Foreign royalty, heads of state and other dignitaries from around the globe have descended on London for the crowning of King Charles III and Queen Camilla, which will include a military spectacle unmatched in Britain in 70 years.
Seven thousand troops will be on parade with 19 military bands in a coronation procession stretching one mile from front to rear, the most at any state occasion since the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The ceremony will conclude with a royal family balcony appearance and, weather permitting, a tri-service flypast of 60 aircraft, including the Battle of Britain memorial flight and the Red Arrows.
In an eve-of-coronation message, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said it would be a “moment of extraordinary national pride”. “It’s a proud expression of our history, culture, and traditions. A vivid demonstration of the modern character of our country. And a cherished ritual through which a new era is born,” he said.
The king and close family hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for foreign royals and other distinguished guests including Jill Biden and the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenska, on Friday evening.
He also undertook a last-minute rehearsal at Westminster Abbey during a busy day when finishing touches were put to the coronation theatre, where the ceremony takes place in front of the high altar.
Royal fans, some of whom have been camping out for days on the Mall, were rewarded with a surprise walkabout by the king and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Four thousand troops will take part in the coronation procession as the king and queen travel back from Westminster Abbey in the gold state coach, while others will line the route at five paces apart.
“With these numbers it means when we bring their majesties back to Buckingham Palace, and as the lead elements reach the palace, the Mall will be filled left to right, front to back, and the rear of the procession will still only be at Downing Street. It will be an iconic image of the day,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said. In total, 9,000 military personnel will be involved in ceremonial and support roles.
The procession to Westminster Abbey will begin at 10.20am and comprise 200 personnel and horses. As soon as the front wheels of the diamond jubilee coach carrying the royal couple pass the centre arch at Buckingham Palace, a tri-service guard of honour with a band of the Royal Marines will give a royal salute. It will reach the abbey 33 minutes later.
The sovereign’s escort of four Household Cavalry divisions, each with 24 horses, will accompany the sovereign. The procession will be led by the Household Cavalry mounted band of 48 horses and musicians and their two distinctive drum horses, Atlas and Apollo.
Once at the abbey, the king and queen will process to the coronation theatre preceded by the priceless regalia, and following a procession of faith leaders, prime ministers and Commonwealth flag bearers.
During the two-hour service, the king will be anointed and crowned in the ancient coronation chair – the St Edward’s chair – set in the centre of the 13th-century mosaic Cosmati pavement, which has been the site of the crowning of kings and queens for more than 700 years. The queen will be anointed and crowned in her chair of estate.
Both will later be enthroned on the red velvet throne chairs.
In one ancient custom, 100 newly minted 50p pieces bearing an effigy of the crowned king will be exchanged for a glittering jewelled sword of offering.
At the exact moment the St Edward’s crown is placed on the king’s head, a six-gun salvo will be fired from Horse Guard’s Parade, from 13-pounder howitzers that saw active service in both world wars. A 62-gun salute will fire from the Tower of London, and 21-gun salutes from saluting stations around the UK, and ships at sea. Inside the abbey there will be a trumpet fanfare and the abbey bells will peal for two minutes.
Buckingham Palace has confirmed the Duke of Sussex and Duke of York will have no formal role in the service, though both will attend.
The coronation procession from the abbey will stretch from one mile from front to rear, so long that as it forms up on the Mall and Whitehall at 12.45pm, the front is almost halfway along the Mall with the rear at the abbey. At precisely 15 seconds before it moves off, the ceremonial flags and batons are dropped and the command given: “The coronation procession, by the centre. Quick march”.
The Princess Royal will follow the king and queen in the gold state coach, riding in the procession as the gold stick in waiting and colonel of the Blues and Royals.
The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will be in the first carriage. The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, their children and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with Vice Adm Sir Tim Laurence will follow in other carriages. Travelling by car, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra complete the procession.
Inside Buckingham Palace Gardens, 4,000 troops on parade will line up in formation as the king and queen move to the West Terrace. The king and other members of the royal family will then proceed to the front balcony of Buckingham Palace to greet the public crowds assembled in the Mall.
A six-minute tri-service flypast is planned, if the weather permits, at about 2.15pm, involving 60 aircraft including the Battle of Britain memorial flight and the Red Arrows through to modern F35s and Typhoons.
The king and queen will then retire for a private lunch with members of the family.
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