King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will take centre stage in front of a global audience of millions on Saturday at the UK’s first coronation for 70 years.
The day will feature customs dating back more than 1,000 years and Charles will become the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned at Westminster Abbey since 1066.
A huge security operation is under way and people have been gathering along the route of Saturday’s procession in central London.
Charles and Camilla stayed at their much-loved Clarence House base on Friday, rather than at monarchy HQ Buckingham Palace, as they prepared for the historic, momentous task ahead of them.
On Friday, the King took part in a final coronation rehearsal at Westminster Abbey, where a 2,300-strong congregation – and a television audience likely to be in the tens of millions – will watch him being crowned.
The nation’s armed forces have promised a “spectacular” display of military pomp and pageantry when the King and Queen travel by carriage through the streets of the UK capital.
The event is the military’s largest ceremonial operation since Queen Elizabeth’s 1953 coronation, with 9,000 servicemen and women deployed and 7,000 of these performing ceremonial and supporting roles.
When the newly crowned Charles and Camilla ride in the Gold State Coach back to Buckingham Palace, their coronation procession featuring 4,000 ceremonial troops will stretch for a mile.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: “It will be spectacular and with the precision and detail you would expect, we have taken key lessons and best bits from previous coronations, the Platinum Jubilee, Her Late Majesty’s funeral and added them to our plan.”
The route the monarch and his consort will follow – The Mall, Admiralty Arch, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Square – will be lined by more than 1,000 servicemen and women spaced at intervals of five paces.
Guardsmen, in their distinctive scarlet tunics and bearskins, will line The Mall, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines will take up positions at Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square – the site of Nelson’s Column, the monument to Lord Nelson the nation’s greatest sailor.
How the day will unfold
Viewing areas along the procession route open early on Saturday morning
Royal superfans started camping out earlier this week to secure the best vantage points – wearing thermals to keep warm and organising shifts to keep their front-row seats to see “history in the making”.
Guests for Westminster Abbey will begin to arrive at security checkpoints in Victoria Tower Gardens between 7.15am and 8.30am.
Heads of state, overseas government representatives, government ministers, first ministers, former PMs, foreign royals and members of the Royal Family will arrive between 9.30am and 10.45am.
Just under 200 members of the armed forces taking part in the procession will also start to gather on Saturday morning.
Another 1,000 service personnel will line the route, but the overall procession will be much smaller than its equivalent in 1953 when other royal families and Commonwealth prime ministers were among those who took part.
The King’s Procession, accompanied by The Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, will depart Buckingham Palace through the Centre Gate, and proceed down The Mall, passing through Admiralty Arch and south of King Charles I Island, down Whitehall and along Parliament Street.
In a break from tradition, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla will be in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach rather than the older, more uncomfortable, Gold State Coach.
It was created for Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Her late Majesty’s reign in 2012.
The King’s Procession will travel around the east and south sides of Parliament Square to Broad Sanctuary, pulling up at the Sanctuary of Westminster Abbey, where the coronation service will begin at 11am.
The King and Queen Consort will be crowned at Westminster Abbey in a service comprising four key stages – the recognition, the oath, the anointing and the investiture.
The service will last for around two hours. The historic moment of the King’s crowning will take place at midday, and Camilla will also be crowned.
It will begin with King Charles entering Westminster Abbey through the Great West Door and proceeding through the nave until he reaches the central space.
He will be preceded by processions made up of faith leaders and representatives, and representatives from some Commonwealth countries.
The King’s grandson, Prince George, will be among the pages at Westminster Abbey, alongside Camilla’s grandchildren, Gus, Louis and Freddy.
Some of those taking part in the procession inside the abbey will carry the regalia ahead of the King, with most items placed on the altar until needed in the ceremony.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will place the St Edward’s Crown on Charles’ head. Trumpets will sound and gun salutes will be fired across the UK.
The service will include the first Homage of the People – a modern addition to the ancient ceremony. People across the UK and overseas realms will be invited to swear an oath of allegiance to Charles.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has stated, however, that the request for the public to take the oath is not mandatory.
During the anointing stage of the ceremony, the archbishop will pour special oil from the Ampulla – a gold flask – on to the coronation spoon before anointing the King in the form of a cross on his head, breast and hands.
The final stage of the ceremony is the investiture – when the King will wear St Edward’s Crown for the only time in his life.
The crown is named after a much earlier version made for the Anglo-Saxon king and saint, Edward the Confessor, and said to have been used at coronations after 1220 until Cromwell had it melted down.
It was made for King Charles II, who wanted a crown similar to the one worn by Edward but even grander.
When the service ends, the newly-crowned King and Queen will embark on their coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace in the 260-year-old Gold State Coach via the tried and tested route of Parliament Square, along Whitehall, around Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall, arriving back at Buckingham Palace at 1.33pm.
The vehicle was last seen during the Pageant of the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022. It was commissioned in 1760 and was first used by King George III to travel to the state opening of Parliament in 1762.
The coach has been used at every coronation since that of William IV in 1831. It will be drawn by eight Windsor Greys and, due to its weight of four tonnes, will travel at walking pace.
Other members of the Royal Family and thousands of troops will join in this much larger ceremonial procession – known as “the coronation procession”.
Charles and Camilla will receive a royal salute from the military in the palace gardens at 1.45pm.
Big screens will be placed in royal parks including in Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’ Park so royal fans can watch the day’s events.
More than 57 locations across the UK will have big screens, enabling more than 100,000 people to watch the events in their home towns, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
There will be a balcony moment when the King and Queen are joined by other members of the Royal Family to watch a flypast at around 2.15pm.
The six-minute spectacle will involve members of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, culminating in a display by the Red Arrows.
However, the flypast is at risk of being cancelled due to poor weather.
Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston said “it’s 50/50” as to whether the event will go ahead, and the final decision will be made just one or two hours before it is due to start.
Who is attending?
Some of those expected to be among the 2,300 guests include US First Lady Jill Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese vice-president Han Zheng, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and all his living predecessors – Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major – are expected to be there alongside cabinet ministers, leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer and Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf.
Others expected to be in the congregation are TV presenters Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie.
What coverage will be on TV?
Kirsty Young and Huw Edwards are among the BBC’s presenting team and the coronation programme, which will cover the lead-up to the Westminster Abbey service, the ceremony, the return procession to Buckingham Palace and the King’s balcony appearance, will see former Desert Island Discs presenter Young in a studio at Buckingham Palace on the day.
Edwards will provide commentary as the Westminster Abbey doors open to greet those arriving for the ceremony, with Sophie Raworth, Clare Balding, Anita Rani and JJ Chalmers also contributing to the day’s coverage.
ITV News At Ten anchor Tom Bradby, a close friend of the Duke of Sussex, will front coverage on ITV and STV alongside Julie Etchingham.
Presenters Mary Nightingale, Nina Hossain, Charlene White and James Mates will also be stationed at key locations during the six hour-plus broadcast.