The crowning of a sovereign is one of the most ancient ceremonies, and is deeply religious and steeped in pageantry.
The Crown Jewels’ coronation regalia will play a starring role when the King is crowned on Saturday May 6 next year in Westminster Abbey.
There are six basic phases to the coronation: The recognition, the oath, the anointing, the investiture which includes the crowning, the enthronement and the homage. Here is what is expected to happen:
Recognition: This rite dates back to ancient procedures of the Witan – the supreme council of England in Anglo-Saxon times. The sovereign stands in the theatre – the central space in Westminster Abbey – and turns to show himself ‘unto the people’ at each of the four directions – east, south, west and north. The Archbishop of Canterbury will proclaim Charles the ‘undoubted King’ and ask the congregation and choir to show their homage and service by crying out ‘God Save King Charles’, with the order of service urging them to do so with ‘willingness and joy’.
Coronation Oath: The form and wording of the oath has varied over the centuries. The King will promise to reign according to law, exercise justice with mercy and maintain the Church of England. The King, with the Sword of State carried before him, will go to the altar and declare: ‘The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep. So help me God.’ He will kiss the Bible and sign the Oath.
The Anointing: After the oath, the sovereign is then ‘anointed, blessed and consecrated’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The anointing with holy oil is the central act of the religious ceremony. The King will remove his crimson robe and sit in King Edward’s chair, which was made in 1300 and has been used by every monarch since 1626, under a canopy of silk or cloth of gold held by four Knights of the Garter.
The archbishop will use the golden eagle-shaped ampulla – which pours the oil from its beak – and the 12th century silver-gilt anointing spoon which is the most ancient treasure of the Crown Jewels, to anoint the King in the form of a cross. Traditionally the choir sings the anthem Zadok The Priest at the anointing is carried out. Under the chair is expected to be the Stone of Destiny. The ancient, sacred symbol of Scotland’s monarchy which was once captured by King Edward I of England now only leaves Edinburgh Castle for coronations.
Investiture including the Crowning: Having been sanctified, the sovereign puts on a sleeveless white garment – the Colobium Sindonis – and then a robe of cloth of gold – the Supertunica. The King is presented with a jewelled sword and the golden spurs – the symbol of chivalry – and the armills – golden bracelets of sincerity and wisdom.
He will put on the Robe Royal of gold cloth and will be presented with the orb, the coronation ring on the fourth finger of his right hand, the sceptre and the rod. Then Charles, sitting in King Edward’s Chair, will be crowned by the archbishop with St Edward’s Crown, with the congregation shouting out ‘God Save the King’.
Enthroning: After a blessing, the King will go to his throne and be ‘lifted up into it by the archbishops and bishops, and other peers of the kingdom’.
Homage: The archbishop, royal blood princes – likely to include the Prince of Wales – and senior peers pay homage to the monarch, placing their hands between the King’s and swearing allegiance, touching the crown and kissing the King’s right hand. The House of Commons does not pay homage.
The Queen’s Coronation: Camilla as Queen Consort will also be crowned, in a similar but simpler ceremony which follows the Homage. After Charles’s marriage to Camilla, the royal family’s website added the get-out clause ‘unless decided otherwise’ to the phrase: ‘A Queen consort is crowned with the King, in a similar but simpler ceremony.’
At George VI’s coronation, Queen Elizabeth was anointed and crowned. She knelt down with the archbishop pouring holy oil on the crown of her head, and the Queen’s Ring was placed on her hand, and her crown on her head. Her coronation crown was made especially for the 1937 coronation and features the famous but controversial Koh-i-noor diamond. She was presented with a sceptre and the ivory rod with the dove, before rising to sit in her own throne, after bowing ‘reverently’ to her husband.