Buckingham Palace sets 3-day coronation weekend for King Charles III
King Charles III on Friday in Bolton, in northwest England. His coronation ceremony will be held on May 6 in London.
By MARK LANDLER
King Charles III has signaled that he wants a streamlined coronation ceremony. But that doesn’t mean an economically straitened Britain won’t throw an extravagant party as it crowns its first king in seven decades in May.
Late Saturday, Buckingham Palace announced details of a three-day merrymaking jamboree that will rival Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee last June. Among the highlights: a star-studded concert at Windsor Castle, a nationwide series of street parties and a national volunteering campaign, branded “The Big Help Out.”
The sheer size of the festivities might seem surprising because the palace had earlier indicated that Charles wanted a scaled-back ceremony, as compared with his mother’s, given the cost-of-living crisis afflicting the country. But the British government now views the coronation weekend as an opportunity to lift spirits after a hard winter, according to people familiar with the planning, and it has encouraged the royal family to pull out the stops.
The palace is still expected to shorten the service, which will take place May 6, at Westminster Abbey and be conducted by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. It will reduce the guest list and dispense with some of the more antiquated rituals of a ceremony that dates back nearly 1,000 years.
But coronations allow the public, in Britain and across the world, a chance to take part in royal festivities. Elizabeth’s coronation, in June 1953, was the first to be televised, drawing an estimated global audience of more than 250 million people.
Many of the set pieces of that spectacle — a grand procession to the palace from the abbey, complete with golden carriage, and an appearance by the king and his family on the balcony — will remain. And with Britons getting a day off May 8, in the new king’s honor, the palace is adding two days of festivities.
“Their majesties the king and queen consort hope the coronation weekend will provide an opportunity to spend time and celebrate with friends, families and communities across the United Kingdom, the realms and the Commonwealth,” the palace said in a statement issued Saturday evening.
The party begins May 7, when pop and rock stars will join a coronation choir at Windsor Castle for a televised concert. There is no word yet on who will perform, but if the queen’s jubilee concert is any indication — it featured Alicia Keys, Duran Duran, Rod Stewart and Brian May, the guitarist from Queen — the lineup will be strong.
In keeping with what the palace said was Charles’ wish for a coronation that reflects the times, the choir will include people drawn from singing groups composed of deaf people, refugees and LGBTQ people. The concert will culminate with a nationwide lighting display, using lasers and drones — a technology used to great effect last spring with images of the queen and her handbag floating above Buckingham Palace.
The series of street parties, nicknamed “The Coronation Big Lunch,” is also borrowed from the Platinum Jubilee, with the palace planning for thousands of gatherings in streets, gardens and parks across Britain. This will be a showcase for the queen consort, Camilla, who has been patron of a charity that organizes public lunches for people living alone.
On the one-off holiday, the palace hopes that some will undertake volunteer work. Charles, as Prince of Wales, emphasized volunteer service through his charities and views that as a major legacy of his coronation, according to the palace.
The palace has left some important questions about the coronation unanswered, not least whether the king’s younger son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, will be invited. Harry’s bestselling memoir, “Spare,” has deepened the rift between him and his father and brother, Prince William — claiming, among other things, that he and Meghan were mistreated by Charles and William.
The palace has steadfastly refused to respond to the accusations, and it is not expected to address the issue of inviting Harry and Meghan for a while. May 6 will be the fourth birthday of the couple’s son, Archie, which could affect the travel plans of Meghan, if not of his father. In an interview with ITV to promote his book, Harry was noncommittal about making the trip from his home in Southern California.
“There’s a lot that can happen between now and then,” he said.