Q&A: Why is there a coronation and what exactly is happening?

Q&A: Why is there a coronation and what exactly is happening? thumbnail

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King Charles III’s coronation is the first to be staged in Britain for 70 years.

Here is the lowdown on the big day.

– When and where is the coronation?

May 6 in Westminster Abbey in central London, with the ceremony beginning at 11am.

– What will happen during the coronation?

The King will be anointed with holy oil and crowned with the St Edward’s Crown by the Archbishop of Canterbury in front of 2,000 guests.

– Why does there have to be a coronation?

Tradition, as a way of celebrating a new monarch.

But it also has a deeply religious significance – the anointing of the King with holy oil during the Anglican service signals he has been chosen by God to be monarch.

– So is Charles not King yet?

He is already King. He acceded to the throne as the sovereign the moment his mother Queen Elizabeth II died in September.

– Why did he not have a coronation straight away?

It takes a long time to plan. The coronation is also a moment of pageantry and celebration – very different from the mourning period which followed the late Queen’s death.

– How much is it going to cost?

Millions. Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation cost £912,000 – £20.5 million in today’s money, while George VI’s 1937 ceremony cost £454,000 – which would have come to £24.8 million in 2023.

– And who will foot the bill?

The British taxpayer. A coronation is a state occasion paid for by the Government. The taxpayer will also pay for the security costs involved.

– Do we get a day off?

Yes. There is an extra bank holiday in the UK on May 8 to celebrate.

– Are the pubs open later?

Pubs, clubs and bars are allowed to stay open for an extra two hours from May 5 until May 7, closing at 1am instead of 11pm.

– Will Camilla be crowned as well?

Yes. A Queen Consort is anointed and crowned in a simpler ceremony during the King’s coronation service.

She has chosen to use Queen Mary’s Crown – but without its original controversial Koh-i-noor diamond – and with the addition of the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds from Queen Elizabeth II’s personal jewellery collection.

– Can I watch it on TV?

Absolutely. The service will be shown in full with a live broadcast, filmed by the BBC.

– Can I watch it on a big screen?

More than 30 screens are being erected in cities and towns around the UK, with confirmed sites including Cardiff Castle, Belfast City Hall, Piece Hall in Halifax, Jubilee Square in Brighton and Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester.

– How long will it last?

Hours. The ceremony will be two hours, but the TV broadcast will be longer, with politicians and overseas guests arriving at the abbey from 9.30am.

There will be a “King’s Procession” from Buckingham Palace to the abbey, with Charles and Camilla riding in the modern, comfortable Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which has hydraulic shock absorbers and air con.

And coverage will include the grander “Coronation Procession” back to the Palace and a balcony appearance afterwards.

– I don’t want to watch all of it. What should I tune in to see?

The moment the King is crowned at midday. This is expected to be the defining image of the day, alongside the balcony appearance at around 2.15pm.

– Who will be among the guests?

The royal family will be out in force, with even the Duke of Sussex there, but the Duchess of Sussex is staying in California.

The Prince and Princess of Wales’s eldest son Prince George will be one of eight Pages of Honour, and Princess Charlotte, with possibly Prince Louis, is set to be in the church.

US First Lady Jill Biden will be there, but not President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty have a seat, and while Cabinet ministers have been invited, their spouses have not.

Leaders of opposition parties, the first ministers of devolved governments, former PMs and foreign royals are guests, as are more than 850 community and charity representatives from across the UK.

– Will Charles use the same crown as his mother?

Yes. The coronation crown – St Edward’s Crown – has been altered to make sure it fits.

Made for Charles II in 1661, it has a solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes and tourmalines, and a purple velvet cap with an ermine band.

– Will the other Crown Jewels be there?

Yes. The sacred Coronation Regalia – including the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the Sovereign’s Orb, and the Coronation Spoon – will be brought to the abbey from the Tower of London and used during the service.

The King will wear the lighter Imperial State Crown on the journey back to Buckingham Palace afterwards.

– Anything controversial?

Aside from the cost, controversies include Camilla being presented during the service with the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove which is made from ivory.

The King will hold the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross which features the Cullinan I diamond, but there have been demands for the gem to be returned to South Africa.

The ancient Stone of Destiny is brought from Edinburgh to sit under the Coronation Chair, but there have been calls for it to remain in Scotland this time.

The stone was used to inaugurate Scottish royalty for centuries, before being removed from the country by King Edward I in 1296. It was finally officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

Harry will appear in public with his family for the first time since he openly criticised them in his Netflix documentary and autobiography Spare.

The King’s brother the Duke of York, who paid millions to settle a civil sexual assault case, will also be in the abbey.

And the guest list is more than 6,000 less than the late Queen’s coronation, leading some non-invitees to complain about being snubbed.

Anti-monarchy group Republic is staging the largest protest in its history along the procession route and in Trafalgar Square, but has vowed to make its demonstration peaceful, but loud.

– What happens after the service? 

The “Coronation Procession” – with Charles and Camilla travelling in the Gold State Coach back to the Palace.

Some 6,000 servicemen and women are taking part on the day – the largest military ceremonial operation in 70 years.

The King and Camilla will take a royal salute from the military in the Palace gardens, and also be joined by the royal family on the palace balcony for a flypast and to wave at the crowds.

– What other official coronation celebrations are taking place?

On Sunday, the nation will be encouraged to spend the day at street parties and hosting coronation Big Lunches.

Then in the evening, a coronation concert with Take That, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie is being staged at Windsor Castle, attended by the royals, and shown live on the BBC.

Landmarks across the UK will be lit up using projections, lasers, drone displays and illuminations.

Monday – the bank holiday – is being billed as the “Big Help Out” with The Together Coalition urging people to try volunteering to support their communities.