, for the anointing, but this has not been confirmed,” Koenig says. “Her two children and son-in-law will, of course, have prominent seating.”

The procession to Buckingham Palace

“The coronation will be followed by a procession back to Buckingham Palace,” McMahon says. Called the Coronation Procession, this ceremonial parade will be a larger event than the one that brought Charles and Camilla to the abbey. The newly crowned couple will also be joined by other members of the royal family.

Discover 19 things you didn’t know about Camilla, Queen Consort of the United Kingdom

The balcony appearance

The balcony appearance

Next up: the grand finale. “It’s all rounded off with the obligatory balcony appearance and lots of waving to the adoring crowds below,” McMahon says. The big question: Who will be on the balcony? As Charles wants to streamline the monarchy, it’s likely only the working royals who will join the king and queen, as with the Queen’s Jubilee in 2022. This will include William, Kate and their children, Charles’s sister Princess Anne, and Prince Edward and his wife, Sophie. Several of Queen Elizabeth’s cousins, including the previously mentioned Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, who are also working royals, are likely to appear as well.

“People will probably want to see who is on the balcony when the Red Arrows have their fly-over, but the assurance that everything will be ‘slimmed down’ and economical is unlikely to raise expectations,” Gullace says.

Coronation weekend

Coronation weekend
Getty Images

The fun’s not over yet! If Saturday marks the formal, solemn occasion, Sunday is the day to party. “On Sunday, May 7, there will be a dazzling coronation concert at Windsor Castle with big-name rock, pop and music stars,” McMahon says. The concert will lead up to “Lighting Up the Nation,” which will feature illuminated famous locations around the UK. “As was the case with the late queen’s jubilees, expect a surfeit of laser and drone displays, which are fast becoming a hallmark of major royal occasions,” McMahon says. “Plus, the more traditional fireworks and lots of military bands crashing cymbals, banging drums and droning bagpipes.”

Throughout the weekend, people will also be organising street parties called Coronation Big Lunches in their communities to connect with their neighbours and partake in the revelry. In part to facilitate this, Monday, May 8, will be a holiday in the UK. In addition, “people are being encouraged to do good deeds in their communities, described as ‘Big Help Out’ activities,” McMahon says. “The idea is to make the coronation something more community-focused as opposed to a display of aristocratic baubles.”

What royal traditions will King Charles’s coronation incorporate?

All the royal coronation regalia hold special significance. These items are used to display the longevity of the ritual, Gullace explains. “The big day will see the coronation regalia brought out of the glass cases and put to their intended use, instead of being gawped at by tourists in the Tower of London,” McMahon says. And while it’s not part of the royal coronation traditions, King Charles will probably wear the ring on his pinky that he always wears.

The coronation chair

The coronation chair

King Charles won’t sit on the actual throne until after he is crowned. For most of the ceremony, he will be perched on this 700-year-old wooden chair. Made for King Edward I in 1296, it is normally kept at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel. The chair originally contained the legendary Stone of Scone, a large rock that was seized from Scotland. “In 1996, the government agreed to return the stone to Scotland,” Koenig says. “The agreement to return the Stone of Scone more than 700 years after it was taken by Edward I included the proviso that it would be brought to London for the coronation of a monarch.” The stone will be reunited with the chair for King Charles’s coronation, for the first time since 1996.

The crown

King Charles will wear the same crown as the queen did at her coronation. Only used at the actual moment of crowning, St Edward’s Crown is a “copy” made in 1661 for King Charles II, as the earlier medieval crown was destroyed when the monarchy was briefly overthrown by a rebellion led by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century. Made of gold and set with gemstones including rubies, sapphires and amethysts, King Charles’s coronation crown weighs in at a whopping 2.2kg.

“Charles III will be the seventh monarch to wear it, and this will be the only time he wears this crown,” Koenig says. “For the rest of the service, he will wear the Imperial State Crown, which was made for King George VI’s coronation and last seen on Queen Elizabeth II’s casket.”

The coronation spoon

This medieval utensil isn’t something the king will be eating with! “The coronation spoon is the oldest crown jewel, as it survived Cromwell’s destruction of royal regalia,” McMahon says. Luckily, it was sold instead of being melted down with all the other royal gold. “It dates back to the 12th century and is used to anoint the king with holy oil – the most sacred part of the whole ceremony.” The spoon is the only piece of royal goldsmith’s work still in existence from the 12th century; it was later set with pearls when it was returned to the monarchy, post-Cromwell.

Learn how much the British crown jewels are actually worth.

The orb and sceptre

The orb and sceptre

These items represent the sovereignty of the monarch, and both date from 1661, like St Edward’s Crown. “The sceptre is a magnificent piece of bling that includes the largest colourless cut diamond in the world, one of several king-sized diamonds cut from the mega Cullinan Diamond discovered in 1905 in present-day South Africa,” McMahon says. The diamond was added to the sceptre in 1911. Representing the Christian world, the orb will be held by the monarch in his right hand. Topped with a cross, it contains diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls.

Camilla’s crown

“Camilla will be the first consort in several centuries to not have a new crown for the coronation,” Koenig says. “She will wear Queen Mary’s coronation crown, the consort of George V, Charles’s great-grandparents.” Created for the 1911 coronation, the crown will be altered somewhat for Camilla. According to McMahon, three of the Cullinan diamonds will be inserted and some of the crown’s arches will be removed to create a different look.

Notably, the revised crown will leave out another stone that was in the original 1911 version: the supposedly cursed Koh-i-Nur diamond, which was taken from India in 1849 and seen as a symbol of conquest. This is an attempt by Charles and Camilla to distance themselves from the British monarchy’s history of colonialism. However, the Cullinan diamond is not without its own controversy: It was a “gift” from South Africa, another former British colony.

The coronation emblem

The coronation emblem

Charles has a new emblem for his coronation, which will be used on flags, online materials and other branded merchandise for the event. Created by British designer Sir Jony Ive, the emblem represents Charles’s longstanding love of nature and conservation, and incorporates the British symbols of St. Edward’s Crown and the Union Jack flag’s red, white and blue colour scheme. Using illustrations of flowers from the four nations of the United Kingdom, the emblem features the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, the daffodil of Wales and the shamrock of Northern Ireland.

The pomp and circumstance

Although the coronation has followed the same basic ceremony for a thousand years, the grandeur we associate with the event is a relatively recent tradition. “The type of grandiose public pageantry and national holiday we enjoy today dates back to the late 19th century,” Gullace says. “At this time, the palace became adept at putting on magnificent public spectacles to enhance the prestige of the crown.”

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us: