King Charles became Britain’s monarch at the exact moment his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died in September. But now the new King is about to have his crowning moment of glory as the U.K. prepares for its first coronation in 70 years.
The historic moment will see Charles crowned in a ceremony alongside Camilla, who reportedly could drop her Queen Consort title and be known as Queen Camilla after the coronation. The symbolic event will see crowns placed on the heads of King Charles and Camilla, in a service carried out by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The coronation—known by the code name Operation Golden Orb—is set to be a lavish display of quirky British traditions with some more modern touches. Brits are invited to celebrate across a three-day weekend, where pubs and bars will be allowed to stay open for two additional hours on the day before and the day of the coronation.
The ornately illustrated invitations to the coronation were issued on April 4.
While the global population might not be partying in pubs with quite as much vim, major interest in the royal family’s latest event is expected around the world. Here’s what to know about King Charles’ coronation and how to watch it.
The coronation is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 6, at Westminster Abbey in London. The following day will be marked by lunches and street parties across the nation and a concert at Windsor Castle in the evening. Monday, May 8, will be observed as a public holiday in the U.K.
Charles’ ceremony will be televised to British and international audiences. Queen Elizabeth made history when she agreed to have the first-ever televised coronation, which was viewed by an estimated 27 million people in the U.K. alone, in what was one of the first major world events to be broadcast.
Since then, royal engagements have become increasingly documented by the media. Last year, the Accession Council was televised for the first time to showcase Charles, the new sovereign, succeeding the throne.
Building on this, the coronation will likely feature on a number of livestreams from international news outlets. Viewers can expect the BBC and BBC America to offer full television coverage of the event, while Sky News will broadcast live via their YouTube channel. A number of other international news outlets are expected to offer live blogs and rolling news coverage.
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While 2,000 dignitaries are invited to attend King Charles’ coronation, this is just a quarter of the guests who participated in the crowning of Queen Elizabeth. But Charles reportedly wanted his coronation to be a more stripped back affair with a smaller guest list.
Among those expected to attend are members of the royal family, such as Charles’s three siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, as well as his son, Prince William, and daughter-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales. Prince George will have a prominent role in the coronation as a Page of Honor, tending to King Charles alongside Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, Nicholas Barclay, and Ralph Tollemache. Meanwhile, Camilla will be tended to by additional Pages Gus and Louis Lopes, Freddy Parker Bowles, and Arthur Elliot.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were invited via email correspondence but only Harry is set to attend. Meghan will stay in California with their children, according to Buckingham Palace.
Elsewhere, representatives from the U.K. Houses of Parliament and the Church, as well as prominent politicians from the Commonwealth and around the world will likely be among the attendees. This reportedly includes the U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Humza Yousaf, the newly appointed First Minister of Scotland, and Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland.
Additionally, royals from around the world have been invited to observe a British coronation for the first time in royal history: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco, and Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko will observe the event. Other royals attending include Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and King Carl XVI Gustav and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden. Charles has reportedly extended invites to rulers of Arab states.
U.S. President Joe Biden, who is Irish American and has long held a personal discomfort with the British monarchy, will not attend. Instead, the President told Charles that the First Lady, Jill Biden, will attend the coronation on his behalf, according to the White House.
Other world leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are likely to be present for the celebration. And all three presidents of the European Union’s main institutions—Roberta Metsola, Charles Michel, and Ursula von der Leyen—have confirmed that they will be present.
British celebrities are also expected at the coronation itself. British Vogue editor Edward Enninful will be present along with actor Dame Joanna Lumley, and television presenter duo Ant & Dec.
While Charles is already Britain’s monarch, a suitable amount of time must pass before his official coronation could take place. Queen Elizabeth, for example, was crowned on June 2, 1953, 15 months after her father King George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952.
This is typically so a monarch is afforded enough time to mourn the loss of their predecessor, as well as time to plan the large-scale event.
King Charles III will be crowned with St. Edward’s Crown, a 17th Century, solid gold headpiece that has been integral to British coronations for over 350 years. It was made for Charles II by the royal goldsmith, Robert Vyner, in 1661 to replace a crown that was melted down in 1649.
The distinctive design consists of a solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes, and tourmalines. The crown has a purple velvet cap with an ermine fur band.
The crown—which was also worn by Queen Elizabeth during her 1953 coronation ceremony—is known for its remarkable weight. It is therefore only used at the exact moment of coronation.
In the months leading up to Charles’ big day, the crown was removed from its home with the other crown jewels in the Tower of London, and subject to modifications. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth, there has been a lot of tension surrounding the crown jewels with renewed calls for some of them to be returned to the former British colonies they hail from.
After the coronation, Charles will also wear the Imperial State crown, created for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
Aside from his crown, Charles is set to reuse historic items of clothing from the royal collection. These include the vestments that featured in the coronations of King George IV in 1821, King George V in 1911, King George VI in 1937, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
The monarch will wear a white linen tunic with a plain collar known as the Colobium Sindonis after he is anointed. He will also place the Supertunica—a gold full-length, sleeved gold coat—on and fasten it with the Coronation Sword Belt. The Supertunica was made in 1911 for the Coronation of King George V, and was worn by subsequent monarchs King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II at their respective coronations in 1937 and 1953.
He will also wear the Imperial Mantle robe over the Supertunica and the Coronation Glove. The golden embroidered robe, which is woven with roses, thistles, shamrocks, crowns, eagles, and fleurs-de-lis, is the oldest vestment being used in the Coronation Service.
The coronation will be celebrated in the U.K. with various events across three days. The coronation ceremony itself will take place on Saturday, May 6, at 11 a.m. local time and it will last for just over an hour. Charles and Camilla will arrive at the venue by traveling along “The King’s Procession” in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.
During the ceremony, the British public will be invited to swear an oath to King Charles known as the Homage of the People. The declaration will state, “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”
Once crowned, the King and Queen will depart the Abbey in the Gold State Coach to undertake “The Coronation Procession,” a 1.3 mile journey back to Buckingham palace. The royal family will then gather on the palace balcony to wave at onlookers.
The following day, communities across Britain will host coronation lunches for the people in their neighborhood. By nightfall, the coronation concert featuring Take That, Lionel Ritchie, and Katy Perry will kick off on the East Lawn of Windsor Castle. Other performers include Tiwa Savage, Paloma Faith, Nicole Scherzinger, and Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor. The concert will also feature appearances from Tom Cruise, Sir Tom Jones, Ncuti Gatwa, Dame Joan Collins, and Bear Grylls, among others.
On the third and final day of coronation events on Monday, May 8—which will be a bonus public holiday for Brits—charity partners of the monarchy will take part in The Big Help Out, a community project encouraging people to dedicate time to volunteering.
While it’s hard to nail down a concrete figure, King Charles’ royal inheritance has made him an undoubtedly wealthy man. Forbes estimates that the monarch inherited $500 million upon the Queen’s death on Sep. 8, 2022. The inheritance includes a number of private estates as well as a robust real estate portfolio, some of which are technically owned by the U.K. government. Forbes estimates these properties are worth about $42 billion.
The royal family generates revenue from three key streams: The Sovereign Grant, a public fund via the British government, and the Duchy of Lancester and the Duchy of Cornwall—both portfolios of land, property, and assets.
The Sovereign Grant is a 15% cut of profits generated by The Crown Estate, a £14.3 billion ($18.3 billion) real estate business owned by the government. Last year, the Sovereign Grant to the Royal Family was about $107 million.
The Duchy of Lancaster is a stream of income that privately belongs to the British sovereign. The estate, mostly in North England and the Midlands, is made up of over 45,668 acres held in trust and has a value of £652 million ($805 million), according to the Guardian.
The Duchy of Cornwall is a business portfolio belonging to the Prince of Wales—the title previously held by Charles as the heir to the throne. It consists of 130,000 acres of land predominantly in south-west England, and worth over £1 billion ($1.25 billion). When Charles ascended to the throne, Prince William inherited the duchy and became, on paper, a billionaire.
Britain is still reeling from a cost-of-living crisis, though that’s not obvious from the price tag of Charles’ coronation. The country is spending top-dollar for a party fit for a king: The long weekend is expected to cost British taxpayers at least £100 million ($125 million), according to estimates.
Queen Elizabeth’s coronation cost £1.57 million, or £56 million in today’s British pounds. Charles’ coronation, which was meant to be a slimmed-down affair compared to the late Queen’s, comes with the higher price tag in part because of higher contemporary security costs.
In 1967, a series of exemptions were written into British laws to exclude British monarchs from culpability. The legal doctrine, known as “sovereign immunity,” prevents Charles from having criminal and civil proceedings brought against him. This immunity, however, extends beyond his public duties and applies to his private dealings.
Some of these privileged exemptions are quirky, such as being able to drive without a license or travel without a passport. But many are concerning. These include not being “legally liable to pay income tax, capital gains tax, or inheritance tax,” or have to comply with workplace race and gender equality laws.
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