King Charles's coronation will be colossal, says ROBERT HARDMAN 

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The date is set: Saturday, May 6. And it already sends out some important signals.

First, the Palace and the Government are on the same wavelength. The King is acutely aware that the monarchy has not been the greatest ally of the ailing British economy by adding two public holidays to the 2022 calendar (one for Her Late Majesty’s Jubilee and another for her funeral).

So the Coronation will be on a weekend. What’s more, it falls at the end of the week which already includes the May Day bank holiday. Should any extra party time be required, then May Day can be shunted to the end of that week. A socialist invention which was first adopted by Jim Callaghan’s Labour government in 1978, the holiday has never been dear to Tory hearts anyway.

This also tells us that the King is not consciously framing his big day around that of Her Late Majesty. All those predictions of an early June date, to hit the 70th anniversary of the last Coronation – June 2, 1953 – inevitably invited close comparisons. This is pointing to a new monarch doing his own thing, or as the Palace put it last night: ‘Recognising the spirit of our times.’ Palace sources assure me that we need not fear a ‘scaled-down’ or diminished event.

I expect to see two main differences. First, the congregation will be much smaller than last time. Second, we will not see a post-imperial, horse-drawn cavalcade meandering around London, featuring everyone from the Wali of Swat and the Queen of Tonga to a separate carriage procession just for the Prime Minister.

The Coronation will be on a weekend. What’s more, it falls at the end of the week which already includes the May Day bank holiday. (Pictured: The Queen Consort, Camilla, and King Charles III

The Coronation will be on a weekend. What’s more, it falls at the end of the week which already includes the May Day bank holiday. (Pictured: The Queen Consort, Camilla, and King Charles III

However, while we may not see Liz Truss in a state landau, I have no doubt that it will still be a colossal and spectacular statement of the place our monarchy occupies in the life of this nation.

Having now put the date in our diaries, let the squabbling begin. In no particular order, I am looking forward to the rows about dress codes (too grand/not grand enough) to the Queen Consort’s crown (should it still be decorated with the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond several nations, including India, claim as their own?). I am sure we will see plenty of hysterics on social media over the Coronation oil used to anoint the sovereign. For it is made to a sacred and ancient recipe that includes not just jasmine and cinnamon, but also civet and ambergris.

Since civet comes from the glands of an African cat and ambergris is a wax-like material from the stomach of a sperm whale, expect howls of outrage on that front.

Yet what all this shows, ultimately, is that deep down we still care greatly about this ritual. And that has to be a good thing. In recent days, there has been a very lively debate about the tone of the ceremony. Republicans, of course, will always argue that there should be no Coronation at all, so let us park them to one side.

Many others have been dismayed by reports that this will be a ‘scaled down’ affair. True, the congregation will have to be smaller. Modern safety regulations will simply not allow the Westminster Abbey authorities to bolster their 2,000-seat capacity by 400 per cent, as they did last time, by erecting temporary grandstands on top of temporary grandstands.

Think back to last month’s throat-gulping aerial shots from the BBC during the Queen’s funeral. Would we prefer to see the majesty of the occasion cluttered with scaffolding simply so that every MP and peer (plus spouse) can be accommodated? (Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in 1953)

Think back to last month’s throat-gulping aerial shots from the BBC during the Queen’s funeral. Would we prefer to see the majesty of the occasion cluttered with scaffolding simply so that every MP and peer (plus spouse) can be accommodated? (Pictured: Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in 1953)

Even if they were permitted to do so, it would spoil the view for the billions watching on telly. For modern production values are light years from the crackly black and white shots which the public were content to watch in 1953.

Think back to last month’s throat-gulping aerial shots from the BBC during the Queen’s funeral. Would we prefer to see the majesty of the occasion cluttered with scaffolding simply so that every MP and peer (plus spouse) can be accommodated?

The main components of the Coronation will be the rituals and the regalia – and I have no doubt they will still form the essence of this event, just as they have done at every Coronation since that of King Edgar at Bath in 973 (the earliest one for which we have details).

This involves presenting the new monarch, an oath, the anointing and an investiture with a crown. Much of that, in turn, derives from the Old Testament. King Charles is not going to part with a tradition going back to time immemorial.

Similarly, the Jewel House at the Tower of London will be emptied of every last item of constitutional bling, from the many royal crowns to the Orb, the Ampulla and the Coronation Spoon. Just because we may not see elderly earls in ermine does not mean we will see the Royal Family dressing down.

I would also envisage a strong multi-faith presence in the prayers and processions. Nor will that be a Charles III innovation. The late Queen made that a feature of the Abbey’s annual Commonwealth Day service. However, I expect this to remain an unambiguously Christian service to its core.

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