Technically, Prince Charles became King Charles III the very moment his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on September 8, 2022. That change in leadership, known as the accession, happens automatically—though a ceremony is held after the fact.
But in terms of length, scope, extravagance, and basically everything else, the accession ceremony has nothing on the coronation, which marks a monarch’s formal investiture as sovereign. The celebration of King Charles III’s coronation will take place over three days this May—here’s everything we know about it so far.
1. King Charles III’s coronation ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023.
The coronation itself comes first, scheduled for the morning of Saturday, May 6. King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort, will lead what’s known as “The King’s Procession” from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. There, the Archbishop of Canterbury will preside over a religious service during which King Charles III is expected to recite the coronation oath, be crowned with St. Edward’s Crown, and hold the Coronation Regalia (a bejeweled scepter, orb, and spoon). Camilla will also be formally crowned Queen Consort during the proceedings. Afterwards, the pair will lead royal family members and other key figures back to Buckingham in the so-called “Coronation Procession” and wave to the masses below from the palace balcony.
2. King Charles III’s coronation may be shorter and smaller than his mother’s.
For Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, extra stands were erected inside the abbey so more than 8000 people could attend. Unless King Charles III does the same (which isn’t likely), we’re looking at a guest list closer to 2000. But the ceremony will almost definitely be televised—following Elizabeth’s history-making precedent.
Back in October, the Daily Mail claimed that Charles’s coronation ceremony is expected to last a bit longer than an hour; his mother’s went on for about three. This means certain traditions will probably end up on the chopping block, including, perhaps, bestowing Charles with gold ingots. The dress code could be less formal, too; reports suggest that Charles may forgo the traditional silk stockings and breeches in favor of his military uniform.
3. A special new commission will decide who gets to perform honorary roles.
Since the 14th century, the Court of Claims has convened before each coronation to determine who gets to perform honorary duties during the ceremony—such as carrying the Coronation Regalia and various other objects. This time, the Cabinet Office has established a special Coronation Claims Office to take its place.
According to a press release, officials “will consult with ecclesiastical experts from Lambeth Palace and ceremonial experts from the Royal Household” to decide which duties to keep and which people will perform them. In order to be considered for a role, you have to submit a claim with evidence that it “has been performed at previous coronations.” You also have to “show your connection to those who have previously performed the role.”
4. An anti-monarchist group is planning a peaceful protest.
The anti-monarchist group Republic is planning a peaceful protest of the coronation on May 6. It will take place in Parliament Square near Westminster Abbey. “The coronation is a celebration of hereditary power and privilege, it has no place in a modern society,” Republic CEO Graham Smith told Reuters. “At a cost of tens of millions of pounds, this pointless piece of theatre is a slap in the face for millions of people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.”
5. Windsor Castle will host a Coronation Concert the following day.
Day two of coronation weekend—Sunday—will feature a huge concert at Windsor Castle. Though the line-up of “global music icons and contemporary stars” hasn’t yet been announced, the palace has promised a performance by a coronation choir comprising diverse singers from “refugee choirs, National Health Service choirs, LGBTQ+ singing groups and deaf signing choirs.” There will be a lights show with drones and lasers, too. In addition to broadcasting the entire event, the BBC and BBC Studios will give away several thousand tickets (though the details of that process remain unclear).
6. Coronation Big Lunches will kick off all over the UK.
Every year since 2009, education and social charity The Eden Project hosts what it calls The Big Lunch. Basically, on one Sunday in June, everyone convenes in their local community spaces to have lunch together. The organization celebrated Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee with a special Big Jubilee Lunch, and it’s planning a similar series for the coronation. If you’re interested in hosting a Coronation Big Lunch in your own community—no matter where you live—you can learn how to get started here.
7. Monday, May 8, will be a bank holiday.
Monday, May 8, is confirmed as a bank holiday. Anybody who doesn’t have to work that day is encouraged to spend the time volunteering in their communities. The multi-organization campaign, dubbed The Big Help Out, is a nod to King Charles III’s commitment to public service.
8. Camilla, Queen Consort, will wear Queen Mary’s crown—with its controversial diamond removed.
Rather than have a new crown made, Camilla will wear one created for Queen Mary, George V’s queen consort, in 1911. The headpiece won’t be exactly the same, though: Some of its arches will be removed, and it will not feature the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond. The historic 105.6-carat gem had originally been taken from a young prince by the East India Company in the 19th century and given to Queen Victoria; it has since been included in crowns worn during British coronations. Camilla’s crown will instead pay homage to Queen Elizabeth II: the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds, which the late monarch wore as brooches, will be set into the headpiece.
9. The holy anointing oil used in King Charles III’s coronation will not contain animal products.
Before Charles is crowned king, he’ll be anointed with the Chrism oil during the coronation’s most solemn step. In the past, the sacred substance—which was recently consecrated in Jerusalem—contained oil from whales and civets. But the oil won’t contain any animal substances this time around. It’s mainly olive oil (which, according to the BBC, was made “partly using olives grown on the Mount of Olives at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene, which is where the king's grandmother, Princess Alice, is buried”) and a blend of other essential oils such as orange blossom, jasmine, rose, cinnamon, and sesame. Whether the anointment will be televised remains unknown; this event was the only part of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation that was not broadcast on television.
10. The coronation invitation officially identified Camilla as queen.
Camilla has typically had the title queen consort attached to her name. The official coronation invitation, however, simply identifies her as queen. Though Queen Elizabeth II had previously stated she wished for Camilla to be known as queen consort, it’s not surprising that Buckingham Palace is dropping the latter part of the title. Camilla’s not the first royal spouse to go by a shorter title, either: Prince Philip was technically prince consort as well, and George VI’s wife was simply referred to as Queen Elizabeth (until her daughter Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and she adopted the title queen mother).
The invitations—which were sent out to around 2000 people—feature colorful wildflowers, wildlife, and images from British folklore. There are also quite a few symbols related to the royals themselves. Andrew Jamieson, a heraldic artist and manuscript illuminator, hand-painted the images.
11. Not every royal relative received an invite to the coronation.
Charles III’s coronation will have a leaner guest list than years past. Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, will attend, along with their children. Prince Harry will be there as well—though his wife, Meghan Markle, will not (the coronation shares a date with their son’s birthday). The king’s siblings also received an official invitation, but not every royal relative made the cut. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, didn’t receive an invite; neither did Lady Pamela Hicks, Prince Philip’s cousin and one of Queen Elizabeth II’s bridesmaids.
Politicians and heads of state from the UK and beyond were invited to the coronation. First Lady Jill Biden will be among the famous faces in the crowd, though the president himself will not attend.
Not every attendee was invited based on their family ties or political standing: Of the 2000 people who will attend Charles III’s coronation, more than 450 of them will be British Empire Medal recipients; that honor recognizes “remarkable volunteers, charity representatives, and community champions” for their service.
A version of this article originally ran in January 2023; it has been updated to include additional information about King Charles III’s coronation.