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May 6, 2023 is King Charles III’s big day. The British sovereign will be officially crowned in Westminster Abbey (THE SPECIAL). The ceremony will begin at 11am (local time) after the arrival of the royals in procession from Buckingham Palace and finish after two hours (POWER OF THE KING – WHERE TO SEE THE CEREMONY ON TV). Here’s a moment-by-moment guide to everything to come.
How the ceremony is structured
The ceremony is characterized by five main elements: recognition; The oath; the anointing; the investiture and coronation; and finally the enthronement and homage. To then end with the coronation of the queen consort. However, it all begins with the processions of religious leaders and representatives of faith communities, ecumenical leaders, kingdoms and the choir, and then the procession of the King and Queen Consort. Charles will wear the crimson dress of George VI and Camilla the crimson one of Elizabeth II. Upon arrival in Westminster, the chorister of the royal chapel welcomes the king who replies: “In his name and following his example, I do not come to be served, but to serve”. After a moment of silent prayer there is the greeting and the introduction by the Archbishop of Canterbury is then sung Kyrie eleisonwhich will be the first Welsh-language performance during a royal coronation.
Part One – The Recognition
The ritual of recognition dates back to the ancient procedures of the Witan, the supreme council of England in the Anglo-Saxon era. The king stands in the central space of Westminster Abbey and turns to face the people in each of four directions: east, south, west and north. The Archbishop makes the first declaration towards the high altar. The declaration in the other three directions is made by other dignitaries. Then there is the “presentation” of the specially commissioned red leather-bound Bible.
Part Two – The Oath
For the first time there is a preface to the coronation oath in which the archbishop states that the Church of England “will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs can live freely”. The Coronation Oath Act 1688 requires the King to declare that he will maintain the established Anglican Protestant Church, govern according to laws agreed upon in parliament, and cause that law, justice and mercy be executed at his judgment. Each part of the oath is structured as a question to the monarch, as the king responds by placing his hand on the Bible. After the anthem Prevent Us, O Lord by William Byrd is The King’s Prayer: Charles III becomes the first monarch to pray aloud before a coronation congregation. A special personal prayer has been written for the King to reflect the service’s “loving service” theme, and the words are inspired in part by the popular hymn I Vow To Thee My Country. Space then for the singing of the Mass for four voices by William Byrd, to the “collect” read by the archbishop. Then Premier Rishi Sunak reads the Epistle to the Colossians 1:9-17. Although he is a Hindu, he reads as prime minister, so there are no issues about his personal faith during his Anglican service, Lambeth Palace said. After more chanting (with the female clergy attending a coronation for the first time), the archbishop delivers a sermon. Then it’s time for the anthem Come Creator, ancient sung text in English, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish. At this point the archbishop receives the coronation oil, praying and giving thanks for it.
Part Three – The Anointing
The anointing with holy oil is the central act of the religious ceremony and takes place in private. The King will shed his crimson robe of state and sit in the coronation chair – made for Edward I around 1300 – and will wear a plain white shirt, representing that he comes before God as a servant. The three-sided anointing screen, over 2.5 meters high, with an embroidered tree celebrating the Commonwealth, is set around the coronation chair. The Dean of Westminster pours oil from the cruet – a vessel shaped like an eagle – into the coronation spoon – the oldest item of coronation regalia. Using his fingers, the archbishop anoints the king on his hands, chest and head. The archbishops and dean return to the high altar and the screen is removed into the sanctuary. The king kneels on a stool before the high altar and the archbishop continues with a prayer of blessing.
Part Four – The Investiture and The Crowning
The king wears a white linen robe called a colobium sindonis, a golden cloak called a supertunic, and a coronation belt around his waist. After being sanctified at his anointing, the king is presented with the coronation regalia. In recognition of multi-religious Britain, peers from non-Christian faith traditions have been chosen to participate for the first time, but will only hold regalia that have no explicit Christian motifs. The insignia presented are the golden spurs, the jeweled sword (placed in the right hand of the king, then hooked to his belt and finally unhooked), the armlets (known as the “bracelets of sincerity and wisdom”), the robe and the royal stole. Charles is dressed by the British kings, and the bishops dress the king in the royal robe. Then it is the turn of the sovereign’s orb, placed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the right hand of the king and then placed on the altar. Same thing for “the ring Bridal of England” and the coronation glove (which is worn). The last object is the scepter with cross and rod with dove, used at every coronation since that of Charles II in 1661. It is therefore the moment of the coronation: the dean brings the crown of Saint Edward to the archbishop, who recites the prayer of blessing. The archbishop lowers the crown on the king’s head and proclaims: “God save the king!”. All respond: “God save the king!”. At this point the abbey bells ring for two minutes. A fanfare is played followed by a gun salute fired by the Royal Horse Artillery of the King’s Troops, stationed in Horse Guards Parade. Gunshots will also be fired at the Tower of London and at all salute stations in the UK, Gibraltar, Bermuda and Ships at Sea. It is then the turn of the blessing, shared for the first time by Christian leaders across the country.
Part Five – Enthronement and Homage
After a hymn it is time for the enthronement of the king, who traditionally represents the monarch taking possession of his kingdom. Then there is the homage of the Church of England (by the archbishop), the homage of royal blood, with the Prince of Wales being the only bloodthirsty prince to pay homage in service, breaking with the tradition. And finally the people’s tribute, which invites people watching across the UK and around the world to the King’s overseas realms to shout and unite in swearing allegiance to the King. After a fanfare, the Archbishop of Canterbury proclaims: “God save the King”, with the people responding: “God save King Charles. Long live King Charles. May the King live forever”. A hymn is then sung, by Sir Henry Walford Davies, written for the coronation of George V.
The coronation of the Queen consort
At this point it will be Camilla’s turn. She departs with the anointing: breaking with tradition, she will be anointed in public rather than in private under a canopy. The queen consort’s ring will be acknowledged and not worn. Then the Dean returns with Queen Mary’s crown, handing it to the Archbishop. The rod of the Queen Consort with dove and the scepter of the Queen Consort with cross are then recognized. After a song, there is the enthronement of the Queen, the moment in which Charles and Camilla “are united in their common vocation before God”. It is then the turn of communion, which is received by the King and Camilla. The archbishop says a prayer after the communion and final blessing. Charles and Camilla dress in purple and the King wears the imperial state crown. The Te Deum by Sir William Walton, during which the King and Queen Consort move into St Edward’s Chapel behind the high altar. They put on their robes of estate and the King changes from St Edward’s Crown to the lighter Imperial State Crown. The national anthem is sung and the external procession begins. After the ceremony there is the greeting of the leaders and representatives of the faith and the governors general. This message will not be amplified with microphones to respect those who observe the Jewish Shabbat – the day of rest. The king acknowledges the salute and turns to greet the governors-general and acknowledges their salute. He finally proceeds to the golden carriage with the queen consort for their coronation procession to Buckingham Palace.