Britain's King Charles III smiles as he meets guests after a ceremony to present the new standards and colours to the Royal Navy, the Life Guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, The King’s Company of the Grenadier Guards and The King’s Colour Squadron of the Royal Air Force at Buckingham Palace, in London, on April 27, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

What Is the Coronation?

The Coronation is a religious event which celebrates the start of King Charles III's reign. Historically, it is where a new king or queen was presented as the embodiment of the monarchy and the nation, and this ancient rite of passage has occurred in roughly the same format for 1,000 years.

The ceremony is not, however, the moment that Charles becomes king. That happened automatically upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Despite this, historians regard the Coronation as a "foundation stone of the British state" because of its social and political purpose. "It is no empty pageant," writes Roy Strong, the art historian who wrote the definitive book on British Coronations.

"The UK has a particular form of constitution where the church and the state are linked together," says Bob Morris, a member of University College London's Constitution Unit. "The Coronation celebrates this joint project of governance between the secular executive of the state and the Church of England, of which the king is the head." The UK's monarchy is the only one in Europe that still has a religious element to its Coronation.

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This year's Coronation will be significantly smaller than the last one, with about 2,200 guests. "There's going to be some heroic, if not brutal, scaling down," says Morris. His mother's ceremony in 1953 had 8,250 attendees, requiring special scaffolding in Westminster Abbey and seating 11 tiers high in the nave. "To reduce the Coronation to 2,200 people says something about the importance of Britain these days. Britain's place in the world has changed, and it is foolish to pretend otherwise.'

The event is expected to be much shorter too. "Elizabeth's took nearly three hours, and we should can expect something closer to one and a half hours for Charles."

When is King Charles III's coronation?

The Coronation of King Charles III takes place on May 6, 2023. The service at Westminster Abbey begins at 11 a.m. local time.

When is the bank holiday for the Coronation?

There is a public holiday for the Coronation on May 8, 2023.

What is happening at the Coronation?

The Royal Family has not yet released the official order of service, but the Press Association reports that the day starts at 6 a.m., when viewing areas open along the procession route. Guests for Westminster Abbey will arrive for security checks from 7:15 a.m. and be seated by 9 a.m., with heads of state, overseas government representatives and other dignitaries arriving from 9:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, the King's Escort of the Household Cavalry will gather at Buckingham Palace at 9:45 a.m, and shortly after that the King and Queen's Consort will join the King's Procession and travel from the palace to the Abbey, arriving at 10:53 a.m.

At 11 a.m. the King and Queen Consort will enter the Abbey. The service is likely to start with a recognition of the new monarch, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, presents the new king to the people and invites them to say, "God Save King Charles."

Communion and anointing

The core of the ceremony is Charles receiving Holy Communion and being anointed with oil, a tradition which can be traced to the Old Testament, symbolizing the divine blessing on the monarch. It is likely that these crucial elements will not be televised on the day.

The oil used in 1953 contained glands of civet cat and whale's stomach lining, a recipe which dates to Charles I's Coronation in 1626. King Charles III broke with this tradition and decided to use oil from olives harvested from two groves on the Mount of Olives, pressed just outside Bethlehem in the West Bank. The oil has been perfumed with essential oils "- sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin and amber "- as well as orange blossom.

Crowning, investiture, enthronement and homage

After King Charles III is "invested" with his regalia "- which includes spurs, a robe, an orb, a ring, and the sceptre, which is made up of a golden rod with a giant diamond "- he will be crowned by the archbishop. Wearing his regalia, at about 12 p.m. he will rise from the Coronation chair and climb to sit on his throne.

Traditionally, it's at this point that members of the aristocracy pay homage to the new king by swearing their allegiance to him, placing their hands on his knees, touching the crown and kissing his right hand. "I think it's very likely that they will cut down the homage considerably because of the reduction of the numbers of hereditary peers in the House of Lords," Morris says.

What is the Coronation route?

Charles and Camilla will leave Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach for The King's Procession, which will travel a relatively direct route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. After the service, at about 1 p.m., they will return to Buckingham Palace in a larger procession joined by thousands of armed services personnel.

The route includes Parliament Square, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Horse Guards Parade and the Mall. Charles and Camilla will enter Buckingham Palace at about 1:33 p.m. and at around 2:15 p.m. they will be joined by family members on the balcony to conclude the day's events with the Armed Forces Coronation flypast.

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What is the history of coronation chicken?

Coronation chicken is a poached chicken dish with a creamy spiced sauce that was created by chefs at Le Cordon Bleu School in London to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation. This year King Charles III and Camilla selected a recipe for "Coronation Quiche" to celebrate lunches that will be held around the country to mark the day.