The countdown to the coronation of Charles III has begun. There is exactly one month to go until the eldest son of the late Elizabeth II is crowned king alongside his wife, Queen Camilla, a title no longer qualified by the word “consort.”
On May 6, London will be pitched into celebratory mode. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth on September 8, 2022 — the longest reigning monarch in Britain’s history — a number of details of what will be happening at Westminster Abbey, Windsor and Buckingham Palace have been revealed.
After months of official mourning, the United Kingdom is now ready to crown the King. Before the official date was revealed, it was thought that the ceremony would be held in June, the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. The decision to bring it forward by a month has broken with tradition and thwarted expectations but it’s not the only tradition to go by the wayside.
The coronation of Charles III is being organized as a festive event across the country to bring people and communities together. Aside from the ceremony itself, the long weekend of May 6, 7 and 8 will be packed with recreational activities. Minutes before the monarch enters Westminster Abbey to be crowned, he will walk through the streets of London. Both the coronation and the concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday, May 7 will be televised. Street parties are the order of the day and, on Monday, May 8, there will be The Big Help Out, an initiative highlighting the essential role of volunteering in the country. An interactive map will guide citizens to the various scheduled events, and those who wish to can set up and register their own event.
On the day of the coronation, Charles III will wear two different crowns. The first, and most important, is the St. Edward’s crown, the oldest crown of the British monarchy, dating back to 1661, and considered the jewel of all the crown jewels. Elizabeth II wore it for her coronation in 1953. In fact, it has had to undergo some minor adjustments to make it fit the head of Charles III, who will be the seventh king to wear it.
After the service at Westminster Abbey, the monarch will don the so-called crown of the Imperial State, in which he will greet his subjects from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. This is the crown that is usually worn during the opening of Parliament and was created for the coronation of Queen Victoria in June 1838.
Camilla’s crown has been more difficult to decide upon. After much deliberation, the crown chosen is the one worn by Queen Mary of Teck in 1911, great-grandmother of Charles III, when George V was crowned, hence avoiding controversy over the link between Britain’s colonial past and some of its crown jewels.
Bruce Oldfield for Camilla
Charles III has it easy, as he will be crowned in his military uniform. At specific moments of the ceremony, he will wear different robes such as the white Colobium Sindonis during his anointing with the sacred oil. Camilla, meanwhile, has chosen designer Bruce Oldfield, who has dressed her on numerous occasions. The color chosen for the day is still unknown. If she wanted to follow tradition, she would opt for white, the symbol of renewal and purity.
6,000 fewer guests than in 1953
On May 6, one of the oldest royal traditions will most likely be broken: a tradition that dictated that no other foreign royalty should attend the coronation, because the ceremony is understood as a sacred act between the sovereign and the people. Now, however, the attendance of royals from all over the world is expected. Despite this, there will be 6,000 fewer guests than during the coronation of Elizabeth II.
The man behind Elizabeth II’s burial and Charles III’s coronation
Edward Fitzalan-Howard, 65, is in charge of all the details of the coronation. The 18th Duke of Norfolk is responsible for most of the Affairs of State in the United Kingdom, from organizing the opening of Parliament to the funerals of sovereigns and any ceremony involving the monarch. He was preparing the funeral of Elizabeth II over the course of 20 years and now, in just a few months, he has organized the coronation.
The role of the Kings’ grandchildren
King Charles’ eldest grandson, the son of William of England and Kate Middleton and second in line to the throne, will play a “significant” role in the coronation of his grandfather, which also breaks with the tradition dictating that heirs should be mere spectators at the coronation. As confirmed by Buckingham Palace, nine-year-old Prince George will be one of four pages to accompany Charles at the ceremony. In the case of Camilla, her four pages will be three of her five grandchildren, Freddy Parker Bowles, twins Gus and Louis Lopes, and her great-nephew, Arthur Elliot.
The Chrism oil with which Charles III and Camilla will be anointed has already been consecrated in Jerusalem. The oil is concocted from a blend of olives gathered from the Mount of Olives, the Mary Magdalene monastery — the burial place of Alice of Battenberg, mother of Philip of Edinburgh and therefore grandmother of Charles III — and the monastery of the Ascension in Jerusalem.
A secondary role for the Golden State Carriage
Another tradition that will be broken by the King is the use of the Golden State Carriage. On the day of Elizabeth II’s coronation, the carriage was used both on the outward and return journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster over a distance of around 2.5 miles (four kilometers). But, in 2018, Queen Elizabeth revealed that the trip had been “horrible.” Consequently, this time round, the royals will travel to the abbey in an alternative vehicle and will return in the sumptuous carriage. The last time the carriage was used was during Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee last year, although, rather than ride in it, the Queen was replaced by a hologram.
King Edward’s chair under restoration
One of the fundamental aspects of the coronation is the throne, which will be King Edward’s Coronation Chair. Made in 1300, it has been used by all British monarchs since 1626. But to get it to look its best it is currently being restored.
Music personally chosen by Charles III
The King’s passion for the arts and music is common knowledge, and he has personally chosen the 12 pieces of music that will be played during the ceremony. He has also decided to pay tribute to his father, Philip of Edinburgh, by playing Greek Orthodox music. There will also be a gospel choir in a nod to the cultural diversity of the United Kingdom.
The coronation playlist
If there is one thing that defines the playlist to celebrate the coronation, it is its eclectic style. Of the 27 authors and groups included, only three — Grace Jones, Boney M and Michael Bublé — are not British. Conspicuous by its absence is the name of singer Elton John, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and a close friend of Diana of Wales, who played Candle in the Wind at her funeral. Sir Elton has had to decline the invitation to perform as he is tied up with other engagements.
Hugo Burnand, royal photographer
Hugo Burnand will be responsible for the royal portraits of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. It is not the first time he has worked with them, as he photographed their wedding in 2005. He also photographed the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Apple designer creates coronation crest
Buckingham revealed a few months ago that the crest to be used as the main symbol at the coronation has been created by Sir Jony Ive, a former Apple designer. “The design was inspired by King Charles’ love of the planet, nature, and his deep concern for the natural world,” Ive has explained. The symbol comines 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. “The emblem speaks to the happy optimism of spring and celebrates the beginning of this new Carolean era for the United Kingdom. The gentle modesty of these natural forms combine to define an emblem that acknowledges both the joyful and profound importance of this occasion,” said Ive in a press release.
Members of the British royal family are already immersed in the fine-tuning of the coronation. In fact, they have decided to transform the Buckingham Palace ballroom into a rehearsal room, imagining it as the upper end of Westminster Abbey to help them get an idea of how everything will be on May 6.
The unknowns of Charles III’s big day: who won’t go?
The relationship between King Charles III and his son Prince Harry is difficult. The statements made in Prince Harry’s Netflix documentary and his memoir Spare may have done irreparable damage. But, despite their estrangement, the King has invited Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to the coronation, as confirmed by a spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, it is still unknown whether they will actually attend. If they do, all eyes will be on the role the prince will play in the ceremony and how he interacts with the rest of the family.
It is also not known whether Prince Andrew, Duke of York and brother to Charles, will attend the coronation. Prince Andrew was removed from all royal duties and dtropped of his military titles and royal patronages after being accused of sexually abusing a minor. If he does attend, he will not play any significant role in the ceremony. Since the proclamation of Charles III as king, Andrew has been present at some official acts; for example, he participated in the annual Christmas Day walk to church with the rest of his family.
Despite not playing any public role in the royal agenda, Andrew is still a Knight of the Order of the Garter, the most distinguished order in the United Kingdom to which — apart from the King and his heir, the Prince of Wales — only 24 people belong, including King Felipe VI of Spain and King William of the Netherlands. As tradition dictates, some of these knights will accompany the King at the moment of his anointing. It is not known whether or not Andrew Will be among them. At the coronation of Elizabeth II, four knights helped the Queen at the coronation. According to the Daily Mail, Andrew will not be present on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the coronation.
It is also not known what role the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton will be allocated. Some sources close to the Palace insist that the wife of the heir to the throne, Prince William, will not wear a tiara at the ceremony, but the decision has not yet been made public.
Another unknown concerns the concert to be held in Windsor the day after the coronation. With all the tickets sold out — 5,000 were given away free — it is still not known who will perform. Besides Sir Elton John, Adele, the Spices Girls, Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran have all declined the invitation as they are caught up with other engagements.
There are only 30 days left until the big day and there are still many details to be revealed and guests to be confirmed. But surely we can wait. After all, the King has been preparing for this moment for 74 years.
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