King Charles III Modernizes Coronation and Strips Back Ancient Traditions
When King Charles III is crowned in June 2023, the accompanying ceremony will be a decidedly streamlined affair and will strip back a lot of the ancient traditions it usually entails. This is in comparison to the anointment of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and her immediate predecessors on the British throne.
The Daily Mail reported that the new king’s coronation guest list will be trimmed down significantly from the 8,000-plus people who attended his mother Queen Elizabeth II’s investiture in 1953. Other changes will further alter the nature of what in the past had been a rather large and ostentatious spectacle. This is in line with King Charles III’s plan to update the monarchy to reflect modern standards and expectations. “The King has stripped back a lot of the Coronation, in recognition that the world has changed in the past 70 years,” a royal source explained when discussing Charles III’s coronation.
Official coronation portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the mother and predecessor of Charles III whose coronation ceremony will take place in June 2023. ( Public domain )
King Charles III’s Coronation Ceremony: Operation Golden Orb
The preliminary plan for Charles III’s coronation ceremony, codenamed Operation Golden Orb, discloses a number of interesting details about the upcoming coronation. Among these startling revelations is the fact that King Charles III plans to invite only 2,000 people to see the event in person. This means that numerous members of Parliament, certain nobles, and many potential international guests will be excluded from the guest list, contrary to tradition and most likely their expectations!
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“There are about 700 peers,” said retired Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Mather. “Well they won’t all be there.” Mather helped plan Queen Elizabeth’s ceremony in 1953 and is now pitching in to assist the royal transition once again. “The same with MPs: they won’t all be present because he’s not being crowned for them,” he explained when discussing Charles III’s coronation ceremony. “He’s being crowned for the people.”
The smaller guest list will represent only one of the changes in coronation protocol. Several elaborate and time-consuming rituals will be eliminated from the program, and those that are kept will include updated language more comprehensible to 21st century viewers.
Prince Charles looking out of the window of Buckingham Palace on the day of his mother’s, Queen Elizabeth II, coronation in 1953. ( National Science and Media Museum )
A Humble Coronation Ceremony, Despite the Name
One of the most notable changes will be the elimination of the custom whereby the new monarch is presented with numerous gold artifacts and objects. During her 1953 ceremony Queen Elizabeth was gifted with a solid gold ingot, along with golden spurs and bracelets and a coronation robe encrusted with gold and silver bullion, diamonds, and other precious jewels.
No gold will be presented to the king this time around, under the belief that to offer such a gift in the present economic climate would be inappropriate. “In an age where people are feeling the pinch, this is not going to happen,” explained a royal source quoted by the Daily Mail. Catering to the same sensibilities, velvet chairs made specifically for the 1953 coronation will be kept in mothballs for this ceremony, to be replaced by normal chairs.
Because it included so many formal rituals, Queen Elizabeth II´s 1953 coronation took more than three hours to complete. In contrast, King Charles III’s anointment ceremony is expected to last no more than an hour.
One of the coronation chairs created for the coronation of Elizabeth II. They were made by B North and Sons of High Wycombe and were covered with blue velvet from Listers mills in Bredford. ( Public domain )
“No Coronation Robes” – Charles III and His Relaxed Dress Code
As for the king’s dress, he plans to keep it modest but still suitable for such a profound and transformative moment. He will stick to the outfit he chooses throughout the ceremony, instead of changing his clothes several times as his mother did in 1953. “No Coronation robes,” said Lieutenant Colonel Mather. “Give them to a museum where they belong. It’s not going to be a tweed jacket and pair of jeans—but morning suit or lounge suit.”
The current plan is to relax the dress code for everyone, so the knee breaches worn my men and tiaras worn by women at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation will be replaced by the type of formal clothing that would be worn at a “normal” royal ceremony.
The Duke of Norfolk is officially in charge of organizing King Charles III’s anointment ceremony. But it is clear that the King has the final say on all matters pertaining to the event. Prince William , who is next in line to assume the throne, will also be involved in the planning of the coronation, perhaps to prepare him for the responsibilities he will be taking on when his father’s time as king comes to an end.
The Gold State Coach, seen here transporting King George II to the Houses of Parliament, is set to take part in Charles III’s coronation celebrations. ( Public domain )
A Global Audience Awaits the Arrival of the New King
While much of the pomp and circumstance associated with Queen Elizabeth II´s coronation will be scuttled, it won´t be eliminated completely. At some point during the ceremony, for example, King Charles III is expected to take a ride in the Gold State Coach, an extravagant royal transport carriage that was manufactured in 1762.
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Made mostly from gilt wood (normal wood covered with a thin layer of golden leaf), the coach was refurbished and put back into use during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration. These events, which took place in June 2022, honored Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne.
The Queen’s coronation in 1953 was televised live in Great Britain and was the first such ceremony to appear on television anywhere in the world. The coronation was broadcast into every British home that had a television (not that large a number in 1953), and it is estimated that 20 million people saw some or all of the ceremony on their own set or on that of a friend or neighbor.
King Charles III’s coronation ceremony will likewise be televised live. But this time it will be witnessed by a global audience that may number in the hundreds of millions. What they see will undoubtedly seem tame and subdued to British senior citizens who still remember his mother’s spectacular coronation seven decades ago.
Top image: King Charles III’s coronation is set to be an understated affair. Source: Maksym Yemelyanov / Adobe Stock
By Nathan Falde