King Charles III plans to take a shortcut and smoother ride to Westminster Abbey for his coronation next monday, trimming the procession route his mother took in 1953 as he aims for a more modest event that will include some modern touches, according to Buckingham Palace.
The lower-key ceremony on Saturday 6 May will still be steeped in ancient traditions and adorned with royal regalia from the Crown Jewels, but will also feature its own bespoke emoji, reflecting the first British crowning of the social media era. Queen Elizabeth II’s was the first coronation televised 70 years ago.
In one break with tradition, Charles and Camilla, the queen consort, will roll out of Buckingham Palace in the horse-drawn gilded black Diamond Jubilee State Coach built for Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary. It has heat, air conditioning, power windows and a suspension system that will provide a comfier ride than his mother’s accommodations for her enthronement.
The two kilometre route is a bit shorter than the one Elizabeth took to the royal church. The procession will go through Admiralty Arch; past Trafalgar Square and a statue of Charles I, the monarch beheaded in 1649; and by the houses of Parliament before arriving for the 11:00 BST religious service.
While Charles wants to show the monarchy is still relevant in modern, multi-cultural Britain, he has said he plans to slim down the institution. The coronation is expected to reflect that with a shorter, less extravagant ceremony than the three-hour service that installed Elizabeth II.
Still, much of the priceless coronation regalia used for centuries will be part of crowning both Charles and Camilla, including five symbolic swords, two scepters and the Sovereign’s Ring of sapphire with a ruby cross set in diamonds.
Camilla, who will wear Queen Mary’s Crown, will hold a controversial scepter made of ivory. Britain has a near-total ban on dealing elephant ivory products and Prince William, heir to the throne, has campaigned against illegal animal part trafficking.
During the solemn ceremony conducted by Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, Charles will be crowned the king with the St. Edward’s Crown, the centerpiece of the Crown Jewels viewed by millions of people every year at the Tower of London.
The crown, which is the inspiration for the coronation emoji, features a 2.2kg solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnets, topazes and tourmalines and has a purple velvet cap and ermine band. It was worn by Elizabeth during her coronation and has been refitted for her son.
At the end of the ceremony, Charles will switch to the lighter Imperial State Crown for the procession back to the palace.
Unlike the eight kilometre route Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip took around London in 1953, Charles and Camilla will return the way they came, but in a 260-year-old carriage used in every coronation since William IV’s in 1831.
The Gold State Coach, which weighs 4,000kg and is pulled by eight horses, is known for its notoriously rough ride.
Elizabeth described it as “horrible,” Queen Victoria complained of its “distressing oscillation,” and William IV — known as the Sailor King — said it was like “being aboard a ship tossing in a rough sea.”
“When you’re following it, you can hear it creaking so it sounds like an old galleon going along,” said Martin Oates, who helped restore it and walks behind as the brake man. “It’s not quite a washing machine, but where other vehicles just go from back to front, this is moving from side to side.”
The gilded coach is so heavy, it can only move at walking pace. That should provide more time for people along the route to see the newly crowned king and queen.
Military troops on parade will salute the king and queen at Buckingham Palace gardens, followed by three cheers from service members.