Like Haley's Comet, the royal coronation's going to be a once in a lifetime event for many people (considering the last one was over 70 years ago). As it's been so long since the world's seen a British coronation, not many of us know what to expect. Thankfully, the coronation schedule's being well publicized, and the coronation process hasn't changed much in the 700+ years since it's been going on.
What's the Big Deal?
The royal family's received a lot of backlash in the past decade, so everyone might not know about the upcoming coronation. Although Charles assumed the title when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away, the actual ceremony to mark his accession needed a year of planning.
Even if you don't acknowledge the British monarchy thanks to its less-than-stellar history, you can appreciate the historical event that's drawing near. After all, the last major royal coronation that took place was in 1953.
When Is the Coronation Scheduled for?
King Charles III's coronation is scheduled for May 6, 2023. Currently, London's abuzz with people making preparations for the coronation. Necessary construction is going on along the procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, and local businesses are showing their national pride by decorating their shops in the royal colors.
Although there are no traditional events planned for the week before the ceremony, there are multiple events planned for the coronation weekend. In addition to the coronation happening on Saturday, there'll be all sorts of performances on Sunday and then a massive celebratory lunch on Sunday.
Where Is the Coronation Being Held?
Since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066, every British monarch has had their coronation at Westminster Abbey. An Anglican Church centered in London, Westminster Abbey isn't only a place for coronations, but for weddings and funerals, too. It's the British royal family's one-stop-shop for all kinds of important events.
Who's Expected to Attend?
While some people are interested in watching the historic occasion, others are really tuning in for the potential drama. If you've been online at all in the past few months, you know about the public schism happening between Prince Harry and his immediate family. Will Harry and Meghan attend the coronation? According to a palace statement, as reported by CNN, Harry will attend while Meghan will remain back with the children.
Yet, other members of the royal family are dropping out of traditional procession events, like Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, which could hint at some of the glue binding the family together during Queen Elizabeth's reign is coming unstuck.
Besides the working royals, it's expected that around 2,000 global dignitaries are set to attend the ceremony. This makes it a fraction of the size of Queen Elizabeth II's momentous coronation.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The King's Procession
The King's Procession is a fancy way of saying the path that King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will take from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. It's a moment for the press and citizens to bask in the pomp and circumstance.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: Taking the Oath and Anointing
The coronation ceremony not only garners a lot of publicity, but it's also a religious tradition that stretches back hundreds of years where the monarch is crowned a regent of God.
During this portion of the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury (aka the English Pope) will read from the Liber Regalis. Charles will take the oath to uphold his duties, the English law, and the Christian faith. Then he will be covered with a golden cloth and anointed with holy oil by the Archbishop from the coronation spoon. Considered a sacred act, it's barred from anyone's view.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The Investing
Once the new King has been consecrated by the holy oil from the Westminster clergy, he'll remove his ceremonial robes and take his place in the coronation chair. According to Westminster Abbey, the coronation chair is over 700 years old and was commissioned by King Edward I. Made out of oak, the chair's been at every coronation since 1308.
After rising to his new station, the King's given a new ceremonial robe, and he's presented with various accoutrements representing the royal statecraft he's to uphold. The Lord Great Chamberlain presents the spurs (a coronation ornament that's been around since 1189 and meant to symbolize chivalry). Then the Archbishop and clergy present the Sword of State, additional robes, and the crown jewels, save for the crown.
The Archbishop will also place the coronation ring on Charles' fourth finger as a symbol of royal dignity.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The Coronation Regalia
If you're like us, then one of the major moments you're excited to tune into is when the King's passed the Sovereign's Scepter Cross, Sovereign's Scepter with Dove, and the Sovereign's Orb. These precious pieces of royal regalia are the physical representations of his divine right as king.
The most important part of the Coronation Regalia is St. Edward's Crown, that was constructed in 1661. It's only used during coronations and weighs almost five pounds. Similarly, the Sovereign's Scepter with Cross and the Sovereign's Orb were created in 1661, as well.
Each of the Coronation Regalia only dates back to 1661 because during the English Civil War, the crown jewels and other items associated with the monarchy were destroyed. These 'newer' pieces have been used since the monarchy was restored with King Charles II's coronation in the 17th century.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The Crowning
It's at this moment after receiving the other royal ornaments, when the Archbishop will say a traditional prayer over the crown, and several members of the clergy will pass the crown to the Archbishop. Once he gets St. Edward's Crown, he'll place it on King Charles III's head.
The cliff's notes version is that this is the moment that King Charles III fully becomes King of England.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: Paying Homage and Crowning the Queen Consort
Fascinatingly, the coronation doesn't end with the crowning. Instead, the King is whisked to a new throne, and various members of the clergy, royalty, and titled people will pay homage to him and swear their fealty.
After everyone pays homage, there's a much simpler ceremony using the same formula to crown the Queen Consort. Once the coronation of Charles and Camilla is complete, they'll take communion and be blessed.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The Coronation Procession
Like the King's Procession, the Coronation Procession is another fancy way of saying the route that King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla take back to Buckingham Palace. During this procession, members of the royal family will fall in line behind the King to the palace.
Breaking Down the Ceremony: The Infamous Balcony Scene
Like with any royal British celebration, the people of the hour take to greeting the public in the infamous balcony scene. So, once King Charles III returns to the palace, he and his family will make their customary appearance.
Where Can I Watch the Ceremony?
Queen Elizabeth II's coronation was the first one to be televised, and filming has come a long way since then. You'll be able to get live updates on basically every major network news station in the U.S. and the U.K.
What Activities are Planned for the After-Ceremony Celebration?
The Sunday and Monday following the coronation are filled with their own special celebratory activities. Windsor Castle will host a Coronation Concert, where notable British acts (yet to be revealed) will perform for His Royal Highness. It'll be an afternoon dedicated to the arts with dance, music, spoken word, and screen performances by talented artists from around the commonwealth.
Following the concert is the Coronation Big Lunch in an interesting callback to the aged monarchial practices of throwing huge multi-day feasts. So, areas around the United Kingdom are invited to share in the Big Lunch in their own communities.
Lastly, The Big Help Out takes place on Monday, where the volunteering efforts of major British organizations are highlighted, and regular people are encouraged to take part in volunteering themselves.
Celebrate the Coronation in Your Own Way
For how distant the royal family is from most of our lives, we can still take the excuse to celebrate and party on the coronation weekend. Whether that looks like waking up early and tuning into the entire procession, or waiting to see the highlights on social media, the great thing about living in the world today is you get to celebrate the coronation in just the way you want to.