Vegan oil and fascinators: King Charles III's 'modern' coronation

Around 2,000 people will be present in Westminster Abbey, compared with more than 8,000 in 1953 who had to squeeze onto specially built platforms

By AFP

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Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort cut a cake during an afternoon tea with volunteers and service users of the charity organisation Age UK at the Colchester Library during a visit in Colchester. — AFP file
Britain's King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort cut a cake during an afternoon tea with volunteers and service users of the charity organisation Age UK at the Colchester Library during a visit in Colchester. — AFP file

Published: Sun 23 Apr 2023, 3:51 PM

Last updated: Sun 23 Apr 2023, 3:53 PM

King Charles III's pomp-filled coronation on May 6 will feature many ancient traditions in a ceremony harking back to the 10th century.

But while custom and ritual will remain key, the new king has made no secret of his wish to modernise.

This is what we know about Charles' plans for a 21st century coronation and how it compares to the last one, of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.

Around 2,000 people will be present in Westminster Abbey, compared with more than 8,000 in 1953 who had to squeeze onto specially built platforms.

The reduction echoes Charles's longstanding aim of "streamlining" the monarchy itself, reducing it to around seven key working members.

The length of the ceremony will also be slashed from nearly three hours to just over one hour.

At Elizabeth's coronation almost all royal women and female aristocrats wore tiaras.

The dress code for Charles's coronation has yet to be confirmed but there is speculation there might be a move to smart attire teamed with hats or fascinators for all but the most senior royal women.

A limited number of places for MPs and members of the upper house of parliament known as the House of Lords are being allocated by cross-party ballot.

In 1953, more than 800 MPs and 900 peers -- members of the Lords including dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons who had inherited a seat along with their title -- attended in their long crimson velvet cloaks.

The hereditary element to membership of the Lords was reformed in 1999 and this time members have been told not to wear their special coronation robes.

Instead they can opt for the ceremonial robes they usually wear for the state opening of parliament or standard business dress.

Camilla will be crowned with a crown made for Queen Mary -- Charles's great-grandmother -- in 1911.

It will make her the first queen consort in almost three centuries to make modifications to an existing crown for the event rather than commission a new one.

The oil used to anoint the monarch will be vegan.

Previous anointing oil included ambergris from whale intestines.

The oil to be used for Charles's ceremony will be animal free and contain olive oil scented with sesame, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin and amber as well as orange blossom.

Greek Orthodox chanting will feature for the first time in a coronation, in memory of Charles's father Prince Philip.

He was born in Corfu and was a member of the Greek royal family.

The Byzantine Chant Ensemble led by Alexander Lingas, a professor of Orthodox music, has been formed especially for the performance.

The Ascension Choir will also be the first gospel choir to sing at a coronation.

For the first time girls will be among the scholarship pupils, known as King's scholars, from the exclusive Westminster School who will take part in the ceremony.

In 1953, the school in central London was a boys-only school.

A mixed group of pupils will acclaim the monarch with the Latin cry "Vivat Rex Carolus!" ("Long live King Charles!")

Elizabeth travelled both to and from her coronation in the elaborate but uncomfortable 260-year-old Gold State Coach.

Charles and Camilla will use it only for their return journey.

For their outward trip they have opted for the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach which has shock absorbers, heating and air conditioning.

They will also take a far shorter, two-kilometre (1.3 mile) return journey than Elizabeth's over seven kilometre route which lasted two hours.

Compared to the 29,000 members of the armed forces personnel who took part in 1953, Charles's coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace will be a slimmed-down affair.

Just under 4,000 personnel will accompany him and Queen Camilla including military bands.


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