King Charles coronation guide: When is it, what is the Stone of Destiny, royal rings, and more

King Charles III’s coronation, a deeply religious ceremony born of centuries-old traditions, will take place on May 6 at Westminster Abbey in London.

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Amid the pageantry, not only will Charles be crowned as king, but Camilla, the queen consort, will be crowned queen.

While Charles became king of England upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, the coronation formally gives the monarch the powers of a king or queen.

Charles is said to want a coronation that sets the tone for a more modern, streamlined monarchy. However, according to organizers, the world will still get to see the grandeur and traditions that have accompanied the English ceremony for nearly 1,000 years.

Here is a guide to the big day.

What is a coronation?

A coronation is a religious service where a ruler is crowned. As for King Charles,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The ceremony has retained a similar structure for over a thousand years, and this year’s Coronation is expected to include the same core elements while recognizing the spirit of our times.”

How will King Charles’ coronation be different from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation?

King Charles has asked for a streamlined ceremony that will take place before an estimated 2,000 guests. His mother hosted 8,251 guests at her coronation in 1953.

Elizabeth’s ceremony took three hours. According to Buckingham Palace, the coronation of Charles III will take a little more than an hour.

While it is planned to be much shorter than Elizabeth’s coronation, it will embrace more of what makes up England in 2023.

“It’s going to be more inclusive,” said Lady Anne Glenconner, 90, who served as a maid of honor at Elizabeth’s coronation. “I think with many more religions [represented],” Glenconner added.

Where will the coronation take place?

The service will be held at Westminster Abbey in London where 38 of the past 39 coronations have taken place.

Who will officiate the ceremony?

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, will officiate at the coronation.

What time is the coronation?

The service at Westminster Abbey will begin at 11 a.m. London time (6 a.m. Eastern time, 3 a.m. Pacific time). While the service will take about an hour,  Charles and Camilla’s ride to and from the abbey plus the parades and other celebrations will take several hours.

It’s 2023, is there a playlist for the coronation?

Yes, there is a playlist. The British Department for Culture, Media and Sport dropped a 26-song Coronation Celebration Playlist. It includes songs such as “Come Together” by the Beatles, “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie, “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush and “We Are the Champions” by Queen.

Who was on the list but was kicked off? The Scottish duo The Proclaimers have been removed from the playlist after they were criticized for their anti-royal views.

Does the coronation have a code name?

It does, one worthy of 007. The coronation is known as Operation Golden Orb.

What does the invitation look like?

It looks like this:

What happens during the service?

There are several stages in the coronation of the English monarch. They are:

  • The recognition: Charles will stand next to the 700-year-old Coronation Chair, and be presented to those in the abbey by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The crowd will shout “God Save the King!” and trumpets will blow.
  • The oath: The sovereign swears an oath to uphold the law and the tenets of the Church of England. The oath is the only part of the coronation ceremony that is required by law. The oath has varied over the years. Charles is expected to recognize all faiths in his oath.
  • The anointing: Charles’ ceremonial robe will be removed, and he will sit in the Coronation Chair. A gold cloth will be held over the chair to conceal the king from view. The Archbishop of Canterbury will then anoint the king’s hands, breast and head with holy oil made according to a secret recipe, but known to contain ambergris, orange flowers, roses, jasmine and cinnamon. According to the BBC, the oil created for Charles will not contain any ingredients derived from animals.
  • The investiture: Charles will then be presented with items including the Royal Orb, the Sceptre, and the Sovereign’s Sceptre. The Archbishop will then place St Edward’s Crown on Charles’ head
    The enthronement and homage: After he is crowned, Charles will leave the Coronation Chair and move to the throne. Prince William is expected to pay homage to his father by kneeling in front of him.

Camilla, the queen consort, will then be anointed and crowned in a similar ceremony.

What kind of regalia makes up a coronation?

British royals do not spare the bling, especially when it is a public ceremony.

In Charles’ coronation ceremony, you’ll see a cross, three crowns, an orb, four scepters, two spurs, golden bracelets, two maces, two rings, several swords and a big rock according to Buckingham Palace.

Here is the way the regalia is used in the ceremony:

What is the Cross of Wales?

The Cross of Wales is a cross that was gifted by King Charles to the Church in Wales in honor of its centenary in 2020. Charles was the Prince of Wales then.

The cross was made from recycled silver, reclaimed wood and Welsh slate. It will be used to lead the coronation procession into Westminster Abbey.

A very special addition to the cross comes from a gift from Pope Francis. Francis has given Charles two fragments said to be from the “True Cross,” the cross that is believed to be the one that Jesus Christ was crucified upon.

The fragments – formed into the shape of a cross – will be placed behind a gemstone in the cross.

What’s the Stone of Destiny and why does it groan?

The Stone of Destiny (also known as the Stone of Scone) is an ancient sandstone block. It was used in the coronations of Scottish kings.

In 1296, King Edward I stole that 336-pound stone and had it built into a throne at Westminster Abbey.

It stayed in the abbey until Christmas Day 1950 when four Scottish nationalist students tried to steal it and take it back north of the border.

The stone was eventually returned to Scotland in 1996.  In addition to being the ancient coronation throne for Scottish kings, the stone is said to have a pretty neat feature. According to legend, the stone will groan when the true king of Scots sits upon it.

The stone is being borrowed for Charles’s coronation. It will be under the coronation chair during the ceremony.

What are the other things used in the ceremony?

Maces: Two gold maces, carried by a pair of sergeants-at-arms, will be carried into the abbey ahead of Charles’ arrival.  Maces are heavy clubs that usually have a metal head and often have spikes.

St. Edward’s Staff: After the maces are brought in, St. Edward’s Staff will be brought into the abbey. It’s a long gold rod with a steel pike on one end. It’s a relic of St. Edward the Confessor, the English king whose shrine is at Westminster Abbey, according to Buckingham Palace.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross: The scepter is a gold rod that represents “the sovereign’s temporal power and is associated with good governance.” The jeweled and enameled scepter is set with diamonds, rubies, spinels, emeralds, sapphires and amethysts. The 530.2-carat Cullinan I Diamond was set in the top of the scepter in the early 20th century. The scepter will be handed to Charles before he is crowned.

The Spurs: A set of spurs is included in the service. The spurs symbolize knighthood and chivalry, in addition to the sovereign’s role as head of the armed forces. During the coronation ceremony, they’re brushed against the monarch’s feet before he is crowned.

The three swords: Three symbolic swords will be used in the procession -- the Sword of Temporal Justice, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, and the Sword of Mercy. All the swords were made by Italian swordmakers in the early 1600s, according to Buckingham Palace. Together, the three swords symbolize the kingly virtues, and the practice of carrying the trio together (unsheathed, pointed toward the sky) dates to the 1100s.

The Sword of State: Following the three swords is one larger sword – the Sword of State. The sword was made for Charles II in 1678, and it’s sheathed in a special scabbard made in 1689 for William III. This sword symbolizes the monarch’s authority. Queen Elizabeth II used the sword during Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969.

St. Edward’s Crown: The star of the ceremony, St. Edward’s Crown comes after the Sword of State. The crown, which has been adjusted to fit Charles’ head, is placed on his head at the highlight of the ceremony. Charles will wear this crown only once during his reign – during the coronation.

The Sovereign’s Orb: The Sovereign’s Orb which symbolizes the power of the monarch, comes in the abbey with the crown.  “It symbolizes the Christian world with its cross mounted on a globe, and the bands of jewels dividing it up into three sections represent the three continents known in medieval times.” The golden orb is set with pearls, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and a single large amethyst. It was made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II. The orb is placed in the monarch’s hand as he is invested with the regalia just before the moment of crowning during the ceremony. During the procession out of the abbey after the ceremony, the monarch carries the orb in his left hand, according to Buckingham Palace.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove (aka “the Rod of Equity and Mercy): The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove is brought in with the crown and orb. The scepter symbolizes the monarch’s spiritual role and the dove represents the Holy Spirit. Along with the sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, it is the last piece of regalia handed to the monarch before he is crowned.

The Ampulla and the Spoon: The eagle-shaped gold ampulla holds the consecrated oil used to anoint the monarch.  A spoon believed to have been made in the 12th century is used with the ampulla.

The Sword of Offering: While the Sword of State is used first in the ceremony, it is switched out with the Sword of Offering.  This sword dates to 1820 and the coronation of King George IV, and is set with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and turquoises. It arrives in the Abbey with the Keeper of the Jewel House, along with the armills and the coronation ring. During the ceremony, “the sword represents the punishment of evil and the restoration of goodness.

The Armills: The Archbishop will put bracelets call armills on the monarch’s wrists. These gold and enamel bracelets were made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II.

The Sovereign’s Ring: The Archbishop will place the Sovereign’s Ring on the monarch’s hand symbolizing the marriage between the monarch and the people. The ring, made by Rundell, Bridge, & Rundell, dates to 1831. The diamond, sapphire, and ruby ring is a symbol of “kingly dignity,” according to the Royal Collection.

The Imperial State Crown: Before leaving the Abbey, the St. Edward’s Crown will be taken off Charles’ head and replaced with the Imperial State Crown. It weighs about half what St. Edward’s Crown does. The monarch wears it as he leaves the Abbey and processes through the streets of London after the service.

For Camilla’s coronation

The Queen Consort’s Ring: For the first time since 1937, a queen consort will be crowned at Westminster Abbey during the coronation, and for the first time ever, a divorcee will be crowned as queen. The archbishop will place the Queen Consort’s Ring on Camilla’s right hand. The ruby and diamond ring that will be used is the one made by Rundell, Bridge, & Rundell for Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV, in 1831.

Queen Mary’s Crown: Queen Camilla will be crowned by the archbishop. She has chosen to be crowned with the coronation crown made for Queen Mary. The crown will be altered. with four of the arches removed, and three large crystals currently set in the crown replaced with the genuine Cullinan III, IV, and V Diamonds.

The Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross: After she is crowned, the archbishop will put the Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross in Camilla’s right hand. It’s gold and set with rock crystals.

The Queen Consort’s Rod (Sceptre) with Dove: The archbishop will then place the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove into Camilla’s left hand.

Getting there and coming back

Charles and Camilla will roll out of Buckingham Palace in the horse-drawn Diamond Jubilee State Coach. The coach was built for Queen Elizabeth’s 60th-anniversary celebration. It has heat and air conditioning, but the best thing about it, according to the royals, is that it has a suspension system that makes the 1.3-mile ride smooth.

According to the palace, the procession to West Minster Abbey will leave Buckingham Palace and go through Admiralty Arch; past Trafalgar Square, and by the Houses of Parliament before arriving for the 11 a.m. service.

After the coronation, Charles and Camilla return the way they came but in the Gold State Coach, a  260-year-old carriage used in every coronation since William IV’s in 1831.

The Gold State Coach, which weighs 8,800 pounds, and is known for its rough ride.