From the Canadian Horse Connection to the Dress Code, a Mix of Fun and Serious Coronation Facts
King Charles III with Noble, a horse given to him by the RCMP earlier this year, as he formally accepts the role of Commissioner-in-Chief during a ceremony in the quadrangle at Windsor Castle, April 28, 2023. Photo: Andrew Matthews - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Buckingham Palace has gone to great efforts to modernize the coronation of King Charles III: trimming down and democratizing the guest list, simplifying the dress code, shortening the ceremony. Some of the ideas are fun and quirky — the official coronation quiche, the coronation emoji, the coronation playlist — and other elements are as solemn as the religious ceremony itself. As many of us haven’t witnessed a coronation in our lifetimes, here are some random facts that stand out as newsworthy about the King’s big day on Saturday.
The Coronation Programme
There was a surprise element in the official programme released earlier this month: included was a family photograph taken on the occasion of the then Prince Charles’ 70th birthday in 2018. Harry and Meghan are in this photo, taken before their son Archie was born and before they left their roles as senior roles. Also present were William and Kate and their three children. It appears to be a happy throwback (though we now know things were less happy from Harry and Meghan’s point of view) and a seemingly pointed attempt to include the couple. It has been observed that King Charles has many photographs of the couple up in his palaces, which have been visible in official photography since he acceded.
Who Is off the List
In the main, the hereditary peers have been left off the coronation invite list. There are 30 dukes (that includes six royal dukes) among the 806 hereditary peers of the realm. In past coronations, pretty much the whole lot would have attended, and pledged allegiance to the sovereign in descending order of seniority. In Charles’ slimmed-down list, only William, Prince of Wales will formally bend his knee to pledge allegiance. There has been an uproar — and much lobbying — among peers who did not make the cut in favour of common folk rounding out the 2,000 person guest list, alongside world leaders, religious emissaries and foreign royals.
Family and friends have also been left off the list. One of the more gracious responses was from Lady Pamela Hicks. The daughter of Earl Mountbatten, Hicks was a bridesmaid, lady-in-waiting and close friend of the Queen. Her daughter India Hicks is a goddaughter of Charles and was a flower girl at his wedding to Lady Diana. Said Hicks of the choice of meritocracy over aristocracy, according to her daughter, “How very sensible. I’m going to follow with great interest the events of this new reign.”
The Dress Code
Aside from the King and Queen Consort, the clothing at the coronation will be much toned down. Working members of the Royal Family and senior military officers are likely to arrive in uniform, but everyone else has been asked to wear daytime formal: so morning suits (with tails and waistcoats) or lounge suits (business suits) and day dresses for ladies, with hats instead of tiaras and coronets.
Peers of the realm who did get invited were explicitly told not to wear their scarlet coronation robes. These are often family heirlooms, sometimes dating back hundreds of years, worn only for a few hours at a coronation. The King made the decision in yet another effort to modernize the ceremony. Just think, a sea of crimson would have been beautiful, yes, but also highly symbolic of the class divides in England that the King is keen to play down. Sitting members of the House of Lords may wear their parliamentary robes, however, as the Telegraph explains, “these do not include coronets, swords, court shoes, breeches or an under-jacket.”
The choices of attendants to the King and Queen Consort are also a bit unusual. The King’s pages of honour are his grandson George, 9, who is second in line to the throne, along with three older boys: Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, Ralph Tollemache and Nicholas Barclay.
Three of Camilla’s grandsons and a great nephew will be among her attendants at the ceremony. This is a deviation from past coronations, as the attendants have previously been drawn from the noble classes. Including the males of Camilla’s own line is a sign of inclusion outside the peerage, and of the King and Queen Consort’s modern, blended family.
The boys will wear scarlet frock coats trimmed in gold, white waistcoats, breeches with hose, white gloves and ruffled cravats. The roles last for several years, and the King’s pageboys also hold his robes at the State Opening of Parliament.
Pope Francis himself has gifted King Charles reliquaries that have been embedded on the coronation cross. These are fragments from what is known as the True Cross, on which Jesus was crucified. The coronation cross will itself be new, created of Welsh slate and reclaimed wood and silver from the Royal Mint, fashioned by silversmith Michael Lloyd.
The back of the cross is adorned with words from the final sermon of St. David, the patron saint of Wales, which translated in English reads, “Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.”
The coronation is an Anglican (or Church of England) religious ceremony and the King, who will be sworn Defender of the Faith, is keen to include all the faiths that make up modern Britain and the Commonwealth.
Representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh faiths, will be present at the abbey. Last month, the Canadian parliament voted that Canada would no longer include the phrase “Defender of the Faith” in King Charles’ official title in Canada. The new language was unveiled in a budget bill. The line was dropped from the end of his Canadian title. The new language reads, “Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Canada and his other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.”
Many of us still have mugs or cookie tins from William and Kate’s wedding, or even Charles and Diana’s. (Hang on to what you have: rare artifacts sellers report that mugs from Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation now sell for US$700.) Coronation gear is all over London, from miles of Union Jack bunting to special menus at supermarkets and coffee shops featuring coronation cupcakes, sandwiches and giant chocolate King Charleses.
The Guardian reports that souvenir trade will be worth 254 million pounds sterling, a portion of the 1.4 billion pounds sterling in consumer spending attributed to the Coronation (per the Centre for Retail Research). One particularly cute bear, from department store John Lewis, sports a crown, and a purple cape with dalmatian print trim. The bears are so popular there are limits on their purchase, and are already being sold on eBay for double the 15 pound purchase price.
Wax and Lego
Madame Tussauds famous wax museum in London has installed a Queen Consort Camilla wax replica. Over at Legoland theme park in Windsor, there is now a coronation scene in the displays, where the tiny Lego King will also be crowned on Saturday.
The Canadian Horse Connection
There will be five Royal Canadian Mounted Police members on horseback taking part in the procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. They will ride ahead of the King and Queen Consort. The RCMP sent King Charles — who holds the ceremonial role of Commissioner-in-Chief — a steed named Noble to serve as his charger horse at Trooping the Colour in June. Noble was selected for his calm demeanour at public events, gaining experience as part of Musical Ride events across Canada. The RCMP has participated in royal processions since the time of Queen Victoria.