Long live the King

On Saturday you can follow the first coronation of a British Monarch in 70 years. Here are some interesting facts to keep in mind while watching this age-old ceremony.

The UK is currently gearing up for King Charles III’s coronation, a solemn ceremony at Westminster Abbey with roots that go back over a millennium. On top of being the first coronation ceremony to take place in 70 years – the last one being Queen Elizabeth II’s in 1953 – this coronation will also see Queen Consort Camilla being crowned alongside her husband. This last happened in 1937 for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. 

In honour of this special occasion, here are some more interesting facts about this event that is steeped in history.

  • King Charles became king the moment his mother passed away on September 8, 2022, at Balmoral Castle. He immediately had to decide upon his regnal name, which is King Charles III. 
  • Even so, it is customary in the UK that monarchs are formally crowned at Westminster Abbey, which was originally built by King Edward I (St Edward the Confessor) in 1040 and then rebuilt by Henry III in 124. Before this Abbey was erected, coronations took place in Bath, Oxford, and Canterbury. There have been 38 monarchs crowned at Westminster Abbey.
  • In the past, a coronation was required for a ruler to acquire the title and the role of a King or Queen of England. This is no longer the case, as the British line of succession states that the eldest child of the monarch (male or female) automatically becomes the monarch upon their demise. Even so, the tradition of a formal coronation persists, and the Peerage, made up of dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons, doesn’t just pledge allegiance to the Monarch, but also gives its consent to their rule. An interesting fact is that, historically, a Monarch’s right to rule was given directly by God and not by any earthly means, and this is why elements like the anointment with holy oil derived from the Holy Land are still part of the ceremony.
  • During the coronation, the Monarch is crowned with St Edward’s Crown. This was made for King Charles I’s coronation in 1661 and is only worn by a Monarch at the moment of coronation. This crown is one of the five Crown Jewels, which also includes the Sovereign’s Orb, which symbolises the Christian world; the Coronation Spoon used for the anointment; the Imperial State Crown, which is worn by the Monarch when leaving Westminster Abbey; and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, which features the world’s largest, colourless cut diamond and represents the Monarch’s temporal power.
  • Although the full schedule of King Charles III’s coronation hasn’t been released yet, it is expected to last for two hours. His mother’s coronation, which lasted around three hours, was the first to ever be televised and was watched by 32.27 million British people (the population of the UK at the time was 36 million).
  • The most special moment of the whole coronation is the anointment ceremony, which normally takes place under a canopy. Only the Monarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury get to experience this most solemn of moments and, just as in Queen Elizabeth II’s and King George VI’s coronations, cameras will be banned from filming King Charles III’s anointment.

King Charles III’s coronation will undoubtedly be another historic moment, characterised by pomp, ceremony, and tradition. The ceremony at Westminster Abbey begins at 11am BST (12pm in Malta) and runs until 1pm BST (2pm Malta-time). The ceremony will be screened on many news channels, as well as online. On top of the 2,000 people who are invited to the official ceremony at the world-famous Abbey, it’s expected that millions of people from around the world will tune in.

For more Sunday Circle magazine British-themed articles, check out this Chanel exhibition at the V&A and these 5 quirky London bars.

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