It's going to be a hectic weekend in London, full of celebrations and disruptions as millions of people travel to the city for the coronation of King Charles III.
There'll be road closures, diversions, and changes to bus and train routes and timetables as celebrations get underway. Transport for London is advising people to plan ahead and allow more time for journeys and asking passengers to avoid central London if their destination is not in the city.
The coronation will take place tomorrow, Saturday, May 6, 2023, officially ushering in a new Carolean era. This hugely ceremonial event is being held eight months after Charles ascended to the throne on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022.
If you are venturing into the capital, here's a rundown of everything that's happening for the coronation weekend.
While much of the official celebrations will take place in London and nearby Windsor, visitors across Great Britain can expect peak Britishness throughout the month of May. Think villages – already blooming with spring flowers – adorned with red, white and blue bunting. toRoyal-themed shop-window displays – with plenty of quintessentially British tongue-in-cheek humor. Plus choir concerts, street parties, picnics, fireworks and all manner of celebratory events across the country.
In London, after you’ve visited all the royal sites you can handle, you can also clap eyes on the monarch himself during the King’s Procession, or at the Buckingham Palace balcony wave afterward (where he’ll appear with the rest of the royal family). When evening falls, continue the celebration at a special Coronation Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, or perhaps join some of London’s leading drag-king performers for a fun “Drag Save the King” show.
How do I get to the King’s Procession on Coronation Day?
All roads around Westminster, The Mall and Buckingham Palace will be closed in the days leading up to and during the event, but public transport will be running. The closest train stations to Buckingham Palace are London Victoria and London Charing Cross.
The Tube also stops at Victoria, as well as Green Park, St James’s Park and Hyde Park Corner. For real-time information on which stations are experiencing delays or crowding, check the Transport for London (TFL) journey planner online or via the app.
If you’re not a fan of crowds, it’s probably best to avoid the entire area on the day of the Coronation.
What will happen at the Royal Coronation?
The ceremony has remained largely unchanged for 1000 years, and comprises the Recognition, the Anointing, the Coronation Oath and the Homage.
In May, Charles and Camilla will be anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury with oil consecrated by His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III in Jerusalem. Sourced from the Mount of Olives, the oil is perfumed with sesame, rose, jasmine, cinnamon, neroli, benzoin, amber and orange blossom.
To avoid controversy, the decision was made to adorn Camilla with Queen Mary’s diamond-encrusted crown rather than the Queen Mother’s platinum crown (with its controversial 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond; you can see that at the Tower of London). But whether Charles’ wife will be known as Queen Consort (as was the wish of her late Majesty) or simply Queen Camilla is still an open question at this point.
Can I watch the Coronation?
The actual ceremony will take place in Westminster Abbey in front of an audience of around 2000 notables (which probably won’t include you or me). The ceremony will also be broadcast to an audience of many millions across the globe, as it was when Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953.
Is there really an extra holiday for the King’s Coronation?
Yes. In addition to all the pomp, pageantry and patriotic parties for the Coronation on the Saturday, an extra bank holiday for the King’s Coronation was declared: for Monday May 8.
That means this May brings a trio of bank holidays in the UK: Monday May 1, Monday May 8 and Monday May 29. If the crowning of a new king doesn’t excite everyone, the extra time off work definitely will.
What else is planned for the Coronation weekend?
King Charles III’s passion for the environment and charitable work is well known. So it comes as no surprise that in addition to the Coronation’s spiritual and sacramental significance, the rest of the weekend will be a celebration of the nation as well as a call to action.
On Sunday May 7, a special Coronation Concert will be held at Windsor Castle and broadcast live by the BBC. (After the lottery for tickets closed at the end of February, 10,000 places were distributed to members of the public.)
The concert lineup includes the Coronation Choir, made up of singers from community choirs from all over the UK, including refugee choirs, NHS choirs, LGBTQ+ singing groups and deaf signing choirs; a virtual choir from across the Commonwealth; and a 74-piece orchestra. Also are the program: numerous dancers, a laser and drone light show, and spoken-word performances.
Pop icons rumored to have been invited to perform include Sir Paul McCartney, Lionel Richie, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Harry Styles, Elton John, Kylie and Dannii Minogue, the Spice Girls and Queen. Announcements on the final acts are yet to come.
Ordinary Brits will also be celebrating on Sunday May 7 with the Coronation Big Lunch, an initiative from the Eden Project. Neighbors will be encouraged to host street parties to share food and conversation at the same time across the country.
The Coronation bank holiday
On the special bank holiday, the king will invite people to take part in the Big Help Out by joining projects and charities in their local area. Charles III seeks during his reign to encourage volunteering to help those in need through organizations like the Royal Voluntary Service.
What else can I do on the King’s Coronation weekend?
Not everyone in the UK will be watching the Coronation. Unlike last year, when pretty much everything stopped for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and period of official national mourning, normal activities are expected to continue during the Coronation weekend.
Sporting events like Premier League football and British Horse Racing comps scheduled for May 6 are expected to go ahead. However, stretched policing resources could mean some events get rescheduled for Sunday May 7.
Similarly, to avoid broadcast clashes, major events could be delayed to later in the day when the nation doesn’t have its eyes on the once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.
London visitors should note that Westminster Abbey will be closed until Monday May 8.
Can we expect any controversy...?
The Coronation is a moment to reassert the divine authority of the monarch, a moment as political as it is religious.
Although the reign of the King Charles I famously ended in his public execution in 1649, so far opposition to King Charles III’s reign has included little more than a republican stunt at Windsor Castle, citizens holding posters bearing the hashtag #NotMyKing and a call to pledge to protest on Coronation day.
The other big Coronation controversy: how will the royal family engage with Harry?
It’s the question everyone’s been asking since Prince Harry’s tell-all memoir Spare came out in January and his invitation to the coronation was confirmed in April.