Tomorrow will see the crowning of the UK’s new King, Charles III, a once in a lifetime event, but what should we expect from this major state event, which combines ancient ceremony, a religious service and is the fulfilment of the British constitution?
Westminster Abbey, (formally the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter) is located at the heart of Westminster, just a stone’s throw from Parliament. Started by Edward the Confessor, it has been at the centre of Royal life since 1066 seen the coronations of 39 monarchs, including William the Conqueror, Edward I, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II.
It has also been wedding venue for 16 monarchs and a burial site for 18 and some 3,300 other people, including Prime Ministers, poets, scientists, actors, military leaders and the Unknown Warrior.
Its gothic architecture comes from the 13th century Anglo-French (Norman) style, although there are parts which are built in the earlier Romanesque style.
Buckingham Palace, originally known as Buckingham House, is the main residence of his Majesty and administrative centre for the monarchy. The building at the core of today’s palace was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 on a site that had been in private ownership for at least 150 years. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen’s House.
Enlarged and refurbished during the 19th century by architects John Nash and Edward Blore, who constructed three wings around a central courtyard, it became the official London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Vitoria in 1837 and has since then been a national focal point for celebrations.
The formal celebrations will begin with a procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.
Public access to The Mall, the road leading to Buckingham Palace and Whitehall will open at 6.00am and be on a first-come, first-served basis. Overflow areas have been organised in Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park which have been installed with giant screens.
The procession will set off from Buckingham Palace at precisely 10:20am along The Mall to Trafalgar Square, then down Whitehall, going passed the entrance to Downing Street and on to Parliament Street and Parliament Square, where they will head to the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey at 11.00am.
The procession will be made up of around 200 members of the armed forces, many from the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry alongside Royal Watermen and Yeomen of the Guard. Another 1,000 service personnel will line the route.
His Majesty King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will travel in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, created for Queen Elizabeth II. The gilded crown on the top of the Diamond Jubilee State Coach was carved from oak from HMS Victory and includes a panel of wood from Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose on the inside.
At Westminster Abbey
Upon reaching Westminster Abbey, the King, is reportedly wearing Royal Naval uniform instead of the more traditional breeches and silk stockings, will enter through the Great West Door and proceed through the nave to the centre of the abbey.
He will be preceded by a procession of faith leaders, representatives from the Commonwealth who will carry the flags of their country, governors general and prime ministers. These will include Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will give a reading later in the service.
Other figures in the procession will include Prince George, and the Royal Regalia – traditional symbols of Royal authority such as the crown, orb and sceptres. These
will be presented to His Majesty at key moments in the ceremony.
The ceremony is due to begin promptly at 11:00 and include a selection of music chosen by the King, including 12 newly commissioned pieces, from composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and in nod to the King’s late father, Prince Philip music also Greek Orthodox music.
The Coronation Service contains several important parts, starting with the “Recognition”.
This is where the King is presented to the people, a tradition dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Standing beside the ancient Coronation Throne or St Edward’s Chair, made for King Edward I and containing the Stone of Scone (Stone of Destiney), the King will turn to face the four sides of the abbey and be proclaimed the “undoubted King” before the congregation is asked to show their homage and service.
The BBC reports that following the first declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, “…the subsequent declarations will be made by the Lady of the Garter and the Lady of the Thistle – representing the oldest orders of chivalry in England and Scotland respectively – and a George Cross holder from the armed forces”.
After each declaration, those present will shout, “God Save the King”, followed by trumpets being sounded.
King Charles will then be asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledge the multiple faiths observed in the UK by saying the Church of England “will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths may live freely”.
The archbishop will then administer the Coronation Oath. He will ask the King to confirm that he will uphold the law and the Church of England during his reign.
The King will then take a second oath, known as the Accession Declaration Oath, stating that he is a “faithful Protestant”.
At this point the King’s ceremonial robe will be removed and he will sit in the Coronation Chair to be anointed, symbolising the spiritual status of the King. This will see the archbishop pouring a holy oil from the Ampulla on to the Coronation Spoon before anointing the King in the form of a cross on his head, breast and hands.
The anointing oil, in a break from tradition and in a nod to King Charles’s well-known support of environmental courses, will not contain any animal products. Instead it has been made using olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and consecrated at a special ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The King will then be “invested” with the crown. This will see the stunning St Edward’s Crown, made for Charles II, placed on his head.
At this point the Queen Consort, Her Majesty Queen Camilla, will be anointed and crowned using “Queen Mary’s Crown”, originally made for Queen Mary’s coronation alongside George V.
Following the King and Queen taking Holy Communion, they will retire to St Edward’s Chapel behind the high altar, where the King will remove St Edward’s Crown and put on the Imperial State Crown before returning to the centre of the Abbey where national anthem is played.
The King and Queen will then process back along the 1.42 mile to Buckingham Palace in the 260-year-old Gold State Coach that has been used in every coronation since 1831, William IV, starting at approximately 1.00pm.
The procession back to Buckingham Palace will reported include other members of the Royal Family including the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children.
At 2.30pm the King and Queen will join other members of the Royal Family on the Buckingham Palace balcony to meet the crowds and watch a six-minute fly-past involving members of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and culminating in a display by the Red Arrows.