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Coronation of King Charles III: Vegan oil and fascinators among the contemporary touches

King Charles plans for a 21st-century coronation and they differ from the coronation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953

A commemorative Union Jack King Charles III Coronation flag is displayed for sale at a souvenir shop on April 24, 2023 in London, England. (Photo: Getty Images)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

The upcoming coronation of King Charles III on May 6th will be steeped in ancient traditions, reminiscent of the 10th-century ceremony.

However, despite the significance of customs and rituals, the new king has expressed a desire to introduce modern elements to the proceedings.

Here’s what we know about Charles’ plans for a 21st-century coronation and how they differ from the coronation of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.

Smaller guest list

Westminster Abbey will host around 2,000 attendees during the upcoming coronation, whereas over 8,000 people had to cram onto custom-built platforms during the 1953 ceremony.

This reduction in numbers reflects Charles’s goal of “streamlining” the monarchy, limiting it to only seven key members who perform official duties. Additionally, the duration of the ceremony will be significantly shorter, lasting just over an hour compared to the almost three-hour-long event in 1953.

Fascinators or tiaras?

During Elizabeth’s coronation, nearly all female members of the royal family and female aristocrats adorned tiaras. The dress code for Charles’s coronation is yet to be finalised, but there are rumours of a shift towards formal attire paired with hats or fascinators for all except the highest-ranking female royals.

Dressed down lords

A cross-party ballot will allocate a limited number of spots to MPs and members of the House of Lords for the coronation. In 1953, over 800 MPs and 900 peers, including dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons who inherited a seat with their title, attended wearing long crimson velvet cloaks.

Since the reform of the hereditary element in 1999, members of the House of Lords have been advised not to wear their special coronation robes. They can instead choose to wear their ceremonial robes typically worn during the state opening of parliament or standard business attire.

Recycled crown

Camilla will wear a crown originally made for Queen Mary, Charles’s great-grandmother, in 1911. This will make her the first queen consort in almost 300 years to alter an existing crown for the occasion instead of commissioning a new one.

Vegan oil

The anointing oil used to crown the monarch will be vegan, which is a departure from the previous version that contained ambergris sourced from whale intestines. The new oil to be used in Charles’s coronation ceremony will be free from animal products and will comprise scented olive oil with jasmine, sesame, neroli, cinnamon, benzoin, amber, and orange blossom.

Greek tribute

In memory of Prince Philip, Charles’s father, who was born in Corfu and was a member of the Greek royal family, Greek Orthodox chanting will be included for the first time in a coronation ceremony. The Byzantine Chant Ensemble, led by Alexander Lingas, a professor of Orthodox music, has been specially formed for the performance. Additionally, the Ascension Choir will make history as the first gospel choir to perform at a coronation.

Girl power

In a historic first, girls will be among the scholarship pupils, referred to as King’s scholars, from the prestigious Westminster School who will participate in the coronation ceremony. The school, located in central London, was all-boys in 1953. A diverse group of pupils, including girls, will cheer the monarch with the traditional Latin cry, “Vivat Rex Carolus!” (“Long live King Charles!”).

All mod cons

While Elizabeth travelled to and from her coronation in the elaborate, 260-year-old Gold State Coach, which was uncomfortable, Charles and Camilla will only use it for their return journey. For their outward trip, they have chosen the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach, which comes equipped with shock absorbers, heating, and air conditioning.

Additionally, their return journey will be much shorter, covering a distance of only two kilometres (1.3 miles), in contrast to Elizabeth’s seven-kilometre route that took two hours to complete.

Shoulders back

While 29,000 members of the armed forces participated in the 1953 coronation procession, Charles’s return procession to Buckingham Palace will be a much smaller event. Just under 4,000 personnel, including military bands, will accompany him and Queen Camilla.

(With inputs from AFP)

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