Shortcuts / 04 May 2023

King Charles’s coronation

King Charles III will be crowned on Saturday alongside his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort. The coronation is a centuries-old ceremony packed with symbols and meaning that the world hasn’t seen for 70 years… So in this Squiz Shortcut, we’ll take you through the ceremony’s rituals, have a look at what we can expect this time around, and give you some of the lesser-known talking points so you can glisten like a crown jewel at your coronation party.

Hang on, isn’t Charles already the King?
Good observation skills… He became King quickly after his mother, Queen Elizabeth, died in September last year. The UK monarchy is hereditary, so the throne passes immediately and without ceremony to the heir. But there is a bit of a ceremony involved…

Go on…
Well, you might remember the time Charles got cranky about a leaky pen… That was at the official proclamation at St James’s Palace in London that took place in front of the Accession Council.

The what?
We could go down a meandering path about the Accession Council but we’ll save you the headache… It’s enough to say that the official proclamation of Charles becoming the sovereign was signed by several senior figures including the prime minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

So it’s similar to the swearing-in ceremony the PM gets?
Not quite… At an accession ceremony, the new monarch makes a declaration to uphold the constitutional government of the United Kingdom. It locks them into doing things the way they have been done for centuries by keeping the crown and state separate.

Gotcha. So if Charles is already the sovereign, what’s the point?
There are 3 main reasons – it’s symbolic, it’s religious, and it’s also about the state. So it ties together in one neat ceremony what it is to be the sovereign. And, it’s just great PR…

What’s the history behind it?
The earliest form of the ceremony has been traced by historians to King Edgar’s coronation in 973 AD at Bath Abbey – he was the first king of All England. And for the past 900 years, the coronation has been held in Westminster Abbey in London. William the Conqueror was the first monarch to be crowned there, and Charles will be the 40th.

It’s been a while since the last coronation…
It sure has, and Charles’s ceremony is particularly notable because Queen Elizabeth was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Her coronation was in June 1953 – so it will be just a smidge under 70 years since there’s been a coronation of a British monarch.

And Elizabeth became Queen quite young…
Yes, she was just 25yo when her father King George VI died in 1952 at 56yo. And now 70 years later her son Charles will be crowned King at 74yo.

Alright, enough history. Who’s in charge of organising Saturday’s big event?
A coronation is a state occasion, and while it does take place in Westminster Abbey, the government is in control of the event through the Earl Marshal. He has authority over all matters regarding the ceremony and the Abbey’s keys are surrendered to him while the church is made ready.

The Earl what?
The Earl Marshal is one of what they call the great Officers of State. Currently, that’s Edward Fitzalan-Howard – he is the 18th Duke of Norfolk, and he’s been busy…

Why’s that?
He was responsible for the Queen’s funeral and now, King Charles’s coronation.

Geez. So what kind of role does the church have in the coronation?
It plays a big part – the ceremony is an Anglican religious service overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He also has the job of crowning the Sovereign and the Queen Consort.

That’s a pretty big deal… What does that involve?
Well, becoming sovereign is also taking an oath to swear, among other things, to “maintain and preserve” the establishment of the Church of England as the defender of the faith and the church’s supreme leader.

I feel like there are a lot of ‘other things’…
You’d be right – there are 5 stages to the coronation to be exact…

Go on then…
So the monarch enters Westminster Abbey wearing the big, crimson robe of state, and they start what’s called the recognition. Basically, that involves the monarch standing beside the 700-year-old Coronation Chair facing east, and then the Archbishop of Canterbury will say, “Sirs, I here present unto you King Charles, your undoubted King. Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service, are you willing to do the same?”

I’m on the edge of my seat…
Okay, smarty pants… Moving on, the crowd says, “God Save the King!” and trumpets sound. And then they face south and do the same thing. Then there are more trumpets, and then they face west – then there are more trumpets, then they face north.

And let me guess, there are more trumpets…
Alright, let’s not go through this blow-by-blow… But it illustrates how each part of the ceremony is packed with meaning like that recognition – that part is about the monarch’s people – north, south, east, and west – making a commitment to them, as the sovereign does for their people.

Right. So what’s next?
There’s an actual oath that the monarch takes. It’s a bit like a wedding vow – they make a promise to govern their people according to their respective laws and customs. That’s where Australia will get a mention by name. And then the 3rd part is the anointing.

Ooh, that sounds fun…
That involves the monarch’s ceremonial robe being removed and they sit in the Coronation Chair. The Archbishop anoints the King’s hands, breast and head with holy oil. We don’t get to see that – they hold up a gold cloth so no one can see.

The thought of seeing the King’s breast is a bit much… So there’s even more?
You betcha. The investiture comes next – that’s when the sovereign is presented with the Royal Orb, which represents religious and moral authority; the Sceptre, representing power; and the Sovereign’s Sceptre, a rod of gold topped with a white enamelled dove, a symbol of justice and mercy.

And isn’t there a crown?
Yep – after all that, the Archbishop places St Edward’s Crown on the King’s head. This is when we’ll find out how good his neck muscles are… It’s made of solid gold – it was made for Charles II in 1661 – it is only used at the moment of coronation because it weighs 2.2kg.

Okay, there can’t be much left after that…
There’s just one more thing – the enthronement. That’s when the monarch leaves the Coronation Chair and moves to the throne. In previous coronations, the ‘peers’ – or the British nobility – would kneel before the monarch to pay homage. But that’s been changed by Charles – instead, members of the public have been invited to pledge allegiance to him instead.

And we’re done… So how long is this all going to take on Saturday?
Queen Elizabeth’s service took 3 hours, and the officials are saying Charles’s service will take a bit more than an hour… So it’ll be interesting to see how they move through all of that – and remember it’s also Camilla’s coronation, so there are things she has to do too.

And millions will be tuning in…
Yep, it’s a far cry from Queen Elizabeth’s ceremony, which revolutionised the way the royal family was viewed by her people and it started by letting TV cameras into her coronation. Out of the UK’s 36 million strong population at the time, 27 million people watched the ceremony on television.

And isn’t Charles bringing some personal touches to his ceremony?
So one of the changes is that the anointing oil we mentioned earlier is coming from Jerusalem. It was created using olives harvested there, including from the Monastery of Mary Magdalene which is the burial place of Charles’ grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece. It’s been specially created for Charles and won’t contain any ingredients derived from animals, which was his request.

How quintessentially Charles… Anything else?
There will also be new music from Andrew Lloyd Webber incorporated into the big event, and – taking a cue from Meghan and Harry – there will also be a gospel choir. And there’s been a campaign to recruit thousands of bell-ringers to mark the coronation under what they call the ‘Ring for the King’ scheme.

And we have to mention the Coronation Quiche…
It’s certainly had a mixed reception… The official recipe says it’s “a deep quiche with a crisp pastry case, and delicate flavours of spinach, broad beans and fresh tarragon. Eat hot or cold with a green salad and boiled new potatoes – perfect for a Coronation Big Lunch!”

I don’t mind a quiche… So how much is all this costing?
There are no official figures, but they’re talking about £100 million – so about $190 million.

And our PM will be attending the big day?
Yep, Anthony Albanese will be there alongside our Governor-General David Hurley, the state governors and a hand-picked contingent of Aussies to attend the coronation, so look out for them in the crowd.

I’ll be waiting with a slice of quiche in hand…
We’re more of a Coronation Chicken kind of person, but you do you…

Squiz recommends:

19 rarely seen images of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronationVogue

Recipes for Coronation Quiche and Coronation Chicken

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