King Charles’ Coronation: The Sacred Ceremony No One’s Allowed to Watch & Why Other Monarchs Don’t Attend

After the pomp and pageantry of a grand state funeral, Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest with her husband and parents in an intimate ceremony in Windsor away from media cameras. With the national mourning ending, the next big event on the British national and royal calendar will be the coronation of King Charles III. But the moment, last seen in 1953, is months away.

News18 takes you through the wait and what to expect on the day of King Charles III’s coronation, including a secret ceremony to which only the monarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury are privy.

Wasn’t Charles Already Proclaimed King?

Yes. Charles automatically became monarch after Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 and the pomp-filled proclamation ceremony on September 11 put the constitutional seal on his succession. But he is yet to be coronated or crowned, a spectacle steeped in rituals dating back centuries.

The coronation is separate from the Accession Council, which assembles in St James’s Palace immediately upon the death of a monarch to formally proclaim the accession of the successor to the throne.

During the council, the monarch swears a sacred oath to the assembled “Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm”, declaring their Protestant faith, undertaking to maintain a Protestant succession, and promising to protect the Church of Scotland.

The ceremony was broadcast live on television for the first time when Charles was proclaimed king.

So When is the Coronation?

Not for months. The coronation will not come until later this year as this deeply symbolic ceremony takes time to organise. Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953 — some 16 months after her accession on February 6, 1952, when her father, King George VI, died. The date for Charles’ coronation is not yet known.

Where Will It be Held?

It will most likely be held at London’s Westminster Abbey, where coronation ceremonies have taken place for the past 900 years. The Abbey, also the setting for the Queen’s funeral, has been paramount for Britain’s royal family for nearly a millennium.

William I was the first king crowned in the abbey in 1066 — a tradition which has endured throughout the centuries. In 1953, Elizabeth II was crowned here, as her eldest son Charles will be. The Abbey has so far hosted 38 coronation ceremonies for reigning monarchs.

The Coronation Ceremony

The ceremony is ministered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the religious leader of the Anglican Church.

The archbishop introduces the new ruler to the audience, who applaud, before the sovereign pronounces the oath of coronation.

In the oath, written in 1688, the monarch solemnly vows to govern the British people according to the laws passed in parliament, to enforce law and justice “with leniency”, and to “do everything possible” to preserve the Anglican Church and the Protestant religion.

Britain’s Prince Philip kneels before Queen Elizabeth II as he swears homage, during the Queen’s Coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, in London on June 2, 1953. (AP)

The archbishop then anoints the leader with consecrated oil in a not-for-all-eyes ceremony, and blesses them. The sovereign finally receives their royal ornaments, including a sceptre and the crown, which is put in place by the archbishop.

The Secret Ceremony

Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 was the first time the grand affair was televised, which would make Charles III’s crowning only the second royal coronation in British history to be televised. But that doesn’t mean the general public and even those present in Westminster Abbey will be able to watch every single moment of the coronation.

The Act of Consecration, the most meaningful aspect of the entire ceremony, is considered so sacred that the 1953 Coronation Committee decreed it remain out of sight.

Describing the ritual, a BBC report said: “In preparation, the Queen was disrobed of her crimson cloak, her jewellery was removed and the young Elizabeth was clothed in a dress of purest white. It was a moment of high theatre.”

The monarch is shielded by a golden canopy held above and around her by four Knights of the Garter. The Archbishop of Canterbury is then handed the Ampulla, a solid gold flask in the shape of an eagle. Incidentally, one of the stories of its origin says the artefact was crafted in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II.

In this June 2, 1953 photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II wearing the bejeweled Imperial Crown and carrying the Orb and Scepter with Cross, leaves Westminster Abbey at the end of her coronation ceremony. (AP)

“A spoon was also passed to the archbishop… From the flask, the archbishop poured some “blessed oil” of orange, roses, cinnamon, musk and ambergris, and anointed the Queen in the form of a cross, on the palms of her hand, on the breast and on the crown of her head,” the BBC report further said, describing Elizabeth II’s coronation.

During the anointment, the archbishop will say the following words: “Be thy head anointed with holy oil: as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed. And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be you anointed, blessed and consecrated King over the Peoples, whom the Lord thy God hath given thee to rule and govern.”

It is in this moment that the monarch is believed to have become associated with the divine.

The Coronation Chair

The Coronation Chair, or the throne of King Edward, was made in 1300-1301, and has been used at each coronation since 1626.

It enclosed the Stone of Scone, which was used for centuries to crown the kings of Scotland. The stone was temporarily stolen in an audacious raid by Scottish students in 1950, who accidentally broke it in two.

Prince Charles with his grandmother, the Queen Mother, and aunt Princess Margaret at the coronation ceremony of his mother Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953. (AFP)

In 1996, with nationalist sentiment rising, it was symbolically returned to Scotland but comes back from Edinburgh Castle to Westminster for coronations.

Coronation of Camilla

Unless otherwise decided, and if the new ruler is a man, his wife is proclaimed queen and crowned, following a similar but simplified ceremony. She will become queen dowager (or queen mother if the previous queen dowager is still alive) on the death of the king, who will be succeeded by his first child, regardless of gender.

Queen Elizabeth II, in one of her last decisive acts for the succession, settled a long-running question about what Charles’ wife, Camilla, will be called. It had been intended she would become “princess consort”, as she is not the new king’s first wife, and also out of deference to Diana, princess of Wales, who was killed in a 1997 car crash.

But the queen said she gave her blessing for Camilla to become “queen consort”.

The Crown

The United Kingdom still uses regalia — costumes and ornaments such as sceptres and swords — at coronation ceremonies.

The crown of St. Edward, made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, is traditionally used during the ceremony. Made of gold, silver, rubies and sapphires, it weighs more than 2 kg and is placed on the monarch’s head at the actual moment of crowning.

A lighter crown is worn when leaving the Abbey. Composed of 2,868 diamonds, it was made in 1937 for the coronation of George VI and is also worn by the ruler at the annual opening of parliament.

The Guest List

In 1953, 8,251 guests from 181 countries and territories participated in the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Among them were many representatives of foreign monarchies. But no European sovereigns attend coronations on the continent, respecting a royal tradition. They are instead represented by the crown prince or crown princess. The modern explanation for the tradition is that a reigning monarch would steal attention from the royal joining the crown club.

After the Coronation

After the coronation ceremony, a long procession takes place in the streets of London. Although Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace are less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) apart, the procession route stretched 7.2 kilometres in 1953 to allow as many people as possible to attend.

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