There were almost 70 years between Queen Elizabeth II‘s coronation and that of her son, King Charles III, and whilst many long-held traditions appeared in both – such as a procession to and from to greet the public, some waving from a balcony, and an anointing with holy oil behind a canopy – there were some stark differences too.
When speaking about his coronation service in the run-up to it, His Majesty and Buckingham Palace shared that they wanted to have a ‘pared back’ event this time around, in order to be mindful of the current cost of living crisis and hardships many of us are facing in 2023.
Other elements of the coronation were modernised too, and given the King’s passion for climate change and nature, elements of that featured in the big day as well.
So, how does King Charles III’s coronation compare to his mother’s, Queen Elizabeth II?
The procession route
Back on 2 June 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, there was no such thing as social media and television coverage was a lot more restricted (sidenote: Her Majesty’s was the first coronation to ever be broadcast) – therefore, her procession route was a lot longer than King Charles’. Why? So that more of the general public were able to catch a glimpse of their Queen on her big day.
For comparison, King Charles III’s journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey spanned 1.4 miles took around 30 minutes (and followed the same route upon return). Queen Elizabeth II’s journey to the Abbey was 1.6 miles, however her return was 5 miles – so that more of the public had a chance to steal a wave from Her Majesty. That return trip took a whopping two hours to complete. That’s a lot of waving!
Ladies in waiting
Whilst Queen Elizabeth II had six ladies in waiting with her, helping with things like carrying her train (and no doubt giving some moral support during quite a daunting day!), Queen Camilla pared things back on that front and was flanked by just two (who have also had the role renamed as Queen’s Companions): her sister, Annabel Elliot, and Lady Fiona Lansdowne.
At King Charles III’s coronation, Queen Camilla was a key part of the ceremony and was even crowned herself. This wasn’t the case for Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, although he did appear in her ceremony as the “first person to pay homage to the newly crowned Queen, kneeling before her to pledge his allegiance” (via the Royal Collection Trust).
1953 (Prince Philip kneels before the Queen)
For the first time ever during a coronation ceremony, a woman held the Sword of State (both before and after it was blessed by the Archbishop and presented to the King). Prior to being in Westminster Abbey, it was carried by Petty Officer Amy Taylor, who was chosen to represent service men and women across the nation, and then passed on to Conservative MP, Penny Mordaunt, who dressed for the occasion in a teal headband and matching cape-dress. Mordaunt was selected to carry the sword because she is the Lord President of the Privy Council.
King Charles III has long been an advocate for sustainability and tackling climate change, so it was fitting that no new crowns were created for the coronation – His Majesty was crowned with the St Edward’s Crown, the same one placed upon the head of Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation, while Queen Camilla had the honour of wearing a special headpiece previously designed for Queen Mary.
The number of guests
Again, sticking to his promise of having a more ‘scaled back’ coronation, King Charles III invited some 2,000 guests to Westminster Abbey – a mix of dignitaries, world leaders, celebrities and some members of the general public. In comparison, Queen Elizabeth II had over 8,000 people on her guest list!
Length of the service
As above, another way that Charles put in practice a Coronation Lite was by trimming back the service in Westminster Abbey; whilst Queen Elizabeth’s went on for a three hour stint, the King’s came in at about an hour.