Does King Charles need a coronation? - BBC News (2023)

  • By Lauren Potts
  • BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

King Charles III's coronation on 6 May is likely to showcase the sort of lavish royal pageantry the British are famous for. But it is also a deeply religious occasion steeped in centuries-old traditions that, to some, might seem out of place in 2023. Does such an event hold the significance it once did and does the monarch need one at all?

In just a few weeks' time, millions of people across the UK will witness a rare event.

While we might be used to the pomp, crowds and street parties that accompany royal celebrations and jubilees, it's been 70 years since we've seen a coronation. This is an entirely different affair, littered with curiosities: a medieval oath, holy oil poured on to a 12th Century spoon, and a 700-year-old chair housing a stone that supposedly roared when it recognised the rightful monarch.

Some experts liken a coronation to a wedding - but instead of a spouse, the monarch is being married to the state. The 2,000 people who will watch King Charles crowned at Westminster Abbey will be asked whether they recognise him as monarch. He will then be given a coronation ring and asked to swear an oath.


(Video) Coronation concert: Prince William 'so proud' of King Charles - BBC News

If all of this sounds like something from a bygone age, it's because coronation ceremonies in the UK have changed little over the past 1,000 years. By law, there's no need for them, as the monarch succeeds automatically on the death of their predecessor. But they're a symbolic gesture that formalises the monarch's commitment to the role, says Dr George Gross, who is leading a research project on coronations at Kings College London.

He believes the promises a monarch makes to "uphold law and justice with mercy" in a public statement is a unique and special moment.

"In an uncertain world where leaders break international rules of law all the time, our monarch has to say 'these are the fundamental things that matter', and that doesn't jar to me."

Image source, Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Bringing together old and new?

What happens next perhaps sums up what the coronation is: a fundamentally religious occasion. An outline of the cross is traced on the monarch's head, hands and chest using a consecrated oil, dispensed on to the medieval spoon.

The anointing process elevates "the monarch almost to a priest", says Dr Gross, and signals the monarch's role as head of the church.

"It's an Anglican ceremony and the anointing is essential to that as the conferment of God's grace on the monarch," says Dr David Torrance, who has written a parliamentary research paper on coronations.

"But it's also the Church of England reminding everyone they're one of the established churches of the UK and the monarch is its supreme governor."

This moment is done in private because it is seen as an intimate moment, and for practicality reasons since the monarch wears fewer clothes at this point, says Dr Elena Woodacre, director of the Royal Studies Network. Cameras are likely to pan away as they did when Queen Elizabeth was disrobed of her cloak and jewellery during her televised coronation in 1953.

(Video) Prince Harry arrives at King Charles's Coronation in Westminster Abbey - BBC News

Image source, Keystone/Getty Images

Instead of using the oil from the previous coronation - as some monarchs have done - a fresh batch has been made this year. Previously it contained animal products like civet oil and ambergris, which is found in sperm whales, but this vegan and cruelty-free version is made partly from olives. In a possible nod to other faiths, they were grown at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, where the King's grandmother Princess Alice is buried.

But the choice of oil is also in keeping with "modern sensibilities", says Dr Woodacre, adding that it "blends tradition and continuity with adaptation and change" at a moment where some question whether the monarchy still has a place.

"The coronation is the King's chance to plug into the power of the past and shape his future. All of these ancient traditions like the Abbey and the use of the spoon help reinforce his position."

Image source, Patriarchate of Jerusalem and Buckingham Palace

(Video) How King Charles’ coronation will compare to Queen Elizabeth’s

Do we care about tradition?

Graham Smith, from pressure group Republic which campaigns for an elected head of state, questions whether tradition is a valid argument when coronations have "changed in scale, scope and content every time".

"Most people can't remember the last time, so it's not a tradition that means anything to anybody," he says. "It has no constitutional value, it's not required, and if we didn't do it, Charles would still be King."

Indeed, a monarch doesn't need a coronation to rule and a handful have done so without one, like Edward VIII, who abdicated before his. European monarchies got rid of coronations long ago and public opinion suggests interest is perhaps waning in the UK.

A recent YouGov poll found 48% of respondents were not very, or at all, likely to watch the coronation. Another, conducted around the time of the Queen's platinum jubilee, found that while six in 10 supported the monarchy, the majority of Brits felt the Royal Family was less important to the country than it was in 1952.

Image source, Getty/SOPA Images

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, says the UK's religious landscape for example has "changed beyond all recognition" since the last coronation in 1953 and "many will feel alienated by an Anglican ceremony".

Dr Torrance agrees central aspects of the ceremony might have been familiar to people then and perhaps less so now. But he says statistics show congregations in London are increasing and many Anglican churches are very busy.

"When the Queen died we had a lot of religion mingled with ceremony. I think the Palace was surprised by the public response… a lot paid quite close attention," he says. "If there's an effort to make the coronation less exclusively Anglican, it might be taking into account that the UK now has a proliferation of different faiths."

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A 21st Century coronation?

It remains, however, that the essential part of the ceremony is tied to one faith, says Prof Anna Whitelock, director of the Centre for the Study of Modern Monarchy.

(Video) WATCH LIVE: The coronation of King Charles III

"The problem is that at the heart of it is the anointing [and] the oath which is about upholding the Church of England. The fact is you can't change the fundamental parts of the coronation, which is exclusive, it's not diverse, it's about privilege and everything that a multi-faith, multi-ethnic Britain isn't about."

Prof Whitelock agrees that attempts have been made to modernise the coronation such as making it smaller in comparison to the last one, commissioning new music, and involving diverse guests, "but it's an attempt to change the style [when] you can't change the substance".

She suspects any meaningful change would require a major overhaul, like disestablishment of the Church of England or a referendum on the monarchy, neither of which she expects to see any time soon.

"The monarchy's legitimacy is based on tradition and continuity, so I think if Prince William was to do away with the coronation it would be seen as too much and undermining of the institution, and I don't think we're there yet."

Image source, WPA Pool

Dr Gross believes there are attempts to modernise it in other ways, including the question of cost.

He says while it's not uncommon for coronations to happen during economically difficult times - citing George VI's, which was held during a great depression - the decision to reduce the guestlist for King Charles' to a quarter of the numbers that attended his mother's might be an attempt by the palace to keep costs "reasonable".

But at a time when people are struggling financially, critics say a coronation costing millions is a public waste of money. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport wasn't able to provide estimates but clearly it won't be cost-free. Nor could it yet reveal how much the Queen's state funeral cost last year, though for comparison, the Queen Mother's in 2002 reportedly cost £5.4m.

The public reaction to both their deaths, however, suggests there remains some level of interest in the monarchy.

An estimated 250,000 people lined up in September to see the late Queen lying in-state and similar numbers turned out for her mother. Relative to the UK population of 67 million this might seem low but about 40% watched the funeral on TV.

(Video) See the sights and sounds of King Charles III’s coronation

Whether the coronation has the same effect remains to be seen, though Prof Whitelock is sceptical.

"There's no doubt some people will watch it and say it's what Britain does best with the pomp and pageantry. But the idea that one man, who by accident of birth, is being anointed and set above the rest of us; who is unelected, and doesn't represent Britain religiously or ethnically, jars badly."


Will there be an official coronation for Charles? ›

The Coronation Service of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla will take place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6th May 2023 at 1100hrs.

Why does Charles need a coronation? ›

In the United Kingdom, the BBC notes, the coronation formalizes "the monarch's role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of their title and powers."

How long will Charles coronation last? ›

King Charles III's coronation is due to last around two hours. The ceremony should begin at 11am BST and is meant to be coming to an end at 1pm BST.

Who is going to the coronation of King Charles III? ›

Foreign royals

King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan; King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain; and King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden all attended the Coronation. Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco were also in attendance.

Will Camilla be queen when Charles is crowned? ›

Camilla is a non-birth member of the royal family, so she will not hold authority, but she was crowned queen alongside her husband, the king. The pair first met when they were young and have walked a long, winding road to get to a point where Charles, 74, could call her his wife and now, queen.

At what time will King Charles be crowned? ›

What time will King Charles be crowned? Following the sacred anointing ceremony, the physical crowning of King Charles will take place at around 12 noon.

Will Camilla be queen if Charles dies? ›

So, what would happen to Camilla's title if King Charles were to pass away? Basically, she'd retain the Queen title, but would go from a Queen Consort to a Queen Dowager.

What will the Charles era be called? ›

Therefore, this current period in history has been understood to be called the new Carolean era.

Who would be queen if Charles dies? ›

Charles's eldest son, Prince William, is now first in line to the throne. Like his father before him, he's been granted the title Prince of Wales, as well as Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge, and William's wife Catherine is now Princess of Wales.

Who is invited to the coronation 2023? ›

British royals

That includes Charles's three siblings, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward, along with his son, Prince William, and daughter-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales. Prince Harry will attend, but Meghan, Duchess of Sussex will not.

Who is the next heir after King Charles III? ›

King Charles III is the sovereign, and his heir apparent is his elder son, William, Prince of Wales.

Where will King Charles be coronated? ›

What happens to Camilla if King Charles passes away? ›

So, what would happen to Camilla's title if King Charles were to pass away? Basically, she'd retain the Queen title, but would go from a Queen Consort to a Queen Dowager.

What is difference between queen and Queen Consort? ›

As NBC royal commentator Daisy McAndrew puts it, a “queen consort is a woman who married a man who is king,” and a “queen is a woman who is born to be queen and is head of state — not the wife of a monarch.”

What will Camilla be called after the coronation? ›

The decision is unprecedented since the late Queen Elizabeth II said in February last year that it was her “sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort”. Buckingham Palace confirmed last month that Camilla will be known as Queen after the coronation.

What went wrong at coronation? ›

Then, the coronation ring was painfully forced onto her ring finger rather than her little finger, which it had been intended for. Victoria had to soak her hand in a bucket of ice following the ceremony to get it off. Things also took an embarrassing turn when one of the lords paying tribute fell down the steps. Oops!

What date is the king's coronation 2023? ›

How much will the coronation cost? ›

Advertisement. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Given the coronation is a national state occasion, funding sources will include the sovereign grant and the UK government.” A member of Operation Golden Orb organising committee told The Sun that the ceremony may have cost £100 million.

What if Charles died before Elizabeth? ›

Prince William could have become king directly after Queen Elizabeth II only if Charles had died before her, according to Robert Hazell, a professor of government and the constitution at the University College London. If Prince William becomes king, then Kate Middleton will become the queen.

What will the era be called when Charles 3rd is king? ›

King Charles III's reign is known as the Carolean era. The reigns of Charles I from 1625 to 1649, and Charles II, from 1660 to 1685, were also named the Carolean eras. The name originates from the Latin name for Charles, Carolus.

What will Charles be called after Elizabethan era? ›

Why is King Charles III reign called 'the Carolean era'? The Carolean era began after King Charles ascended to the throne, following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022. The word Carolean comes from the name Charles.

Can there be two queen mothers? ›

Instead, Augusta held the title of "Dowager Princess of Wales" (a precedent was Henry VII of England's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, titled "My Lady the King's Mother"); Srinagarindra meanwhile received the designation "Princess Mother". As there is only one monarch, there can only be one queen mother.

Who will replace the Queen? ›

King Charles will replace Queen Elizabeth on Canadian $20 bill and coins Back to video.

Will Harry be at King Charles coronation? ›

Prince Harry attended the ceremony without his wife, Meghan Markle. Prince Harry and Princess Anne, along with the Prince and Princess of Wales, are among the royals attending the coronation.

What will Prince William wear at coronation? ›

Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales Prince William is wearing the ceremonial uniform of the Welsh Guards, while his wife, Kate, is in an ivory wool crepe dress by British designer house Alexander McQueen. She is not wearing a tiara, but a silver and crystal headpiece.

What clothes will King Charles wear for his coronation? ›

The robe is worn as the crown is bestowed on Charles's head by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both the Supertinica and Robe Royal are removed before the monarch processes out of the Abbey, wearing the Imperial State Crown and carrying the Sceptre and the Orb. He will then wear the Imperial Robe.

What is the line of succession after Charles? ›

1. Prince William, Prince of Wales: first-born child of Charles and Princess Diana. 3. Princess Charlotte: second-born child of William and Catherine.

What will Charles coronation be like? ›

The Coronation will include many of the ceremonies that were seen in the late Queen's service, such as the oath, anointing, homage and enthronment. Charles will also have the crown of St Edward placed on his head, officially crowning him King Charles III.

What caused Princess Margaret's death? ›

Her health deteriorated in the last twenty years of her life. She was a heavy smoker for most of her adult life and had a lung operation in 1985, a bout of pneumonia in 1993 as well as three strokes between 1998 and 2001. Margaret died in February 2002 aged 71, after suffering her fourth stroke.

What time will Charles leave Buckingham Palace for coronation? ›

2:30 p.m. A six-minute ceremonial flight of 60 aircraft, including the Royal Air Force aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows, is set to fly overhead, passing by Buckingham Palace. That will conclude the official agenda, and Charles will retire to take a coronation portrait and have a family lunch.

Who pays for the coronation? ›

As a state occasion, King Charles's coronation is paid for with public funds. This is different to a royal wedding, which is a personal family moment with some public elements to it, so the cost is split between private funds and public money. King Charles III's coronation takes place on May 6, 2023.

Who will be on the balcony at the coronation of King Charles? ›

The answer was no. Harry, who left his official duties as a member of the British royal family in 2020, didn't make it onto the balcony with his father. Instead, Charles was flanked by his other son, heir to the throne Prince William, the king's wife, Queen Camilla, and other members of the royal family.

Who is leading coronation procession? ›

Brigade Major Lieutenant Colonel James Shaw has the honour of leading the Coronation Procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.

Why isn t Harry at the coronation? ›

The two princes will not join the procession behind the newly-crowned king and queen as they return from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace after the ceremony. Harry and Andrew are no longer "working" members of the royal family. Harry very publicly gave up his role, while Andrew had his duties taken away.

What will the coronation of Charles be like? ›

After the oath, Charles will be anointed with holy oil from Jerusalem by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will pour the oil onto a spoon and anoint Charles' hands, head and breast. Then, Charles will be given the royal robe, the orb, the coronation ring, the sceptre and the rod of his position.

Why isn t Prince Harry on the balcony? ›

In an effort for a "slimmed-down monarchy," King Charles reportedly only invited working members of the royal family to join him on the palace balcony. This excludes Prince Harry, who famously stepped back from his royal duties in 2020.

What will happen at King Charles coronation? ›

2:30 p.m. A six-minute ceremonial flight of 60 aircraft, including the Royal Air Force aerobatic display team, the Red Arrows, is set to fly overhead, passing by Buckingham Palace. That will conclude the official agenda, and Charles will retire to take a coronation portrait and have a family lunch.

Is Camilla a consort? ›

What is the most sacred part of the coronation? ›

After the sermon, the ancient hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus is sung in languages from across the United Kingdom, calling on the Holy Spirit just before the most sacred part of the Coronation rite—the anointing with holy oil.


1. LIVE: King Charles' Coronation procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey
2. See King Charles, royal family leave Westminster after coronation
3. Royal insider gives behind-the-scenes preview of King Charles’ coronation
(ABC News)
4. See King Charles, William, Kate and George arrive at Westminster
5. Who's going to King Charles III's coronation ceremony?
(CBS News)
6. LIVE | The Coronation of King Charles III
(Eyewitness News ABC7NY)


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