It’s been nearly 70 years since a coronation ceremony has taken place. Queen Elizabeth II‘s ceremony occurred on June 2, 1953, while her son, King Charles III, will have the crown bestowed upon him on Saturday, May 6, in a ceremony that also formalizes his role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of his title and powers.
Queen Elizabeth was only 27 years old when her big day finally came calling, though she had to wait 15 months between her ascension to the throne and her coronation. Meanwhile, Charles will be 74 on his coronation day, but he only had to wait two days shy of eight months from when he ascended the throne to his coronation day. By comparison, Elizabeth’s father, George VI, was 41 during his coronation ceremony on May 24, 1937 (after his brother, Edward VIIII, stepped down).
In short, there will be quite a few differences come Saturday in London for Charles’ coronation day. Let’s take a look at how else his ceremony will compare to that of his late mother.
A ‘slimmed-down monarchy’
A source has previously told ET that Saturday’s coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London — where every coronation has taken place since 1066 — will be a shorter and more modern one. The changes will reflect Charles’ wish for a more “slimmed-down monarchy.”
How much slimmer? According to Insider, more than 8,000 guests were invited to attend Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony in 1953 and nearly 130 nations were officially represented at the event. Her ceremony also lasted upward of three hours, whereas Charles’ ceremony is expected to last just a little over an hour.
Also, according to Time, Elizabeth’s ceremony cost 25 times more than the first inauguration for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. By contrast, Charles’ ceremony arrives amid economic uncertainty in the U.K. — from high inflation to rising energy costs — which might explain why the new monarch prefers a more “slimmed-down” version.
That being said, a source close to Charles previously told ET that the ceremony will absolutely still be “on a scale and spectacle befitting of sovereignty, history and tradition.”
Only William will pay allegiance to the king
According to the Liturgy of the Coronation Service, Prince William will pledge his loyalty and allegiance to the king during the ceremony. William, 40, the heir to the throne, will kneel before his father — after he is officially crowned — and place his hands between the king’s and recite the words known as the Homage of Royal Blood: “I, William, Prince of Wales, pledge my loyalty to you and faith and truth I will bear unto you, as your liege man of life and limb. So help me God.”
According to The Sunday Times, this is a major break from tradition as he “has scrapped the act of the royal dukes kneeling to ‘pay homage’ before touching the crown and kissing the monarch’s right cheek.”
Elizabeth’s ceremony included all dukes kneeling before her and swearing allegiance to the crown. For Charles’ ceremony, William will be the only royal to pay homage to the king.
As for Prince Harry, he will be attending the coronation, but his wife, Meghan Markle, will not be joining him. This news comes amid tension within the royal family after the December release of Harry and Meghan’s Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, and the Duke of Sussex’s bestselling memoir, Spare, which came out in January. Both the doc and the book were critical of Harry’s family and also shared intimate details about the royals from the couple’s perspective.
While Harry is in England, Meghan will be staying at their home in Montecito, California, with their two children — son Archie, who is turning 4 on the day of the coronation, and 1-year-old daughter Lilibet. Despite Harry and Meghan’s estrangement from the royals, the couple is featured in the official souvenir program celebrating the coronation, which includes a happy photo of the family — including Prince William, Kate Middleton and their three kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — celebrating King Charles’ 70th birthday in 2018.
Differences in prayer
King Charles said a prayer out loud during the coronation ceremony which, per royal experts, was the first time that a monarch prayed out loud before their people. Charles’ ceremony also included faith leaders from other religions in the commonwealth, another first for British history.
Like his mother’s ceremony, Charles’ anointing was shielded from the Abbey’s audience with a screen. In 1953, cameras showed only a closeup of the screen’s fabric, but audiences heard the Archbishop speak as he completed the ceremony — this year, cameras continued streaming images of the choir inside the Abbey while the anointing took place, but audiences only heard singing.
More than just one crown
King Charles will be crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown from the 17th century, which weighs nearly five pounds, has a solid gold frame and 444 stones.
Meanwhile, his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, will be anointed and crowned as queen in a service carried out by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Camilla will be the first divorcee to be crowned, and the coronation invitation that was released in April made headlines when it referred to her as Queen Camilla for the first time. Until then, she was described as queen consort.
By contrast, Elizabeth was the only royal to get crowned at her ceremony. Her husband, Prince Philip, was given the royal title of Duke of Edinburgh. According to People, Charles’ coronation will mark the first time a male British royal gets crowned since his grandfather, King George VI, was crowned in 1937.
Elizabeth and Philip were driven in the Gold State Coach — pulled by eight gray gelding horses — across London following her coronation ceremony. The route was approximately five miles and it lasted two hours.
According to Elle, Charles’ procession (also known as “The King’s Procession”) was only 1.3 miles and he instead rode from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach.
No toilet paper mystery … hopefully
According to The Telegraph, one big mishap during Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony in 1953 included a ton of toilet paper had gone missing the day before the event.
The outlet cited the Record of Procedure, a book that detailed how much effort went into planning Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, and it’s said to have “found early on Coronation day that much of the lavatory paper had been removed” from Westminster Abbey.
As for the culprit, the book says the mishap may have been the work of thieves taking advantage of the event.
According to Jessamy Carlson at the National Archives, the book showed “the nuance of the planning but also the lessons learned afterward.” The book went on to note that “in [the] future it will be necessary to take special steps to prevent this.”
Hopefully no shortage of toilet paper will be an issue on Saturday.
Charles was actually the first child to witness his mother’s coronation as a sovereign, according to the palace. Princess Anne did not attend the ceremony because she was considered too young.
In addition to William and Harry attending, Charles’ grandchildren — as well as Camilla’s — will also be on hand and taking on a special role as Pages of Honour.
Prince George, for example, will be one of eight chosen to attend the coronation of Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort Camilla, and Their Majesties will each be attended by four Pages of Honour. The Pages will form part of the procession through the Nave of Westminster Abbey. The King’s Pages of Honour will be His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales, Lord Oliver Cholmondeley, Master Nicholas Barclay and Master Ralph Tollemache.
In 1953, more than 27 million people in the U.K. (out of the 36 million people who lived there) watched Elizabeth’s coronation, and more than 11 million listened to it on the radio. According to the palace, more than 2,000 journalists and 500 photographers from 92 nations were posted on the coronation route for the queen’s ceremony.
It goes without saying, Elizabeth’s coronation ceremony was the first service to be televised on the BBC. Among the many foreign journalists was none other than Jacqueline Bouvier, who at the time was working for the Washington Times-Herald newspaper. She would later become known to the world as the first lady of the United States, Jackie Kennedy.
By contrast, approximately 300 million-plus are expected to watch Charles’ coronation ceremony when the festivities are broadcast worldwide. Plus, his will be the first ever coronation broadcast in color.
As for Charles’ coronation ceremony, it will not broadcast publicly, but plenty of special programming and live footage from the ceremony will be available to watch live on May 6, starting at 5 a.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+. Audiences will also be able to view coverage on CBS News, including the concert featuring Katy Perry and Lionel Richie on Sunday, May 7. Additionally, others can watch the coronation online on these streaming platforms.
How to Watch King Charles’ Coronation Live in the U.S.
Princess Charlotte Is a Doting Sister at King Charles III’s Coronation
King Charles III Coronation: See the Royals in Attendance