King Charles's coronation: 6 things for Americans to know
From the line of succession to celebrities in attendance, here's what to know about Saturday's coronation.
On May 6, King Charles III will be crowned the United Kingdom's new sovereign. The ceremony, held at Westminster Abbey in London, will be the first coronation in 70 years. For Americans, it might not seem relevant, but there are reasons to pay attention to the event, from historical significance to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Born in 1948 and ascending to the throne in 2022, Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. Known for progressing with the times, Charles — who, at 74, will be the oldest sovereign ever crowned in the British monarchy — has changed parts of his ceremony to fit the modern era.
For the first time in 900 years, Charles broke with tradition and invited royalty from around the world to attend Saturday's ceremony.
Charles's coronation will be the first to include languages spoken across Britain: a prayer in Welsh, and a hymn in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish (from Northern Ireland).
Since the split from the Catholic Church in the 16th century, the British monarch has been the supreme governor of the Church of England. All previous coronations have traditionally been used to promote and defend the church. However, Charles has chosen to recognize all faiths during his coronation speech. "The service contains new elements that reflect the diversity of our contemporary society," Archbishop Justin Welby, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, said. "It is my prayer that all who share in this service, whether they are of faith or no faith, will find ancient wisdom and new hope that brings inspiration and joy."
Female clergy members from the Church of England have been invited to participate in more prominent roles.
In a more unusual addition, Charles has asked that the public swear allegiance to him. This oath was brought in to replace one that was said only by hereditary peers, which are a group of 806 people who are given positions in government through nepotism and are part of the British establishment's elite nobility class.
Another deviation from tradition has nothing to do with Charles himself but instead his queen consort. Camilla, the king's former mistress and now wife, will be crowned queen of England. Many former kings have had mistresses, but it is rare that they become queen. One of the most famous in British history was Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII's second wife. Camilla and Charles have a history lasting as long as five decades, despite his marriage to Princess Diana. (They divorced in 1996 and she died the following year.) Charles and Camilla married in 2005, and upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September, Camilla was named queen consort.
According to CBS News, anti-monarchy protests are being planned for May 6. Organizing groups want the king replaced with an elected official and are encouraging demonstrators to wear yellow and carry signs with phrases like "not my king" and "abolish the monarchy."
The line of succession
The coronation will formally cement the line of succession established following Queen Elizabeth II's death last year. With his father as king, Prince William, 40, becomes first in line to the throne, followed by his three children: Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 8 — who, thanks to the 2011 Perth Agreement, will be the first female royal to not be bypassed in the line of succession by a younger male sibling — and Prince Louis, 5.
Despite their reportedly rocky relationship, the king's younger son, Prince Harry, 38, is now fifth in line to the throne but would be bumped further down the list should any of his brother's children have kids of their own. Harry's two children with Meghan Markle, meanwhile, are now sixth and seventh in line to the throne.
Charles's ascension to the throne also made Harry and Meghan's children eligible for prince and princess titles by virtue of being the monarch's grandchildren. In March it was announced that Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor — who turns 4 on the day of the coronation — will henceforth be known as Prince Archie of Sussex. His little sister, who turns 2 in June, has been christened Princess Lilibet Diana, a name that honors both her paternal great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and her paternal grandmother, Princess Diana.
While their California-based cousins won't be attending the coronation, the festivities will see Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis step into the spotlight. As the eldest of the king's grandchildren, Prince George will serve as one of four "pages of honor" attending to his grandfather during the coronation service. The pages, who also include the sons and grandsons of family friends, will be featured in the procession making its way through Westminster Abbey. "We're all very excited about Prince George's role in the coronation," a Kensington Palace spokesperson told Entertainment Tonight in April. "It will be an incredibly special moment."
George is also expected to join his parents, siblings and other members of the royal family as they ride in carriages for the coronation procession and make their way back to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey. The family will also appear on the palace's balcony after the service.
Aside from taking part in the royal procession and balcony appearance, first reported by the Times in March, it's unclear if Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will have other roles during the service. The youngest royal was considered too young to attend the queen's state funeral in September.
Children have typically been sidelined at these events. A 4-year-old Charles watched just part of his mother's coronation in 1953, while Elizabeth was 11 when she observed the 1937 coronation of her father, King George VI, from Westminster Abbey's Royal Gallery. Neither held a role in either service, which is why Prince George's page of honor duties are so significant. As People has reported, it will mark the first time in modern royal history that a future monarch has officially taken part in a coronation.
Should we expect to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?
Prince Harry will attend his father's coronation, marking his first public outing with the royal family since the publication of his memoir, Spare. However, he will be going solo. Meghan Markle, who was invited, will not be in attendance.
Instead, the duchess will be staying back in California with her two children to celebrate Archie's fourth birthday, which is also on May 6. "As much as Meghan appreciates the invite to the coronation, she wouldn't miss her son’s birthday for the world. Despite being the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan is a mom first," a source told Us Weekly.
As for Archie's celebration, People reports "it's going to be a low-key party at home. They'll have friends around them and Meghan's mom, Doria [Ragland]. Meghan will definitely have support that weekend."
Prince Harry's role in the ceremony is unclear. Also unclear: where he'll be sitting. Previous reports claimed he would be 10 rows back from the senior royals, but a recent report from Page Six says he is not aware of his seating arrangements. An insider shared, "Harry's heard nothing from Buckingham Palace for the seating. For the most part, I think all parties will be focused on making the day as special as possible for the king."
It's also unclear whether Prince Harry will be wearing his military uniform to the coronation, despite his two tours in Afghanistan. The Mirror reports he "could be set for another uniform humiliation." Royal fans might recall he was dressed in a morning suit, not military attire, for Queen Elizabeth II's funeral in September. A spokesman at the time confirmed the news, adding, "His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears."
Don't expect him to linger either. Town & Country reports that Harry's trip to the U.K. is expected to be less than 48 hours long so he can make the last few hours of Archie's birthday.
Who else will be in attendance?
It's no secret many Americans are fascinated by the monarchy. Almost 30 million people in the U.S. watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say "I do" at Windsor Castle. (And nearly 18 million tuned in to their Oprah Winfrey tell-all.) Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Princess of Wales, drew 23 million viewers from the States for their royal wedding. Of course, many royal watchers from afar are into the drama. The Crown's fifth season debuted at No. 1 in November, and viewership for the Netflix drama surged after the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year.
There are two big events to look out for that should have some star power: The official coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, will take place at Westminster Abbey on Saturday. The following day, a special coronation concert will be staged and broadcast live at Windsor Castle.
Reports claim that Harry Styles, Elton John, Adele and Ed Sheeran are notable names who turned down offers to perform at the concert for various reasons.
So, what celebrities will show up? Tom Cruise is the latest confirmed guest announced to "appear" at the concert. The Top Gun star, Winnie the Pooh, Dynasty star Joan Collins, singer Tom Jones, adventurer Bear Grylls and dancer Oti Mabuse have taped segments where they'll reveal "little-known facts about the king."
The coronation concert really shook things up at American Idol. Katy Perry and Lionel Richie are temporarily abandoning their seats at the judges' table as they are both singing on Sunday. Take That and Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger will also perform. Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville will host the proceedings.
What's the dress code?
Robes and regalia
With his coronation attire, Charles appears to be leaning into tradition but adding a modern twist.
King Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, will be wearing robes while arriving and departing from Westminster Abbey, where the coronation will be held. Charles will arrive in a crimson robe and depart wearing purple silk, both originally worn by his grandfather King George VI at his coronation in 1937. Camilla will wear robes of the same colors, although she'll arrive in one originally made for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and exit in a new design, which can be seen here, courtesy of Today.
Charles will continue to rewear historic items of clothing throughout the ceremony, changing into various coats and cloaks previously worn by family members. In a break from tradition, he is expected to wear his military uniform beneath, instead of silk stockings and breeches.
The king will wear two crowns on his coronation day, including the centerpiece of the Crown Jewels used at the moment of crowning. It was made in 1661 for King Charles II and was last worn at Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953. The other crown was made for the coronation of King George VI and is used more frequently at ceremonies. People reports that it sat on top of the late queen's coffin during her state funeral.
Camilla is to be dressed in a more "modern" gown but will be crowned with the Crown of Queen Mary, according to Marie Claire, which was made for Charles's great-grandmother Mary of Teck in 1911.
Modernized dress code
The attending royals are expected to go more modern with their outfits, according to Cosmopolitan.
Kate Middleton will lean into her personal style, as royal fashion expert Josh Birch Jones predicts that she'll wear a coatdress, per Page Six. The style of dress, which fastens down the front, is a favorite of hers, most recently worn on Easter Sunday. As with her outfit for the holiday, Kate shared that her coronation outfit will include a "hint of blue."
While tiaras are traditionally worn to a coronation, Kate is said to be keeping it more casual with a floral headpiece or fascinator, according to People. She was last seen wearing a flower crown on a visit during Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee tour in 2012. She wears fascinators more often.
A fascinator and nude pantyhose are two staple items for the princess — the latter out of obligation as a member of the royal family, although there are instances where she's worn black tights, or gone without them for more casual affairs. Fascinators, however, garnered a lot of attention as a standout accessory for attendees of Kate's wedding to Prince William. They're most often worn for weddings and holidays. The princess is particularly fond of adding them to her ensembles for all sorts of formal events and appearances.
Cosmopolitan's source additionally noted that jewelry will "play a prominent role for the coronation," sharing that Kate will likely "turn to the royal jewelry collection for this event."
There's no shortage of merch for onlookers looking to get in on the celebration — from T-shirts on Etsy featuring the official coronation emblem to a collection of related tea towels, dishes and decor at the Royal Collection Shop.
Expect the streets leading up to Westminster Abbey to be flooded with people holding up commemorative pennants and printouts of the king and queen consort's faces.
Unlike other European royal families, the Mountbatten-Windsors have a global presence and have fostered diplomatic relations across the world on behalf of the British government. As king, Charles is head of the Commonwealth of Nations — a group of former colonies of the British Empire rebranded in 1949 in a bid to help the monarchy appear modernized. Of the 2,200 people invited to Charles's coronation on Saturday, it's believed that all Commonwealth leaders have been extended an invitation; however, it has been reported that some are not expected to attend over issues with Britain's colonial past.
One major absence from the coronation will be President Biden — continuing a long-standing tradition that has seen U.S. presidents skip coronations. First lady Jill Biden will be leading the delegation instead. Bob Seely, a Conservative British lawmaker, said of what he called Biden's "foolish" decision, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you would have thought he should come because he's a head of state."
Other absences will be the leaders from several countries with which the U.K. has no diplomatic ties: The heads of Afghanistan, Venezuela, Syria, Myanmar, Iran, Belarus and Russia were not invited to the ceremony. Some of the more unexpected guests to have been extended invitations were senior diplomats from North Korea and Nicaragua, Reuters reported.