Ten days to go as preparations enter final phase before coronation

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The countdown to the King’s coronation has begun as preparations enter their final phase with just 10 days to go.

Westminster Abbey – the venue for the deeply religious service – has shut its doors to visitors following its annual Anzac Day on Tuesday, and is being prepped for the historic ceremony.

The BBC is checking its technical equipment ahead of the live television broadcast, while airport style scanners and checkpoints will be set up ready to screen the 2,000 guests.

Chairs inside the Abbey will be arranged, any decorations or hangings will be added, and the church will be spotlessly cleaned.

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The Cosmati pavement and the High Altar in Westminster Abbey (Dan Kitwood/PA)

It will take centre stage facing the High Altar in the Sacrarium.

The coronation theatre and coronation chair will remain in place when the Abbey reopens on May 8, with visitors who have booked timed tickets able to see the historic scene until May 13.

At some point – amid great security after previously being stolen – the ancient Stone of Destiny will be brought from Scotland to be placed under the chair, as is tradition.

And careful checks are being made to the robes and gowns due to be worn by the King, Queen Consort and senior royals during the grand service.

The elaborately-decorated invitations have been posted and received, and feature a colourful abundance of wildflowers and wildlife and the motif of the head of the Green Man.

A replica of the coronation stage built in the Buckingham Palace ballroom has allowed Charles and the Queen Consort to secretly rehearse for the big day.

But with Westminster Abbey now closed, in situ rehearsals can take place, with the King and Camilla expected to join some in person.

For Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, a host of walk-throughs were carried out and attended by the monarch in the days running up to the ceremony, including a full dress rehearsal.

Royalty – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – London
Queen Elizabeth II – with the Duchess of Norfolk – leaving Westminster Abbey, after attending a coronation rehearsal (PA)

Detailed planning documents will set out directions for the movement of the King and his consort inside the abbey and the placing of the clergy at the crucial moments.

Orchestrating their positions is key to ensuring the day goes smoothly, especially during the high-pressure anointing and the crowning.

Ceremonial diagrams were produced in 1953 in order to avoid a “collision” of key players.

Arrows illustrated their routes and the Queen was represented by a circle with the capital S for sovereign and the Archbishop of Canterbury by a circle with a capital C.

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The directions for movements during the anointing of Elizabeth II – part of a coronation artefacts exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library until July 13 (Church of England/PA)

Early morning rehearsals have seen the military parade through the empty streets of central London, and hundreds of service personnel followed the procession route on horseback.

More than 6,000 members of the armed forces will take part on the day, and uniforms are being polished, horses groomed and routines meticulously practised.

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Members of the military depart Buckingham Palace, central London, during a night time rehearsal for the coronation (Yui Mok/PA)

In the Royal Mews, the Gold State Coach and Diamond Jubilee State coach will be cleaned and checked, and the eight Windsor Greys pulling the carriages are undergoing special training to deal with the intense noise levels and crowds.

Staff at the equestrian stables are turning out to greet the animals with flags, drums, shouts and cheers on a daily basis to make sure they are ready.

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The Gold State Coach (Yui Mok/PA)

A ring of steel is expected in the capital. Policing minister Chris Philp described it as a “huge policing operation”, and heads of state and foreign royals from around the world are set to travel to the UK.

Thousands of people will gather on the streets to see the newly crowned King and Queen Consort process in their carriage and appear on the balcony.

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Seating being erected on The Mall outside Buckingham Palace ahead of the coronation (Victoria Jones/PA)

And royal fans are trying their hand at baking the Coronation Quiche – personally chosen by Charles and Camilla as their celebratory dish.

Other more unusual preparations are likely to emulate those chosen for the Queen’s state funeral last September.

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A falcon at Westminster Abbey on the day of the state funeral (Hannah McKay/PA)

The 15-year-old hooded bird called Rufus was taken up to the roof by the Abbey Falconer to scare the pigeons away.

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