King Charles III’s coronation: A day of pomp and glory

Katy Perry, Richie McCaw, and a 700-year-old oak chair meet in an abbey. It may sound like the set up to a bad joke, but it’s not. It’s the coronation of King Charles III.

On May 6, King Charles III will be the 40th monarch crowned in London’s Westminster Abbey. 

It’s a ceremony steeped in traditions – some of them dating back a thousand years – but changes are widely anticipated as the King continues his bid to modernise the institution, and better reflect the United Kingdom – and Commonwealth – of today.

‘A monumental occasion’

New Zealand Woman’s Weekly royal correspondent Donna Fleming says for King Charles, the coronation is “probably the biggest day of his life”. 

“There’s talk about how it’s being slimmed down, smaller than his mother’s was, but it’s still going to be a pretty monumental occasion.”

The guest list numbers 2000 – a far cry from the 8000 invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. 

The names on it are decided on by the British government, because the event is funded by the taxpayer. 

“But of course, they have been planning this very carefully with representatives from Buckingham Palace,” Fleming says.

Among those taking a seat in Westminster Abbey will be a contingent of New Zealanders.

Buckingham Palace invited the Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro, the High Commissioner to the UK Phil Goff, and their spouses, to attend the coronation. 

In addition, the New Zealand government was invited to nominate others to attend, including 10 national or cultural representatives, three holders of senior Royal Honours, and one person to carry the flag.

That means the guest list will include Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, Opposition leader Christopher Luxon, VC hero Willie Apiata, former All Black Captain and Order of New Zealand holder Richie McCaw, New Zealand Cross recipient Abdul Aziz, senior Maori leaders Kiingi Tuheitia and Dame Naida Glavish, and a number of others.

A cost of living coronation

Fleming says Charles is very aware that Britain – and much of the world – is in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

“He wanted the monarchy to reflect that in being pared down – he’s very conscious of the fact that a lot of people don’t see the point in the monarchy – and that they have to be reflective of what is going on in the UK, and he wanted this to be a much more diverse occasion than previous coronations.

The coronation ceremony itself is expected to last about an hour.

“I think he’s realising that yes, everyone likes to see the pomp and ceremony, but they don’t want to be overwhelmed by it all,” Fleming says.

And the longer it takes, the higher the cost.

“The security bill for the coronation is going to be huge, so if they can cut it down time-wise, the bill to pay for the police and all the other security is not going to be as high,” Fleming says.

Maybe we’re just not as good at sitting still these days, either?

“We have short attention spans, so people aren’t going to want to sit through three hours of a very long-winded ceremony.”

A coronation quiche and a concert

People in the UK are being encouraged to take part in the coronation celebrations.

But there may be limited public appetite – a recent poll found nearly two-thirds of Brits either don’t care or care very little about the coronation, and fewer people seem keen to have street parties, like the ones for the Queen’s 2022 platinum jubilee celebrations.

Despite that, there is an official dish for the coronation – coronation quiche. The recipe has been released by Buckingham Palace, and it features spinach, broad beans and fresh tarragon.

People are being encouraged to make it for the coronation ‘big lunch’ – an initiative that aims to bring neighbours and communities together to celebrate the coronation. 

There’ll also be the big coronation concert at Windsor Castle on May 7.

Stars who’ll perform include Katy Perry, three of the five members of Take That, Lionel Ritchie, Andrea Bocelli and Bryn Terfel. 

On May 8, people are being encouraged to take part in the ‘big help out’, where they volunteer in their local areas.

Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, a number of buildings across the country will be lit up in purple on May 6 and there’ll be tree-planting events.

There will also be gun salutes from Devonport in Auckland and Point Jerningham in Wellington at midday on May 7.

Hear more about the coronation and the traditions that may, or may not, be ditched by King Charles in the full podcast episode.

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