While many traditions will be observed exactly as they were in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, there will be modern adjustments to the grand event to reflect both the changing times and the 74-year-old monarch's sensibilities, Charles being the oldest-ever person to assume the British throne.
"Hundreds of millions of people are expected to watch this coronation," royal correspondent Sharon Carpenter told E! News in an exclusive interview ahead of the big day. "And he's bringing together the best of both worlds. Tradition, pageantry, a thousand years of history—but he knows how important it is to send the message, 'We're not living in the past, we are living in the now, this is a monarchy that is still relevant.'"
The queen's coronation was the first to be televised—it took some convincing from the forward-thinking Prince Philip (the queen's consort and chair of the Coronation Commission) to get his wife and various officials on board—and Charles' ceremony on May 6 at London's Westminster Abbey, needless to say, will be the first ever to be streamed.
He also, incidentally, has a much bigger extended family than his mother did when she became queen at 25. One of the few details that had been up in the air—whether or not both of Charles' sons would be in attendance—fell into place April 12 when the palace confirmed that Prince Harry would be there, albeit without his wife Meghan Markle.
But come rain or come shine, the intricate plans will proceed as scheduled. Here's everything you need to know about Charles' coronation, as we know it.
When is King Charles III's coronation?
The coronation will take place Saturday, May 6, at London's Westminster Abbey. Live TV coverage of the proceedings is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. local time (aka 2:30 a.m. ET/11:30 p.m. PT, so put the kettle on) and will track the king's procession to the Abbey, while the actual coronation service starts at 11 a.m. You can also watch live on eonline.com and the app starting at 5 a.m. ET /2 a.m. PT.
What is a coronation?
Not to be confused with King Charles III's accession, which occurred when Queen Elizabeth II died on Sept. 8—making that his Accession Day forever after—or the day he was formally proclaimed king by the Accession Council on Sept. 10, the coronation is, for all intents and purposes, a religious ceremony that dates back to 1154.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, it is the "formal investiture of a monarch with their regal powers," during which the nearly 5-pound St. Edward's Crown will be placed on Charles' head (as it was on his mum's) for the first (and only) time, as the piece never leaves Westminster Abbey. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will bless the new sovereign and anoint him with holy oil from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. The oil is poured from the Ampulla, a 1661-era golden vessel shaped like an eagle, into the Coronation Spoon.
The Church of England issued a booklet of 28 daily prayers, starting with one for Easter Sunday, so the faithful can gear up for the event by praying for Charles, his family and the country ahead of time.
There was talk beforehand, according to Carpenter, about whether Charles' oath in which he swears to be "a defender of the faith" might be changed to "defender of faiths" to represent the king's stated commitment being a leader for all U.K. citizens regardless of their religion. "It's going to stay 'defender of the faith,'" the correspondent said, "but then messaging is going to be added to reflect the fact that he is here to serve people of all faiths."
And in a nod to newfangled technology, there's also a "Coronation Celebration Playlist" streaming on Spotify featuring tunes curated by the government's Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport.
What are the Crown Jewels?
They're not just a euphemism! On display in the Tower of London, the glittering collection includes various literal crowns and all coronation regalia—much of which, including St. Edward's Crown, was created for King Charles II in 1661. The aforementioned 674-year-old spoon is the oldest known piece in the collection.
Various pieces will be presented to the new king during his investiture: A pair of spurs to represent knightly "values and virtues"; the Jeweled Sword of Offering; two sceptres, one with a cross and the other a dove; the pair of armills (golden, velvet-lined cuffs with enamel designs that were presented to his grandfather King George VI at his coronation in 1937; a jewel-encrusted orb representing the globe; and the Sovereign's Ring, a diamond-surrounded sapphire overlaid with rubies that form a St George's cross.
In addition to being a centuries-old ritual, the presentation will also represent a poignant passing-of-the-torch to Charles, the Sovereign's Orb and Sceptre having last been seen atop the queen's casket in September. "This is going to be bittersweet for a lot of people," Carpenter told E!, "because this is really going to be the realization for many that Queen Elizabeth is not coming back. That royal regalia that was on her casket that's now being presented to the new king really signifies the end of the queen's reign and the beginning of Charles's reign.
What is Queen Consort Camilla's role in King Charles III's coronation?
Charles' wife of 18 years, Camilla, will be crowned alongside her husband. She'll be presented with the Queen Consort's ring, a ruby surrounded by diamonds, and two sceptres. A revamped Queen Mary's Crown—originally made for King George V's wife in 1911—will be placed on her head.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond (which now represents the dark, violent days of British imperialism for many) originally embedded in the headpiece is being replaced by the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who wore them as brooches.
This is the first time a queen consort won't be getting a new custom crown, the palace explaining the decision to recycle as being in "the interests of sustainability and efficiency."
The invitation that went out to 2,000 guests (a slimmed-down crowd from the 8,251 who attended Queen Elizabeth II's coronation) garnered attention by the referral to "Queen Camilla," which emphasized how far the royal family had come from the days when the public was told Charles' wife wouldn't take any title involving the word "queen" at all. Not until February 2022 did the late queen express her "sincere wish" for her daughter-in-law to one day be known as queen consort.
"It's not that abnormal," Carpenter said of the family dropping "consort" from the title, noting that Queen Mary and the Queen Mother (known as Queen Elizabeth before her daughter took the throne) were both technically consorts but no one called them that. "If made sense the Camilla was known as Queen Consort once Charles immediately ascended the throne so there's wasn't a mix-up between her and the queen. But once the coronation takes place, she will be known as Queen Camilla. This is something the public is getting used to, they've warmed up to her over the years."
Will King Charles III's whole family be at his coronation?
Charles' sister Princess Anne and brother Prince Edward will be attending with their spouses and children. Of her five grandchildren, Zara and Mike Tindall's youngest, 2-year-old Lucas, has likely been deemed too young for the occasion.
Anne revealed her coronation role in a rare interview, telling CBC News that, as Colonel of the Blues and Royals in the Household Cavalry, she was asked if she'd serve as Gold-Stick, the original close protection officer.
"So, I said yes," the Princess Royal said. "Not least of all, it solves my dress problem."
Scandal-plagued brother Prince Andrew is also expected to attend, though he reportedly will not be playing any role during the ceremony or procession, and will not join senior members of the family on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the coronation.
"He will not be as visible as the others," Carpenter said. But interestingly, she noted, Andrew being there at all reflects a "family-first" approach that's unlike what the royals would have done in the past, when anyone who carried a whiff of scandal wasn't included in major events: Prince Philip's sisters weren't invited to his 1947 wedding because they were married to German princes with rumored Nazi ties. Ex-King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936, didn't attend his brother King George VI's coronation the following year or his niece Queen Elizabeth II's in 1953.
Notably not on the guest list: Andrew's ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, who despite being the mother of Charles' nieces Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie has had a spotty relationship with the royals for the past 30 years. In the wake of a tabloid scandal she wasn't invited to Kate and William's 2011 wedding, but Harry made a point of including her at his and Meghan's 2018 nuptials.
Ferguson, who's still the Duchess of York, didn't sound as if she was taking it too hard during an appearance on Good Morning Britain. "It's a state occasion," she noted. "And being divorced, I don't think you can have it both ways."
The Church of England shared May 1 that William, who's first in line to the throne, will present his father with the Stole Royal and the Robe Royal during the ceremony.
Why is Prince Harry attending the coronation without Meghan Markle?
The big question was whether Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were going to make it in the wake of the January release of Harry's explosive memoir Spare, which (among other things) directed no small share of the blame for the British press' mistreatment of him throughout his life—and of Meghan, once she was in the picture—toward his family.
On April 12, a rep for the couple confirmed that Harry will be there, but he'll make the trip on his own while Meghan stays home with son Archie, who will be turning 4 the day of the coronation, and 22-month-old daughter Lili. Meghan was last with Harry's family in September when everyone gathered for the queen's funeral.
Harry is "fulfilling his obligations," Carpenter observed. And this way, she added, Meghan gets to put her children first back in California and avoid the microscopic scrutiny that her presence would have attracted.
"A lot of people on the side of the royal family and the institution, at least, probably breathed a bit of a sigh of relief when they heard that Megan wasn't coming," Carpenter said. "Some of them may have felt it might have been a bit of a distraction."
And frankly, she said, Harry not going would have been "horrible" for everyone involved. "That would have been just heart-wrenching for Charles," she explained, "and a stain on his reign that his youngest son isn't there at the most important occasion of his life. And I believe Harry would have felt very bad about it."
Harry made it clear in Spare and various interviews that he wants to reconcile with his family, Carpenter noted, but "he wants them to understand his point of view. And he wants an apology—it doesn't sound like he's received that yet. Maybe he will never get one, maybe he will." But skipping the coronation was simply out of the question. "That would have been something that everyone would have been talking about on this very special occasion," she said. "Harry's doing the right thing by going."
What will Prince George be doing during the coronation?
At 9 years old, Charles' grandson Prince George, who's now second in line to the throne, will be the youngest future king to have a formal role in a coronation. William and Kate's eldest child will serve as a Page of Honour along with Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, 13, son of Charles' lord-in-waiting Marquess David Cholmondeley; Camilla's grandchildren Freddy Parker Bowles, 13, and 12-year-old twins Gus Lopes and Louis Lopes; her great-nephew Arthur Elliot, 11; and Master Nicholas Barclay, 13, the grandson of one of the queen consort's closest friends; and Master Ralph Tollemache, 12, whose father Edward Tollemache is one of Charles' godsons.
The kids will walk in the coronation procession through the Nave of Westminster Abbey, according to the palace.
"The fact that he is going to be such a big part of this coronation demonstrates that his parents want him to have that understanding," Carpenter said, "and that sort of appreciation and respect for the monarchy that starts at a very young age."
What happens before and after the coronation?
The horse-drawn Diamond Jubilee State Coach—comparatively brand-spankin'-new at only nine years old—will ferry Charles and Camilla to Westminster Abbey in what's known as the King's Procession, while they'll be driven to Buckingham Palace afterward in the 261-year-old Gold State Coach, which has been used for every coronation since King William IV's in 1831.
For the return trip—which will be an "enormous procession," according to coronation organizer Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the Duke of Norfolk—Charles will wear the Imperial State Crown, aka "the working crown," which he'll also don annually for the State Opening of Parliament. It boasts 2,868 diamonds, including the massive 317-carat Cullinan II, as well as the Black Prince Ruby in front and the Stuart Sapphire in back.
Per the palace, "Armed Forces from across the Commonwealth and the British Overseas Territories, and all Services of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, alongside The Sovereign's Bodyguard and Royal Watermen" will escort the State Coach.
When they get back to the palace, senior royals and their kids-of-all-ages will greet the crowd from the same balcony that has been utilized for all the big photo ops—William and Kate's post-wedding kiss, etc.—through the years. (The king and queen consort still reside at Clarence House, their longtime London home, but are expected to move into Buckingham Palace full-time once renovations to the residence are completed in 2027.)
As for who makes it onto the balcony, it may be a moment to point out just who the senior royals are these days (plus, perhaps, their adorable, scene-stealing little children), but Carpenter said she wouldn't be surprised if Harry makes it into the picture as well.
"This is Charles's moment to say, 'You are just as important,'" Carpenter said. "Nothing says 'modern day royal family' more than 'we've got the person at the center of this scandal incorporated with us, still invited, still part of the family.' It would send a really important message of, 'No matter what, we still love each other, we come together when it really matters. And we come together for the good of the people, as well.'"
Who will perform at the Coronation Concert?
On May 7, Windsor Castle will host the Coronation Concert—and after a series of stories about who would not be performing (including Adele, Elton John and the Spice Girls, despite their cheeky history with Charles), announced headliners now include Prince's Trust global ambassador Lionel Richie, Katy Perry (who was appointed by then-Prince Charles to the British Asian Trust in 2020), Take That (reportedly minus Robbie Williams) and Andrea Bocelli.
May 8 has been declared a bank holiday.
What is "Coronation Chicken" and will they be serving it?
"Coronation Chicken" does, in fact, derive its name from the dish served after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, and it's basically a luncheon-appropriate curried chicken salad.
But Charles and Camilla's main course is going to be quiche made with broad beans, spinach and tarragon. And if people all over the U.K. want to eat it in solidary, it's their choice whether to add meat or keep it vegetarian.
(Originally published April 12, 2023, at 12 p.m. PT)