The Coronation of King Charles III
Similarities and differences in the coronation of our current and previous monarchs 👑
What were you doing on the evening of Saturday 6 May 2023? Were you one of the estimated three million Aussies who settled in to watch the broadcast of the coronation of King Charles III? For some of us, this was the first coronation we have seen. But there will certainly be some 60+ club members who saw Elizabeth II’s coronation as it happened in June 1953. If that was you- consider yourself in the minority! Only about 10% of the world’s current population was estimated to be alive when Elizabeth became the monarch. Whether you saw one of these milestone events, both, or neither, this article will discuss the key differences and similarities between the two coronations.
A Right Royal Occasion
A coronation is an ancient ceremony at which a new king or queen is crowned. Coronation events are steeped in tradition and date back almost 1000 years. For the last nine centuries, British coronations have been held at Westminster Abbey in London- the first King to be crowned there was William the Conqueror in 1066.
Elizabeth became Queen when her father George VI died in February 1952. She was crowned a year and four months later, on 2 June 1953. Charles became came King on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September 2022. His coronation was held eight months later to allow time for both mourning and preparation.
Photo of Queen Elizabeth II on her Coronation
Photo of King Charles III on his Coronation
Charles’ coronation happened on a Saturday, while Elizabeth’s was on a Tuesday. Charles’s coronation occurred in May while Elizabeth’s was June. This means that the coronations occurred in different seasons- Charles’ in spring and Elizabeth’s in summer. The weather for both events was similar. In 1953 the official weather report observed mainly cloudy skies across the eastern side of the United Kingdom and the odd drop or two of rain which became heavier and more persistent as the morning progressed. In Kew, London, 2.6mm of rain was recorded with a maximum temperature of 11.8c. It also drizzled in London on 6 May 2023, with a maximum temperature of 14c recorded.
The age of the new monarch
Surely one of the most noticeable differences was the age of the new monarch”. At her coronation, Elizabeth was 25 years, two months and nine days, and had two toddlers- Charles was four and Anne was just two. On the other hand, Charles is the oldest monarch to take the throne, at 73 years, nine months and 23 days. He has two adult sons, and five grandchildren.
Charles coronation was smaller and far shorter than his mother’s. Both ceremonies commenced with a procession; Elizabeth’s journey took two hours. It spanned four miles “from Westminster back to Buckingham Palace” and involved 16,000 participants. The route taken by Charles was just over a mile and took just 40 minutes. The coronation ceremonies also varied greatly in duration- Elizabeth’s took around four hours, while Charles’ was closer to the sixty minute mark.
The guest list
The guest list for Charles’ coronation was much fewer, with around 2000 in attendance, whereas more than 8,000 relatives, friends and dignitaries attended Elizabeth’s. Charles’s coronation was more of a global affair than Elizabeth’s, having a greater number of foreign dignitaries and heads of state attend his ceremony.
The mood of the time
Both coronations have occurred at somewhat difficult times, particularly in terms of the economy. In 1953, the nation was still experiencing the after-effects of world War Two and the rationing of essential items was still in place. Today, Britain is also experiencing a period of economic uncertainty and a growing cost of living crisis. Another difference at Charles’ coronation was the focus on diversity, with faith leaders of many denominations playing an active part in the service. In Charles’s coronation oath, he referred to “all thy children, of every faith and belief”. You can download the full coronation program here.
Opinions of the Monarchy
In many ways Charles’ coronation was muted when compared to the pomp and pageantry of Elizabeth’s. Public opinion regarding the monarchy has changed during Elizabeth’s long reign. Today, only around 60% of the population are in support of the monarchy. Ahead of Charles’ coronation, some protesting and anti-monarchy demonstrations occurred, which even led to the arrest of some protestors.
There were also differences in the oaths the new monarchs took, including related to the size of their empires. This saw Elizabeth pledging to govern “the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and other Territories.” Charles pledged only to “govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories.”
Complicated family matters
Elizabeth was crowned alone (as is custom, her husband the late Duke of Edinburgh was not crowned). Charles was crowned alongside his wife, the now queen Camilla. As Charles’ second wife, it has taken some time for the British public to warm to Camilla. Furthermore, in the lead-up to Charles’ coronation, there was speculation regarding whether his son Harry and wife Megan would attend. In the end, Harry did show up, without his actress wife.
The total UK viewership for both coronations is likely to be similar- with an estimated close to 20 million viewers for both. In 1953, cameras were installed in Westminster Abbey for the first time and the BBC has described it as the first mass television event in the UK. At the time, television was still a fairly new innovation, and there was also no formal way of recording viewership.
In 1953, this meant that more than half of all adults in Britain were likely to have seen some of the coverage on the day. However, it is also understood that a great many more people lined the streets for Elizabeth’s coronation than for Charles’. Of course, it wasn’t just on television that people in Britain and around the world watched the 2023 event- with viewers tuning in on smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers.
With both some similarities and differences, Charles’ and Elizabeth’s coronations have been significant events for Britons and for the rest of the world too. Charles’ coronation marks the commencement of a new era and a new chapter for the Royal Family. Keep an eye on our blogs for content on current affairs, historic happenings and more.
Watch the full Coronation of both King Charles III and Queen Elizabeth II
King Charles III Coronation (2hr 45min)
Source: The Royal Family
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation (2hr 56min)
Source: BBC TV
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