We are told in some sources of the media that King Charles III is looking at a greatly slimmed down Coronation, expected to take place within the next twelve months. The practice of inaugurating the new Sovereign, or Head of a people with some special observance has been universal from the earliest times. The character of the observance has varied according to the traditions of the people concerned. It may be a complex of ceremonies extended over a series of days, or just a simple ceremony performed within the space of an hour. It has varied also with the nature of the monarch assumed, whether military or religious, or a combination of the two, or to be solely civil or secular. The obvious appropriateness of the practice is attested by its persistence to the our own time in the 21st century. Not all monarchs in Europe, Scandinavia, or around the world are crowned; but none enters upon the office without formality. Charles III, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northerm Ireland is unique among the rulers of the world in that he will be anointed and crowned with solemn rites and ceremonies which represent more than a thousand years of history and traditions of his people.
Charles III's Coronation will be the first at which the Queen Consort will be crowned since the coronation of the King's grandparents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, 12 May, 1937. Not all Queen Consorts have been crowned, and we have to look back several centuries for instances where the Queen was not anointed with her husband. King George IV denied his wife, Queen Caroline, a place in Westminster Abbey, and was crowned alone, 19 July, 1821. Weeks later the unfortunate Caroline was dead from a broken heart.
On 20 October, 1714 King George I was crowned alone, having divorced his wife, Sophia Dorothea, twenty years before. Charles III will be the first of his name to see his wife crowned. Henrietta Maria of France, a Roman Catholic, wife of Charles I was prohibited from participating in the rite. Charles II, restored in 1660, and crowned on St George's Day, 1661, was a bachelor, and married the Roman Catholic Catherine of Braganza in 1662. Catherine, a Roman Catholic, was never crowned.
King Henry VIII was crowned with his first wife Catherine of Aragon, 24 June, 1509. Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, had her own coronation as Queen Consort, 1 June, 1533.
King Henry VII was crowned 30 October, 1485, before his marriage to Elizabeth of York. He married Elizabeth in 1486, and she was crowned 25 November, 1487.
Elizabeth of York and Anne Boleyn were the last Queen Consorts to be crowned separately from their husbands.
So, who can we expect to participate at the Coronation of the King? The Royal Dukes will be there to 'pay homage' to the King. The Prince of Wales [who is also Duke of Cornwall, Rothesay and Cambridge], will lead here. Royal Dukes are usually the sons or grandsons of the Sovereign. Since the Middle Ages all adult younger sons of the sovereign have been Dukes, with the exception of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Forfar. It is expected that before the Coronation that Edward will be created Duke of Edinburgh, as was agreed on his marriage to Sophie Rhys Jones in 1999. The Duke of Sussex, as the younger son of the Sovereign will also pay homage along with the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent, who are both male line grandsons of King George V. Traditionally, the duke kneels before the monarch and pledge “to become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship; and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks.” The Dukes put on their own coronets when the King is crowned with the St Edward's crown. At the 1953 Coronation the Royal Dukes wore Parliamentary robes, but none have been worn since the hereditary element was removed from the House of Lords in 1999.
Princes (who are not peers) and Princesses will be in attendance. The only living adult prince who is not a peer is Prince Michael of Kent, a grandson of George V. The daughters of the Sovereign (Princess Anne, the Princess Royal), and daughters of the sons of the Sovereign, who are princesses of the United Kingdom of Gt Britain and Northern Ireland by birth. They include Princess Beatrice, Mrs Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, Princess Eugenie, Mrs Jack Brooksbank, and Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy. The children of the Earl of Wessex & Forfar (who fall into this category, but do not use the style and title of Royal Highness) ought to have this precedence at the Coronation, but it remains to be seen what the King's wishes are.
Royal Duchesses will be in the abbey to observe the rite from a gallery above the theatre. The Princess of Wales is expected to be joined by the Duchess of Sussex [a royal duchess despite giving up a working royal role], and the Danish-born Duchess of Gloucester, wife of the King's cousin. The Duchess of Kent, in her 90th year, did not attend the State funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, and it is not clear whether she will be present at the King's coronation. Our only 'royal countess', the Countess of Wessex & Forfar will be here with the royal duchesses.
In the ceremony Royal Princesses, and royal duchesses put on their coronets when Queen Camilla is crowned.
As for the clergy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will take part, and crown the King with St Edward's Crown. The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, will, if tradition is followed, crown Camilla. Other clergy in the abbey will include the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who will make history as the first female bishop to take part in a Coronation service. The Dean of Westminster, David Hoyle, will preside over the service. It is the role of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster to instruct the King and Queen in the rites and ceremonies of the service. In addition the Dean assists the Archbishop of Canterbury during the ceremony and holds the Eagle Ampulla containing the oil used for the anointing. By ancient right, the honour of putting the Coronation vestments on the King falls to him. The Bishop of Durham supports the King in the abbey.
At previous Coronations a Court of Claims was set up by Order in Council to hear and determine claims of service to be performed at the Coronation. It is expected that a similar court will soon be established.
The Coronation is organised under the watchful eye of the Earl Marshal. The earliest record of the office of Marshal in the 12th century refers to it as held hereditarily by the family of Marshall, from whom it passed to the Bigods, the Mowbrays, and ultimately the Howards, Dukes of Norfolk. The Earl Marshal, one of the Great Officers of State, Edward, the 18th Duke, is the authority responsible for all questions of Arms, dignities, precedence and honour. In these matters he acts through the Officers of the Heralds' College, of which he is the head. He has entire charge of the organisation of the Coronation Ceremony at which [as Premier Duke in England] he renders home to the King on behalf of all dukes.
Other participants include Garter King of Arms, Norroy and Clarenceux King of Arms, Lord Lyon King of Arms [for Scotland], and the splendidly named Bluemantle Pursuivant.
Garter is under the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, Head of the Heralds' College. His office was founded in 1417 at a Chapter of the Order of the Garter of which he was then made an Officer, and from which his title is derived. As Chief Heraldic Officer of the Crown of England he has control over all Arms, and the right to grant new Arms is vested in him. At the Recognition [when the King is presented to the people] Garter King of Arms precedes the Great Officers of State.
Clarenceux and Norroy King of Arms are the two Provincial Kings of Arms in England subordinate to Garter. Their jurisdictions lie respectively south and north of the River Trent. Norroy is probably the older of them, dating back to the 14th century, and probably earlier. Before the creation of the office of Garter the Provincial Kings of Arms had sole authority of Arms within their provinces, but they now exercise that jurisdiction in conjunction with Garter.
Scotland does not possess a College of Heralds and Lord Lyon King of Arms is supreme. The office is of great antiquity. Lord Lyon played an important part at the Coronation of Robert II, King of Scots, in 1371. At previous Coronations the Lord Lyon has taken his place [together with the Ulster King of Arms and Scottish and Irish Heralds] in the procession on the arrival of the King and Queen at the abbey.
Bluemantle, who was prominent at the Proclamation of King Charles III, at St James's Palace, is also present on Coronation day. His name is derived from royal badges and emblems.
The Lord High Chancellor of England, who ranks immediately after the archbishops, takes part in the ceremony. This role falls to Brandon Lewis, the Justice Secretary. Traditionally he processes in the abbey attended by his Purse Bearer. Previous holders of the office have been peers, and a page carried his coronet.
The Lord Chief Justice of England takes his place in the procession on the arrival of the King and Queen in Westminster Abbey.
Certain members of the Order of the Garter, though not all, are summoned to represent the body of Knights and Ladies Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The Queen Consort is a Lady of the Garter. Similarly, some Knights or Ladies of the Order of the Thistle will be present. Knights who are commoners will wear the mantle of the order. Some members of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael & St George, the Royal Victorian Order, and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire will be invited to attend.
The Master of the Horse is the third of the Great Officers of His Majesty's Household, yielding precedence only to the Lord Chamberlain and the Lord Steward. He has charge of all matters relating to the King's stables, and maintains a large establishment in the Royal Mews, his chief officer being the Crown Equerry. He is responsible for ordering all State processions, in which he rides next behind the sovereign.
Officers of HM's Bodyguard of the Hon Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms - 'the nearest guard' were raised by King Henry VIII in 1509. The corps will be on duty in the abbey and form part of the King's procession.
Officers of the King's Bodyguard of Yeomen of the Guard, instituted by King Henry VII in 1485. They are always on duty at all state occassions, including the State Opening of Parliament and at Coronations, and State funerals.
The Gentlemen of the Royal Company of Archers will be present. King George IV gave them the additional title 'King's Body Guard for Scotland'. They are on duty when the Sovereign is present in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, will process into the abbey in the procession of the King and Queen. Members of the Cabinet will be represented, and the Prime Minister, and former holders of that office. The Lord Speaker [an office not in existence in 1953], is expected to process as the representative of the House of Lords. It is not known whether Westminster Abbey will see a vast turn out of peers and peeresses who for hundreds of years attended upon the monarch at his crowning. The removal of the majority of the hereditary peers in 1999 may well have put an end to this practice, and the creation of life peers did not come about until some years after Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Perhaps a selection of those hereditary peers now elected to the Lords will receive invitations. The Lord Great Chamberlain for King Charles's reign, Lord Carrington, will be present.
Ambassadors will be present in Westminster Abbey. Our ambassadors to foreign courts, and their representatives at the Court of St James.
Governors-General, Lord Lieutenants of counties, and the Lord Mayor of London will be there. The Mayor of London [an office which did not exist in previous reigns] will be in the abbey.
Others who, at past Coronations, were present include the City Marshall, the Elder Brothers of Trinity House, and the Military Knights of Windsor.
Traditionally the King has four Pages of Honour to carry His Majesty's train. This office can be traced back into early English history when youths of noble birth served an apprenticeship to duties of courtesy and chivalry in the Royal family, advancing in time to be squires and knights. In modern times the King's Pages of Honour have been selected from the sons of senior members of the King's household past and present. In days gone by on their retirement at 16, or whenever they grew too big for their state livery, they were entitled to apply for a King's Cadetship with a view to obtaining a Commission in the Regular Army.
The children of HM's Chapels Royal, as the choir boys are called, augment the Westminster Abbey choir at the service.
HM's Bargemaster and Watermen also process into the abbey. The Bargemaster and two Watermen conduct certain portions of the regalia [Crown Jewels] into Westminster.