Q&A: Why is there a coronation and what exactly is happening?

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King Charles III’s coronation is the first to be staged in Britain for 70 years.

Here is the lowdown on the big day.

– When and where is the coronation?

May 6 in Westminster Abbey in central London, with the ceremony beginning at 11am.

King Charles III Coronation
The coronation church Westminster Abbey (Dan Kitwood/PA)

The King will be anointed with holy oil and crowned with the St Edward’s Crown by the Archbishop of Canterbury in front of 2,000 guests.

– Why does there have to be a coronation?

Tradition, as a way of celebrating a new monarch.

But it also has a deeply religious significance – the anointing of the King with holy oil during the Anglican service signals he has been chosen by God to be monarch.

– So is Charles not King yet?

He is already King. He acceded to the throne as the sovereign the moment his mother Queen Elizabeth II died in September.

Picture for every year of The Queen’s life
The Queen at Balmoral just two days before she died (Jane Barlow/PA)

It takes a long time to plan. The coronation is also a moment of pageantry and celebration – very different from the mourning period which followed the late Queen’s death.

– How much is it going to cost?

Millions. Queen Elizabeth II’s 1953 coronation cost £912,000 – £20.5 million in today’s money, while George VI’s 1937 ceremony cost £454,000 – which would have come to £24.8 million in 2023.

– And who will foot the bill?

The British taxpayer. A coronation is a state occasion paid for by the Government. The taxpayer will also pay for the security costs involved.

Platinum Jubilee
Police escort people as they make their way along the Mall following Trooping the Colour during the Platinum Jubilee (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Yes. There is an extra bank holiday in the UK on May 8 to celebrate.

– Are the pubs open later?

Pubs, clubs and bars are allowed to stay open for an extra two hours from May 5 until May 7, closing at 1am instead of 11pm.

– Will Camilla be crowned as well?

Yes. A Queen Consort is anointed and crowned in a simpler ceremony during the King’s coronation service.

South African President State Visit to the UK
Camilla will be crowned at the coronation (Chris Jackson/PA)

– Can I watch it on TV?

Absolutely. The service will be shown in full with a live broadcast, filmed by the BBC.

– Can I watch it on a big screen?

More than 30 screens are being erected in cities and towns around the UK, with confirmed sites including Cardiff Castle, Belfast City Hall, Piece Hall in Halifax, Jubilee Square in Brighton and Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester.

Platinum Jubilee
Crowds on The Mall during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Hours. The ceremony will be two hours, but the TV broadcast will be longer, with politicians and overseas guests arriving at the abbey from 9.30am.

There will be a “King’s Procession” from Buckingham Palace to the abbey, with Charles and Camilla riding in the modern, comfortable Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which has hydraulic shock absorbers and air con.

And coverage will include the grander “Coronation Procession” back to the Palace and a balcony appearance afterwards.

– I don’t want to watch all of it. What should I tune in to see?

The moment the King is crowned at midday. This is expected to be the defining image of the day, alongside the balcony appearance at around 2.15pm.

King Charles III coronation
The moment Queen Elizabeth II was crowned (PA)

The royal family will be out in force, with even the Duke of Sussex there, but the Duchess of Sussex is staying in California.

The Prince and Princess of Wales’s eldest son Prince George will be one of eight Pages of Honour, and Princess Charlotte, with possibly Prince Louis, is set to be in the church.

US First Lady Jill Biden will be there, but not President Joe Biden.

Platinum Jubilee
Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince Louis with their parents (Frank Augstein/PA)

Leaders of opposition parties, the first ministers of devolved governments, former PMs and foreign royals are guests, as are more than 850 community and charity representatives from across the UK.

– Will Charles use the same crown as his mother?

Yes. The coronation crown – St Edward’s Crown – has been altered to make sure it fits.

Made for Charles II in 1661, it has a solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes and tourmalines, and a purple velvet cap with an ermine band.

60th Anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation – St Edward’s Crown – Westminster Abbey, London
St Edward’s Crown (Jack Hill/The Times/PA)

Yes. The sacred Coronation Regalia – including the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the Sovereign’s Orb, and the Coronation Spoon – will be brought to the abbey from the Tower of London and used during the service.

Queen Elizabeth II funeral
The State Hearse carrying the late Queen’s coffin draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign’s Orb and Sceptre (Molly Darlington/PA)

– Anything controversial?

Aside from the cost, controversies include Camilla being presented during the service with the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove which is made from ivory.

The King will hold the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross which features the Cullinan I diamond, but there have been demands for the gem to be returned to South Africa.

The ancient Stone of Destiny is brought from Edinburgh to sit under the Coronation Chair, but there have been calls for it to remain in Scotland this time.

The stone was used to inaugurate Scottish royalty for centuries, before being removed from the country by King Edward I in 1296. It was finally officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

King Charles III Coronation
Harry will be there but Meghan has declined an invitation (Matt Dunham/PA)

The King’s brother the Duke of York, who paid millions to settle a civil sexual assault case, will also be in the abbey.

And the guest list is more than 6,000 less than the late Queen’s coronation, leading some non-invitees to complain about being snubbed.

Anti-monarchy group Republic is staging the largest protest in its history along the procession route and in Trafalgar Square, but has vowed to make its demonstration peaceful, but loud.

– What happens after the service? 

The “Coronation Procession” – with Charles and Camilla travelling in the Gold State Coach back to the Palace.

Some 6,000 servicemen and women are taking part on the day – the largest military ceremonial operation in 70 years.

Platinum Jubilee
The Gold State Coach was used at the Queen’s 1953 coronation (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– What other official coronation celebrations are taking place?

On Sunday, the nation will be encouraged to spend the day at street parties and hosting coronation Big Lunches.

Then in the evening, a coronation concert with Take That, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie is being staged at Windsor Castle, attended by the royals, and shown live on the BBC.

Coronavirus – Fri Feb 11, 2022
The Long Walk leading up to Windsor Castle (Steve Parsons/PA)

Monday – the bank holiday – is being billed as the “Big Help Out” with The Together Coalition urging people to try volunteering to support their communities.

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