It has been 70 years since the last British coronation and as The Weekly goes to press, we are counting down to what will be a very special and unique moment in contemporary history, the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on Saturday May 6. Whether you’re a royalist or not, this ceremony will be an extraordinary spectacle with perfectly choreographed pomp which, thanks to modern technology, will be watched by more people around the world than any previous coronation.
Before the advent of television, stills photography and paintings have offered visual records of past coronations. But King Charles’ mother’s crowning on June 2, 1953 – covered back then by The Weekly’s royal correspondent Anne Matheson from London – broke new ground when it was televised, a first for a coronation.
Those scenes have been replayed time and again over the decades and were recalled poignantly at Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations three months before her death. The Gold State Coach that carried the newly-crowned Queen back to Buckingham Palace was a key part of the 2022 Platinum Jubilee pageant featuring ethereal images of the waving 27-year-old sovereign. Later, Her Majesty, 96, appeared on the Palace balcony to rapturous cheers.
On May 6, King Charles will return to the Palace in that same carriage and the procession, and his coronation will be similarly recorded and streamed live around the world.
Buckingham Palace has said the ceremony “will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future while [also] being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”. What that will look like remains to be seen, but alongside the dazzling crown jewels and historic regalia, there will also be considerable solemnity. This is a deeply religious occasion, pregnant with symbolism that for nigh on a thousand years has remained unchanged, the only remaining ceremony of its type in Europe.
The Duke of Norfolk, as Earl Marshal, is responsible for it all and has been busy implementing plans under the codename “Operation Golden Orb”.
The ceremony will be at Westminster Abbey, the setting for every coronation since 1066. Here, just eight months before, the Archbishop of Canterbury led the service for the late Queen’s funeral. That was a time of sadness and the world united to pay tribute to a remarkable monarch.
Archbishop Welby will now herald the Carolean era, presiding over the coronation service for King Charles III. Her Majesty Queen Camilla will also be crowned, in a ceremony that will echo that of Charles’ grandparents when Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret watched on.
Here in Australia, it will be Saturday evening with live broadcasts direct from London, and to help you unravel all the intricacies of this momentous celebration we present The Weekly’s expert guide.
King Charles and Queen Camilla will arrive at Westminster Abbey in the King’s Procession from Buckingham Palace, travelling in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.
This newest of the royal coaches was actually made here in Australia and beautifully combines traditional craftsmanship with modern technology. Its aluminium body and six hydraulic stabilisers will ensure a smooth royal ride for the royal couple.
The interior wooden panels of the coach were constructed from objects donated by over 100 historic sites. The seat handrails are from the Royal Yacht Britannia, and the window frames and interiors include material from Caernarfon Castle; Canterbury Cathedral; the Mary Rose (Henry VIII’s flagship); 10 Downing Street; and the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton.
The couple will return to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach leading the Coronation Procession, accompanied by members of the royal family, including the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children.
The 260-year-old Gold State Coach is the grandest at the Royal Mews and has been used at every coronation since that of William IV. This huge vehicle weighs four tonnes and needs eight horses to draw it. Its painted panels of Roman gods and goddesses, rich gilded sculptures including three cherubs on the roof representing England, Scotland, and Ireland, and four massive triton figures above each wheel, are quite magnificent.
The procession route will end at Buckingham Palace and the King and Queen will appear on the balcony to greet crowds accompanied by some – yet to be determined – members of the royal family.
Eight Pages of Honour
There’s a very personal touch to the children chosen to be the Pages of Honour, whose official role is to attend the King and Queen and form part of the procession through the Nave of Westminster Abbey.
In what will often be a pretty formal ceremony, Charles and Camilla have chosen to involve some of their grandchildren in this very special role. The King’s Pages of Honour will be headed up by nine-year-old Prince George while Her Majesty’s pages will be twin grandsons, Master Gus and Louis Lopes, 13, Master Freddy Parker Bowles, 13, and her great-nephew, Master Arthur Elliot, 10. The other three pages attending the King will be Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, 13, Master Nicholas Barclay, 13, and Master Ralph Tollemache, 12.
“We’re all very excited about Prince George’s role,” a Kensington Palace spokesperson noted. “It will be an incredibly special moment.” George’s siblings, Princess Charlotte, seven, and Prince Louis, four, are also expected to attend the coronation and take part in the Coronation Procession.
The King was just four when he attended his mother’s coronation, memorably standing between his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and his aunt, Princess Margaret. He was the first child to witness his mother’s coronation and later with his sister, Princess Anne, who was almost three, Charles joined the family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace to wave at the crowds.
The Six Stages of the ceremony
There are typically six stages to the coronation service. The Palace has yet to confirm if all will be followed. First is the recognition. The King will be presented, the congregation will shout “God save the King!” and trumpets will sound. Next comes the oath, when the King swears to uphold the law and the Church of England.
This is followed by the most sacred part of the proceeding, the anointing in holy oil under a canopy. Then, during the investiture, the King will be presented with the Sovereign’s Orb and Sceptre and the St Edward’s Crown placed on his head. This is the only time the King will wear this crown throughout his reign.
Finally comes the enthronement, when the King will move to the throne, and the homage, when Prince William will kneel before his father. Queen Camilla will then also be anointed and crowned.
Two thousand guests will make up the congregation in Westminster Abbey, each having received an invitation designed by heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator Andrew Jamieson.
This stunning original artwork features a central motif of the Green Man, an ancient figure from British folklore, symbolic of spring and rebirth. He is crowned in leaves of oak, ivy and hawthorns. The British wildflower meadow bordering the invitation features lily-of-the-valley, cornflowers, wild strawberries, dog roses, bluebells, and a sprig of rosemary for remembrance, together with wildlife including a butterfly and a ladybird.
Alongside members of the royal family will be heads of state, monarchs from around the globe, members of government and representatives from King Charles III’s charities, including The Prince’s Trust Australia and community champions. Other Australians will include the Governor-General David Hurley, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and state governors.
The King has personally commissioned 12 pieces of music which include a new Coronation Anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a Coronation March by Patrick Doyle and a solo organ piece embracing musical themes from countries across the Commonwealth by Iain Farrington.
The official Royal Harpist Alis Huws will also perform as part of the Coronation Orchestra. And listen out also for Australian virtuoso violinist Madeleine Easton, who will play with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir.
The Coronation Chair
This ancient chair was made by order of King Edward I to enclose the famous Stone of Scone, which he brought from Scotland to Westminster Abbey in 1296.
The King had the magnificent oaken chair made to contain the Stone over the course of the year 1300-1301. It was then painted and decorated with patterns of birds, foliage and animals. The figure of a king with his feet resting on a lion was painted on the back of the chair and in the early 16th century four lions were added below the chair. In the coronation service it will be placed in the centre of the Abbey facing the High Altar.
St Edward’s Crown
This crown is the most important and sacred of all royal crowns and is only used at the moment of crowning itself. It was made in 1661 for the Coronation of Charles II to replace the medieval crown that was melted down by parliamentarians in 1649, after the execution of King Charles I.
It’s made of solid gold, weighs 2.23 kg and contains 444 gemstones, including rubies, sapphires, garnets and tourmalines.
King Charles III will wear the St Edward’s Crown when he is officially declared King during the coronation ceremony.
Coronation Spoon & Ampulla
The oldest item in the Coronation Regalia is the exquisite 12th-century Coronation Spoon. It is used to anoint the monarch with holy oil. The gold Ampulla or flask holds the holy oil. The head of the eagle is removable, with an opening in the beak for pouring the oil into the spoon.
Queen Mary’s Crown
Camilla has chosen to be crowned with Queen Mary’s Crown which was originally designed for the coronation of Queen Mary in 1911. This is the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the coronation of a consort instead of a new commission being made, in the interests of sustainability and efficiency.
In 1911 the crown contained three large diamonds – the controversial Koh-i-nûr, Cullinan III and Cullinan IV. But the crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds for Queen Camilla’s coronation.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross has been used in every coronation since Charles II’s ascension to the throne in 1661. It is meant to represent the monarch’s temporal power and is associated with good governance. The sceptre includes the magnificent Cullinan I diamond, the largest colourless cut diamond in the world, which was added by the Crown jeweller in 1911.
The diamond is so large that the sceptre had to be reinforced to take its weight. During the ceremony the King will be presented with this sceptre and another that features a dove, representing the Holy Ghost.
This gleaming golden globe surmounted by a cross, dates back to 1661. It is meant to remind the monarch that regal power is derived from God. The gold orb weighs 1.32kg and is mounted with emeralds, rubies and sapphires surrounded by diamonds and pearls. During the coronation service, the orb will be placed in the King’s right hand and then, at the moment of crowning, on the high altar.
The Swords of Temporal Justice, Spiritual Justice and Mercy
These three swords are carried unsheathed in the Coronation Procession. They were made for the Coronation of Charles I in 1626 and represent kingly virtues.
The Chrism oil was consecrated in Jerusalem in March in a ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It has been created using olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives and perfumed with essential oils – sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin and amber – as well as orange blossom. It’s based on the oil used at the coronation of the late Queen, the formula of which has been used for hundreds of years. It will also be used for the anointing of Queen Camilla.
The Sovereign’s Ring
This ring, with a design echoing the Union Jack flag, will be placed on the King’s hand during the ceremony. It features a large sapphire – to represent the Scottish flag – and rubies in the form of a cross, representing the cross of St George (for England), surrounded by diamonds.
The Queen Consort’s Ring
The eye-catching Queen Consort’s ring will be placed on Queen Camilla’s hand and features a pinkish-red ruby set in a cluster of diamonds, with additional rubies set into the ring’s gold band.
Imperial State Crown
King Charles III will put on the Imperial State Crown towards the end of the coronation ceremony as he leaves the Abbey. This is the same crown which sat on top of the Queen’s coffin while she was lying in state. The gold crown was originally made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 and set with 2868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.
It contains some of the most famous jewels in the royal collection. These include the Black Prince’s ruby, the Stuart sapphire, and the Cullinan II diamond, sometimes called the Second Star of Africa. This priceless gemstone was given to Edward VII on his 66th birthday by the government of the Transvaal in what is now South Africa.
After the pomp of the Coronation ceremony, Brits will be celebrating with the Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle, the Coronation Big Lunch and The Big Help Out, when people will try volunteering.
Government Houses are planning a host of celebrations for the Australian public to mark the Coronation. For the latest information visit your state Government House website.
Canberra – A live public screening of the Coronation will take place at Yarralumla. The Governor-General will also host a Coronation-themed community lunch on May 12.
Sydney – There will be a garden reception on May 6 at Government House with invited guests and the planting of a melaleuca sapling, grown from a cutting of the tree planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954. On May 7, the House will be open to the public.
Melbourne – Government House will be open to the public on May 6 when messages of congratulations can be recorded for Their Majesties.
Brisbane – There will be a Coronation-themed public open day from 11am-3pm on May 6, including the planting of a Queensland waratah. A reception will be held on June 13 and a state dinner on June 14.
Darwin – Government House will host a public community Coronation celebration on May 6. Visit the website to register.
Adelaide – A Coronation reception will take place at Government House on May 10.
Perth – Government House will host a community celebration on May 6.
Hobart – Government House will host two Coronation events.
You can also tune in to the proceedings from home with streaming service BritBox via live coverage direct from the UK along with full replay and highlights.