He’s been King for nearly eight months, but King Charles III will be officially crowned on May 6 in a traditional ceremony in which his wife will become Queen Camilla.
It’s the first coronation in 70 years and Britain will be celebrating over a three-day weekend filled with a star-studded concert, hundreds of picnics, dozens of wacky souvenirs and, blissfully, extended opening hours for pubs.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the historic coronation ceremony.
When and where is King Charles’s coronation?
The ceremony starts at 11 a.m. in the Abbey Church of Westminster and will be led by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Charles will be the 40th monarch crowned at the cathedral since William the Conqueror in 1066.
Camilla will be the 29th Queen Consort to become Queen at the Abbey, dating to William’s wife Matilda of Flanders in 1068. The last Queen Consort was Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, who was crowned alongside her husband King George VI in 1937. Charles, 74, and Camilla, 75, will be the oldest King and Queen crowned in British history.
What happens during the ceremony?
There’s plenty of pomp and pageantry surrounding the coronation but it’s essentially a religious service.
The King takes an oath to uphold the laws and customs of the nations in his realm and to maintain the Church of England, whose adherents are called Anglicans. He’s also “anointed, blessed and consecrated” by the Archbishop and seated in a 700-year old throne known as King Edward’s chair. It houses the Stone of Scone which Edward I brought from Scotland to the Abbey in 1296. After Charles takes his seat, peers kneel before him and pay homage.
The Queen Consort will be anointed and crowned as well in a shorter ceremony.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon will have small parts in the ceremony. They will join a procession of the “flags of the realm” at the start of the service.
Charles has modified the service and Buckingham Palace has promised that it will “reflect the monarch’s role today and look toward the future, while being rooted in long-standing traditions and pageantry.”
After the ceremony, the King and Queen Consort will lead a royal procession to Buckingham Palace. They will travel in the ornate Gold State Coach, pulled by eight horses, and be accompanied by hundreds of soldiers from across the Commonwealth, as well as other members of the Royal Family. The length of the procession – around two kilometres – will be much shorter than Queen Elizabeth’s procession after her coronation in 1953. She covered seven kilometres through the streets of London.
What will King Charles wear as a crown? What other royal regalia will be used?
The coronation is packed with regalia including rings, swords, sceptres, and a 12th-century spoon.
During the service, the King is presented with the royal orb and sceptre, which represent his power and moral authority.
Five swords are also used throughout the ceremony to signify spiritual justice, temporal justice, mercy, service and royal authority.
The Archbishop will anoint the King’s hands and breast with a holy oil perfumed with ambergris, orange flowers, roses, jasmine and cinnamon – a similar recipe to his mother Queen Elizabeth’s coronation oil in 1953. The oil is held in the ancient spoon, the oldest surviving piece of coronation regalia.
Like his mother and other previous monarchs, Charles will be crowned with St Edward’s Crown, which was made for King Charles II in 1661. It weighs 2.23 kilograms and has a solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes and tourmalines.
The Queen Consort will also receive a sceptre and a ring. She will wear the crown that Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, wore for the coronation of her son, King George VI in 1937.
What title will Camilla hold when Charles is king?
Camilla’s title has been a topic of intrigue since she and Charles married in 2005, seven years after the death of his first wife, Princess Diana. At the time he was the Prince of Wales and Camilla was known as Princess Consort.
In February, 2022, Queen Elizabeth II said it was her “sincere wish” that when Charles took the throne, Camilla would be known as Queen Consort, a title traditionally given to the wives of kings.
Camilla has held that title since the Queen’s death. When Buckingham Palace released the official invitation to the coronation in April, it invited guests to the “Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III & Queen Camilla,” that was the first official signal of her new role.
After the coronation, Camilla will be addressed as “Her Royal Highness” and she will have limited duties as a counsellor of state. That means she can sign some official documents on behalf of Charles and fill in for him on a few formal occasions such as receiving the credentials of ambassadors. The Prince of Wales is also a counsellor of state.
Who has been invited to King Charles’s coronation?
Around 2,000 people are expected at the service, including dozens of world leaders and 400 representatives from community organizations across Britain. That’s a far cry from Queen Elizabeth who had 8,000 people at her coronation.
Some high-profile dignitaries, including U.S. President Joe Biden, will skip the coronation since many of them attended the Queen’s funeral last September.
Will Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the coronation?
The Duke of Sussex will be present, but his wife will stay home in Los Angeles with their children. Prince Harry won’t have much of a role at the ceremony given that he’s no longer a working royal. But this will be Harry’s first royal event since the publication of his tell-all book Spare and the Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan. All eyes will be on any potential rapprochement with his father and brother, Prince William.
What music will be played at the coronation?
The service at the cathedral will feature 12 newly commissioned pieces of music.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed a coronation anthem called Make a Joyful Noise. There’s also a new coronation march by Patrick Doyle, who is renowned in the film industry for scoring the music for dozens of pictures including Sense and Sensibility, Carlito’s Way and Bridget Jones’s Diary. And the Abbey’s choir will sing a special anthem written in Welsh, the first time the language has been sung or spoken during a coronation.
How much will the coronation cost? Are Canadian taxpayers helping to pay?
It’s not clear but some estimates have put the figure as high as £100-million ($160-million), mainly because of security expenses. Whatever the cost, it will be covered entirely by the British government. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation cost £1.5-million, which equates to around £50-million today.
Is the coronation a public holiday in Britain? Will Canadians get the day off?
The British government has given everyone the day off on May 8, in honour of the coronation. As a result, Britons will enjoy three long weekends in the month since May 1 and May 29 were already holidays.
Sadly, Canadians won’t be getting an extra long weekend. The government has announced that there will be a ceremony in Ottawa on May 6 that will include “speeches, artistic performances, and special unveilings.” On coronation day, Canada Post will also unveil the first stamp with King Charles’s image while the Canadian Heraldic Authority will present emblems for the coronation and change of reign, featuring the royal monogram CIIIR.
What else is planned in Britain?
There’s a coronation concert on May 7 at Windsor Castle that will feature performances by Katy Perry, Take That, Lionel Richie and a 300-member choir.
According to reports in the British media, Elton John, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Kylie Minogue and the Spice Girls turned down invitations to appear. The coronation concert lineup is also less glittering than last year’s Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert, which included Queen, Diana Ross, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Celeste.
People across Britain are being asked to hold community picnics, or “big lunches,” over the weekend. And they have been encouraged to volunteer with a local charity on May 8 as part of the “big help out” in a “tribute to the King’s public service.”
What about souvenirs and other stuff?
Yes, there are plenty of coronation-themed items for sale, including teacups, tea pots, bags, plates and Teddy bears. There’s a coronation coaster selling for £10 and coronation “luxury notebooks” are on offer starting at £7.49.
The King and Queen Consort have released a recipe for a Coronation Quiche, which includes spinach, broad beans and tarragon. The couple said the recipe was “easily adapted to different tastes and preferences.”
Buckingham Palace is selling an 84-page official souvenir program that “tells the life stories of their majesties and offers a preview of the coronation day.” It’s yours for £10.
And in keeping with the digital age, the palace has unveiled a coronation emoji – a cartoon depiction of the St. Edward’s Crown.
Is there much enthusiasm?
This will be the third major royal event in less than a year, following the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and her funeral. Plus there has been the drama over Harry and Meghan’s departure to the United States, and Prince Andrew’s legal woes. So, the level of excitement is noticeably lower.
A recent YouGov poll of 3,000 Britons, 35 per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t care very much about the coronation and 29 per cent said they didn’t care at all. Just 9 per cent said they cared a great deal and 24 per cent said they cared “a fair amount.”
More coronation reading
Coronation in Canada
Coronation to be marked with 21-gun salute in Ottawa and illumination of Peace Tower in green
Ottawa’s $250,000 to celebrate King Charles’s ties to Canada
King’s Canadian title – dropping defender of the faith – is break with tradition: Church figures, constitutional experts
John Fraser: Canada should show more enthusiasm for coronation
Robert Rotberg: Long live the King – and the Commonwealth
Hamida Ghafour: Deep pragmatism lies at heart of the monarchy