How King Charles’ ‘slimmed-down’ coronation will compare with Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 ceremony
Charles plans to have a short, modest celebration compared to his mother’s
Its been 70 years since the last coronation of a British monarch and King Charles III plans to shake things up with a “slimmed-down” ceremony this weekend.
Despite taking a modest approach, Charles’ coronation ceremony will include “key elements associated with the hallowed religious service” and remain “rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry” while looking “towards the future,” according to Buckingham Palace.
Many people — save those over 70 — have never seen a British monarch crowned. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony was on June 2, 1953. With Charles’ coronation coming this Saturday, May 6, let’s take a look at how Charles’ trimmed-down ceremony will compare to the late queen’s elaborate celebration.
Charles was 4 years old at his mother’s coronation
Elizabeth was a young mother and wife when she heard the news of her father’s untimely death. At just 25, she took over as her nation’s new sovereign and dedicated the rest of her life to serving her country until her death at 96 in 2022.
As a toddler, Charles watched his mother get crowned monarch. In photos of the event, the young prince appeared to be bored during the long ceremony for his mother, who was 27 years old when she was crowned. Charles is considerably older than his mother was at her coronation — at 74 years old, Charles is the oldest monarch to ever take the British throne, per USA Today.
Queen Elizabeth had the first televised coronation
Per Elizabeth’s request, her coronation ceremony was the first to be televised live. The monumental broadcast drew in tens of millions of viewers worldwide, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who watched the televised ceremony from the White House, reports The Washington Post.
Charles’ coronation ceremony is expected to pull in a significantly larger audience through extensive media and social media coverage.
“The way that people are going to consume this event, on a multiplicity of media channels, makes it a bigger media event” than the 1953 coronation, says Ed Owens, historian and royal commentator, per USA Today.
Charles will modernize the dress code
Traditionally, British aristocracy — dukes, earls, barons and marquesses — wear floor-length robes made of scarlet velvet with an ermine trim, which indicates seniority, to coronation. The specific design dates back to the 17th century, but the concept goes back as far as the 14th century, per Vogue. Charles requested that his coronation guests wear either their “usual parliamentary ermine” or simply standard business dress.
It’s likely the king will break tradition and don his military uniform at the event rather than the traditional ensemble that features breeches and white silk stockings, per the New York Post.
Queen Elizabeth wore an elaborate “white satin dress, glitterly jeweled and embroidered” with emblems of Great Britain with a long, scarlet robe. She was crowned with the St. Edward’s crown, which Charles will also wear during the event.
The guest list is trimmed down
More than 8,250 friends and dignitaries packed inside Westminster Abbey for Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony, including Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — the “proud old lion acclaimed his young Queen today with his eyes brimming with emotion,” per The Washington Post. A total of 129 nations and territories were officially represented at Elizabeth’s coronation service.
To maintain a toned-down vision for the ceremony, Charles drastically scaled back his guest list to a congregation of 2,200, including representation for 203 nations and territories, reports the Telegraph. The exclusive ceremony expects attendance from royal family members, Queen Camilla’s family and friends, foreign royal families, foreign heads of state and just 20 parliamentarians. Only a handful of public figures — including David and Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney and Bear Grylls — made the cut.
Charles’ ‘slimmed-down’ ceremony will still cost taxpayers big
Elizabeth’s elaborate ceremony cost British taxpayers nearly $3 million, which translates to about $92 million today. Despite his “slimmed-down” approach, the price tag on Charles’ coronation is comparable to Elizabeth’s — experts estimate the event will cost between $63 million and $125 million, reports CNBC.
The costly event is funded primarily by the U.K. government which is, ultimately, British taxpayer money. An undisclosed portion of the costs are covered by Buckingham Palace.
According to a recent YouGov poll, the majority of Britons believe that Charles’ coronation should not be funded by taxpayers — 51% of Brits think the event should not be paid for by the government and 18% are undecided.
The procession will take a ‘shortcut’
Every new monarch since 1831 rides the Gold State Coach in the Coronation Procession. Like his mother, Charles will hold to tradition and travel back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach after the ceremony.
After being crowned queen, Elizabeth and her 16,000-person entourage took a five-mile journey back to Buckingham Palace. More than 3 million Brits lined the streets to witness their freshly-crowned queen travel from Westminster back to Buckingham Palace. The journey lasted two hours, reports USA Today.
Charles “will be taking a shortcut” back to Buckingham Palace, Christopher Andersen, author of “The King: The Life of Charles III,” told USA Today. His route will be reduced to just over a mile and should last roughly 40 minutes.
Katy Perry will perform at the coronation concert
British composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax, Herbert Howells, Arthur Bliss, George Butterworth, Gordon Jacob, Charles Villiers Stanford, Gustav Holst, John Ireland and William Walton performed at Elizabeth’s coronation concert, according to The New York Times.
Charles will incorporate modern pop music acts, such as Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and the British pop group Take That. Compositions from Judith Weir, Master of the King’s Music; Tarik O’Regan; Paul Mealor; and Shirley Thompson will be included in the concert, as well as a new coronation anthem from Andrew Lloyd Webber, per The New York Times.
How to watch coronation in the U.S.
The coronation service will begin at approximately 4 a.m. MDT or 11 a.m. in London on Saturday, May 6. The ceremony is expected to run for roughly 90 minutes, during which Charles will sign an oath pledging to serve the people. He and Queen Camilla will both be crowned — Charles with the Imperial State Crown and Camilla with the Queen Mary’s Crown, as reported by the Deseret News.
Several U.S. media outlets will present the coronation ceremony for American viewers, including ABC News, “Good Morning America,” CBS, CNN, Fox News and BBC America.
Where to watch if you don’t have cable
- Watch on CBS News livestream.
- Watch on DirectTV.
- Watch on Hulu + Live TV.
- Watch on Sling TV.
- Watch on ABCNews.com.
- Watch on GoodMorningAmerica.com.
- Watch on Paramount+.
- Watch on Britbox.