By Mark Landler
King Charles III and his wife, Camilla, the queen consort, will be crowned May 6 at Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace announced Tuesday, the first coronation in Britain in seven decades and one that will be pared back considerably from the extravagant ceremony held for Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
Charles is expected to shorten the length of the service, reduce the guest list and dispense with some of the more antiquated rituals, a person with knowledge of palace planning said. Those changes reflect the cost-of-living squeeze that is afflicting Britain, as well as the king’s longer-term push for a more streamlined royal family structure.
The palace offered few details about the ceremony, which is still in the preliminary planning stages, but suggested that it was trying to strike a balance.
“The coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look toward the future,” the statement said, “while being rooted in long-standing traditions and pageantry.”
Charles ascended to the throne Sept. 8 automatically on the death of his mother. He was proclaimed as king two days later in a formal ceremony conducted by an Accession Council. The coronation is a religious ritual in which the new monarch is “anointed, blessed and consecrated” by the archbishop of Canterbury.
Much about the ceremony will be familiar, part of a tradition of crowning kings and queens that goes back nearly 1,000 years. Westminster Abbey, for example, has been the site of coronations for 900 years. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, will follow his predecessors, dating to 1066, in conducting the service.
Charles may also travel to the abbey from Buckingham Palace in the same golden state coach that conveyed his mother. And this coronation will also feature a queen, although Camilla, as the king’s wife, is known as the queen consort — a title that Elizabeth secured for her daughter-in-law a few months before her death.
Elizabeth’s coronation, which took place 16 months after she ascended to the throne in February 1952, was the first to be televised, drawing an estimated global audience of more than 250 million people. More than 3 million lined the streets of London to watch her procession. Estimates put the cost of the coronation at 1.57 million pounds, or 54 million in inflation-adjusted dollars.
The queen’s state funeral last month was a similarly majestic ceremony, and few Britons questioned the pomp or pageantry. At 96, she was a revered figure, the longest-serving monarch in British history. Now, though, with the country in the grip of near-double-digit inflation and facing a prolonged recession, the palace is more sensitive to issues of opulence and cost for the king’s coronation.
Even before the recent economic strains, Charles had pushed to make the royal family more streamlined and less of a drain on the public purse. The number of working royals has dwindled, with the departure of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, and the internal exile of Prince Andrew, Charles’ younger brother, who has been banished from public life because of his links to disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Charles has kept a low profile since the queen’s funeral, partly because the mourning period for the royal family continued for several more days after she was buried at Windsor Castle. He decided not to attend a U.N. climate-change summit in Egypt next month, after consulting with Prime Minister Liz Truss.