A coronation is a symbolic ceremony that crowns a monarch and marks the beginning of a new era. In the United Kingdom, it also formalizes the monarch’s role as the head of the Church of England and transfers their title and powers.
For King Charles III, the coronation is not just a mere formality. It’s the moment he ascends to the throne officially, taking on the role of the 40th reigning monarch in the UK since 1066. And for millions of people across the country and beyond, it’s a day of celebration and excitement, as they witness the grandeur and splendour of the ceremony.
The coronation took place at Westminster Abbey, a place steeped in history and tradition, where monarchs have been crowned for over a thousand years. The King and Queen Camilla were the center of attention, as they underwent this ceremony and received the crown – a symbol of their authority and power.
THE GRANDEUR OF THE KING’S PROCESSION TO THE ABBEY!
The regal affair commenced with a ceremonious parade from Buckingham Palace to the iconic Westminster Abbey, and it was a sight to behold. The clock struck 10:20 AM BST, and the procession was set in motion.
In a deviation from conventional practices, King Charles and Queen Camilla graced the Diamond Jubilee State Coach instead of the antiquated and unwieldy Gold State Coach. As the procession ventured beyond the palace gates, a formidable Guard of Honour awaited them, consisting of 160 members of the three armed services.
But that’s not all! Along the course of The Mall and down Whitehall, another 1,000 personnel stood at attention, lending a captivating aura of grandeur to the already magnificent spectacle. It was a momentous day for all, as the procession showcased the splendor and majesty of the British monarchy like never before.
THE PROCESSION ROUTE
Nearly 4,000 specially invited guests, comprising armed forces veterans, as well as NHS and social care staff, graced the stands outside Buckingham Palace, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the royal procession.
Moreover, thousands of people from all walks of life thronged the viewing areas along the route, eager to catch a glimpse of the royal entourage. And for those who couldn’t make it to the site, official screening sites in the vicinity broadcasted the procession live, ensuring that no one missed out on the excitement.
The air was abuzz with anticipation and excitement, as the procession route brought together people from all corners of the kingdom. From loyal royalists to curious tourists, everyone was eager to witness this historic moment. And as the royal procession drew closer, the crowd erupted into a deafening roar, welcoming their beloved monarchs with open arms.
KING ARRIVAL AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
A whopping 2,200 people from 203 different countries eagerly awaited his arrival, as processions featuring faith leaders and representatives from select Commonwealth countries took center stage.
The atmosphere was electric as the governors general and prime ministers, including the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, made their grand entrances, adding to the excitement of the moment. And when the King finally arrived at the abbey, bedecked in a resplendent red velvet robe of state, the crowd couldn’t contain their awe and wonder.
However, the King wasn’t one to be bound by convention. He chose to forego the traditional breeches and silk stockings worn by his predecessors, opting instead for trousers underneath his robe. It was a bold statement, reflective of the King’s modern outlook.
And when the ceremony finally commenced at 11:00, the air was filled with music, specially selected by the King himself. With 12 newly commissioned pieces, including one by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Greek Orthodox music in memory of the King’s late father, Prince Philip, the ceremony was a sensory feast.
As the King made his way through the abbey, he was accompanied by his grandson, Prince George, and Camilla’s grandchildren, Lola, Eliza, Gus, Louis, and Freddy. And as they walked ahead, some of the attendees carried the regalia, placing most of the items on the altar until they were needed.
The UK is the only European country that still uses these ancient objects, comprising the crown, orb, sceptres, and more, in coronations. But what do these individual objects signify, and what responsibilities do they represent for the monarch?
As King Charles ascended the throne, he was presented with the Sovereign’s Orb, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove, among other items during the ceremony. Each item held a special meaning, symbolizing the monarch’s role and duty to the kingdom.
And Camilla, too, was presented with the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove and the Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross, mirroring the King’s sceptres, as she took on her new role as the Queen Consort.
The ceremony was a grand affair, spanning several stages over a little under two hours. But what made it even more special was the active participation of female clergy and religious leaders from other faiths, marking a historic moment in the kingdom’s history.
From the intricately designed crown to the majestic scepters, every object in the regalia holds a story, a symbol of the kingdom’s rich heritage and tradition.
STAGE ONE: THE RECOGNITION
The ceremony harked back to Anglo-Saxon times, with the King standing by the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, also known as St Edward’s Chair or King Edward’s Chair. The chair is thought to be the oldest furniture item in the UK that still serves its original purpose. England’s King Edward I commissioned its making to contain the Stone of Destiny, which was removed from its location near Scone in Scotland.
During the ceremony, King Charles was presented to “the people” and proclaimed the “undoubted King” before the congregation was asked to show their homage and service. During the initial declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, the congregation cheered “God Save the King!” as trumpets played following each acknowledgement.
King Charles was the 27th monarch to be crowned in the Coronation Chair. The stone, an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy, was returned to Scotland in 1996 but was transferred back to London for use in the service. The oak chair was placed in the center of the historic medieval mosaic floor known as the “Cosmati pavement,” in front of and facing the high altar during the Coronation to emphasize the religious nature of the ceremony.
STAGE TWO: A ROYAL PLEDGE
In a nod to the UK’s diverse faiths, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a heartening declaration at the Coronation ceremony. He promised that the Church of England would cultivate an atmosphere where individuals of all faiths could coexist harmoniously. This preface led to the Coronation Oath, a solemn legal requirement for every monarch.
With his hand on the Holy Gospel, King Charles pledged to uphold the law and the Church of England during his reign. The oath emphasized his commitment to “perform and keep” his promises. In addition, the King took the Accession Declaration Oath, declaring himself a “faithful Protestant”.
STAGE THREE: THE ANOINTING
After the King’s ceremonial robe was taken off, he sat in the Coronation Chair for his anointment, which highlighted the spiritual position of the monarch who also serves as the head of the Church of England.
During the coronation ceremony, the Archbishop anointed the King using a special oil from the Ampulla, a gold flask with a fascinating history dating back to the 12th Century. The anointing oil was not regular, as it originated from olives picked from two plantations on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It was sanctified at a special ceremony held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the city.
The Archbishop used the Coronation Spoon, a historic piece that survived Oliver Cromwell’s destruction of the regalia after the English Civil War, to anoint the King in the form of a cross on his head, breast, and hands. The anointing is considered the most sacred part of the service, and during this momentous moment, the King was concealed from view by a screen.
King Charles III is bestowed with the majestic St Edward’s Crown – a crown he will wear only once in his lifetime. This crown is named after Edward the Confessor, an Anglo-Saxon king and saint, and is believed to have been used in coronations since 1220 until Oliver Cromwell had it melted down.
King Charles II commissioned a new, grander version of the crown he desired, which was then used for his coronation. Charles III becomes the seventh monarch to wear this crown, following the likes of Charles II, James II, William III, George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II, who last wore it in 1953.
Before the King was crowned, he was presented with several symbolic items, including the Supertunica, a shimmering golden coat, the Sovereign’s Orb, the Coronation Ring, and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and Dove. At 12:01, the archbishop placed St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head, and the bells of the abbey rang for two minutes. This moment was celebrated with trumpets sounding and gun salutes being fired across the United Kingdom.
A 62-round salute was fired at the Tower of London, while a six-gun salvo was fired at Horse Guards Parade. Moreover, 11 additional sites across the UK, such as Belfast, dinburgh, Cardiff, and Royal Navy ships in service, were fired upon with a total of 21 rounds.
STAGE FIVE: THE ENTHRONEMENT
As King Charles III ascends to his throne, the moment arrives for the grand finale of the coronation ceremony – the enthronement. The King takes his place on the magnificent throne, and in a break from tradition, only the Prince of Wales pays homage. The archbishop then extends an invitation to the nation, both inside Westminster Abbey and those watching from home, to join in the ceremony by reciting the oath of allegiance to the new monarch and his successors. The nation holds its breath as the solemn words are repeated, I vow to pledge my loyalty to Your Majesty, your heirs, and lawful successors. May God assist me.
CROWNING THE QUEEN
Coronation of Queen Camilla was a remarkable moment where she was crowned and enthroned without having to take any oath. She was crowned with Queen Mary’s Crown that was modified by removing some of its arches and reset with the magnificent Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds. This crown was initially made for Queen Mary’s coronation alongside George V, adding to the significance of this momentous event.
In the concluding moment of the ceremony, the King and Queen participate in Holy Communion, the fundamental act of veneration in the Christian faith.
CORONATION CEREMONY: A MAJESTIC DISPLAY OF ROYAL TRADITION
THE DEPARTURE: A REGAL EXCHANGE OF CROWNS
As the ceremony drew to a close, the King and Queen left their thrones and proceeded to St Edward’s Chapel, situated behind the high altar. It was here that King Charles exchanged the St Edward’s Crown for the Imperial State Crown before joining the procession out of the abbey, accompanied by the rousing national anthem.
CORONATION PROCESSION TO THE PALACE: A SPECTACULAR DISPLAY OF MILITARY POMP
In a grand display of military might, the King and Queen returned to Buckingham Palace in a procession that featured nearly 4,000 members of the UK’s armed forces. Representatives from 39 Commonwealth countries and British Overseas Territories also took part, marching ahead of the King along the 1.42 miles (2.29km) route. Riding in the 260-year-old Gold State Coach, which has been used in every coronation since William IV’s, the King and Queen were followed by other members of the royal family in carriages and cars.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE FLY-PAST: A TRADITIONAL GREETING TO THE CROWDS
Following the procession, it was customary for the new monarch to greet the crowds in The Mall from the Buckingham Palace balcony. King Charles and Queen Camilla continued this tradition and appeared with the other royals who had taken part in the procession. The day ended with a spectacular fly-past, featuring helicopters and the Red Arrows display team, as unsuitable weather conditions meant that some planes could not take part.