King Charles will be formally crowned on 6 May 2023 at Westminster Abbey in London in a ceremony that will be far more pared-down than his mother, the Queen’s.

This time 70 years ago the world was abuzz with excitement. A beautiful young woman was preparing to be crowned queen and, for millions of people wearied by war and weighed down by lingering austerity measures, it was a golden light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Queen Elizabeth, with her dashing husband by her side, had movie star status and the lead up to her coronation captured the imagination of the globe.

But the world is a very different place now. And if one person knows that, it’s King Charles III. For starters, he’s 74, his mother was 26. Back then the royal family – although it’s always had its critics – was on a pedestal, almost untouchable.

These days it’s conflicted and complex, riven by scandals and drama and at the mercy of the internet generation who regularly question and criticise. The UK is also in the midst of one of the biggest cost of living crises in history and the monarch is well aware of an over-the-top occasion wouldn’t be good for optics. Which is why he’s been at pains to ensure his coronation on Saturday 6 May will be a scaled-down event with fewer guests, less extravagance and a far shorter ceremony.

But make no mistake: this doesn’t mean it’s not going to be grand. There will be carriages, there will be jewels, there will be anthems, there will be trumpets ringing out onto the streets. It will just be more inclusive, relevant and less archaic. “It’s still going to be everything you’d expect of a coronation,” royal expert Katie Nichol says.

A symbolic occasion

The coronation will be a far more streamlined affair – but it’s still going to cost an estimated £150 million (R3,2 bn) and critics have questioned whether it’s necessary to have a ceremony which is, after all, simply a formality seeing as Charles became king the minute his mother passed.

However, polls have shown the majority of the British people want an official event to celebrate their new monarch and honour the country’s rich and unique past. “It’s a huge milestone in the history of the UK and the Commonwealth,” Michele Donelan, the UK’s former culture secretary, says.

Royal expert Jennie Bond says the coronation will also be a symbol of unity for the royal family, which has been fraught with tension following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s attacks and Prince Andrew’s disgrace. “Events such as the coronation do a great deal to shore up the popularity of the monarchy,” she says. “There will be millions of people watching the pageantry, so a big cheer goes up for the monarchy on these occasions.”

Different times, different requirements

Westminster Abbey has been the venue for the coronation of UK monarchs since 1066 and Charles will be crowned here too. But far fewer people will descend on the ancient church in the heart of London as they did for the queen’s coronation in 1953. More than 8 000 guests squeezed into the abbey to watch Elizabeth’s crowning – 6 000 more than the church can accommodate.

The abbey was closed for five months before the coronation so preparations could be made for extra guests. A small railway track was built through the church to transport the scaffolding needed to build grandstands to seat everyone – and, laid end to end, the tracks would have reached from London to Paris.

Charles will have 2 000 people at his coronation, the maximum amount the church can seat. His mother’s service ran for three hours; Charles’ will be just over an hour. Plush velvet cushions were laid out for guests to sit on at the queen’s coronation but, regular seating will be the order of the day on 6 May.

Traditions and changes

Charles and Camilla are expected to travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster in the Gold State Coach, which dates back to 1762 and is reserved for coronations and jubilees.

Among some of the traditions expected to be scrapped is the presentation of gold ingots, or rings, in a bid to be less ostentatious and more sensitive to the public mood.

The ceremony, which will be conducted by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is expected to be representative of different faiths and communities in line with Charles’ wish to reflect the ethnic diversity of modern Britain.

The regalia

Charles will sit in an ancient wooden chair known as the Coronation Chair or Edward’s Chair, which was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I.

The St Edward’s crown is considered the most sacred of crowns and is used only at the moment of crowning. It was made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II and weighs 2kg.

Stretching back to King Charles II coronation in 1661, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross represents the sovereign’s power and is associated with good governance.

A golden globe surmounted by a cross will be presented to the king and is symbolic of how a monarch’s power is derived from God. The Sovereign’s Orb is divided into three sections, symbolising the three continents discovered in medieval times.

The Imperial State Crown will be worn by the monarch only when he leaves Westminster Abbey after the coronation. It’s made of solid gold and set with 2 868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and four rubies including the black prince’s ruby and the Stuart sapphire. It’s also used at state openings of parliament.

By the numbers

  • 3 – Number of days the coronation festivities will last – 6, 7 and 8 May.
  • 1 – South African opera singer will perform at the all-star concert after the coronation. Pretty Yende has been invited and is “honoured and blessed”, she says.
  • 12 – The number of new musical pieces Charles has commissioned for the coronation. Andrew Lloyd Webber will compose a new anthem.
  • 1 – Pair of silk stockings and breeches male monarchs are expected to wear at their coronation. Charles is considering ditching them in favour of his military garb.
  • 8 251 – Total number of guests who attended the queen’s coronation – over 6 000 more than will be at Charles’ coronation.
  • 39 – Total number of sovereigns who’ve been crowned at Westminster Abbey. Charles will the 40th.
  • 4 – Age Charles was at his mother’s coronation.
  • 2 500 square metres – Extent of the new carpet made for Westminster Abbey for the queen’s coronation.
  • 4 000 – Metres of velvet was woven to cover 2 000 chairs and 5 700 stools.
  • 1 500 – Metres of silk was brought for the hangings that adorned the seating stands.

Original source: https://www.news24.com