History in the Making: Key Moments to Watch for During King Charles’ Coronation
The Coronation Chair inside Westminster Abbey ahead of the King's Coronation. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
From the religious symbolism of his anointment to the moment when the crown is placed on his head, what are the highlights to look out for during the coronation of King Charles on Saturday?
A grand procession by the royals in historic coaches through central London is always a highlight of any major state occasion.
For the coronation, Charles and his wife Camilla, who will also be crowned Queen during the ceremony, will break with tradition and travel from Buckingham Palace to London’s Westminster Abbey in the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach, made to commemorate his mother’s 60th year on the throne.
They will return from the Abbey in the Coronation Procession in the 260-year-old, Gold State Coach which weighs four tonnes and needs to be pulled by eight horses. It has been used at every coronation since King William IV’s in 1831 and was first used by George III to travel to the State Opening of Parliament in 1762.
The return journey will be much slower as the Gold State Coach can only travel at walking pace — but the distance itself will be about a third of the 7.2 km (4.5 mile) route taken by his mother Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 when millions thronged the streets of London to watch.
It will also involve some 4,000 armed forces personnel in a procession one mile long, making it the largest of its kind for a generation.
During the service, Charles will be anointed with holy Chrism oil, made using olives from the Mount of Olives and consecrated in Jerusalem.
The tradition dates back to the Old Testament of the Bible which describes the anointing of King Solomon by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet, and has been maintained to emphasise the spiritual status of the monarch.
“This is often thought to be the most sacred part of the ceremony,” Charles Farris, Public Historian At Historic Royal Palaces, said. “It’s an ancient and very symbolic ceremony … historically it was akin to the anointing of priests and bishops.
“It’s a way of the church cementing their relationship with the new monarch but also a clear symbol to all present that the monarch has been marked out as very special.”
The ceremony will feature 12 new works, which Charles commissioned or selected, including a new coronation anthem by musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Along with the new, there will be the usual trumpet fanfares and music which has been historically used at coronations over the last four centuries.
Perhaps the most notable is “Zadok the Priest” which was composed by George Frideric Handel as a coronation anthem for King George II in 1727 and has been sung at every one since. Soccer fans might recogniZe the famous tune as the UEFA Champions League anthem.
The key moment of the ceremony will be when Charles — sitting on a coronation chair dating back more than 700 years — is given regalia, from bejewelled orbs and sceptres to swords and a ring.
The culmination sees the 360-year-old St Edward’s Crown, weighing in at 2.2 kg (4 lb 12 ounces) and a replacement for an original dating back to the 11th Century, placed onto Charles’ head by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“It is the most blingy way of signing your job contract,” said royal historian, Professor Kate Williams.
“The big moment, the big photograph moment, the big moment that everyone’s going to be talking about, making memes of, making TikToks of, that’s when the king is crowned, when the king has the crown put on his head”.
Having returned to Buckingham Palace, the big finale — as it is for weddings, jubilees and other major royal events — is the appearance by the senior Windsors on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.
There will be a fly past by military aircraft including the Red Arrows Royal Air Force aerobatic team and historic planes from World War Two.
While the newly-crowned king and queen will be the centre of attention, all eyes will be on whether Charles’ younger son Prince Harry appears.
People will also be watching Prince Louis, the youngest child of heir Prince William, who stole the show last year during celebrations for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee by covering his ears and screaming amid the din caused by the aircraft fly past.
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Sarah Mills, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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