Their Majesties The King and Queen crowned at the Abbey
Saturday, 6th May 2023
The Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla was held at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6th May 2023.
This was the 39th coronation ceremony for a reigning monarch held at the Abbey since 1066, and the theme of the liturgy was 'Called to Serve', reflecting His Majesty's commitment to serve God and the people.
The service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby, who was supported by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle.
Before the service, there were processions of faith leaders and ecumenical leaders, and representatives from His Majesty’s Realms. Processions of The King and The Queen's Regalia followed.
Their Majesties arrived at the Abbey in the State Carriage and were greeted by the Dean and the Archbishop.
The Coronation Rite
Following a pattern which has remained largely unchanged through the centuries, the service included the five elements of the historic English Coronation Rite:
- The Recognition – with the congregation acclaiming the Sovereign with a cry of 'God Save King Charles'
- The Oaths - when The King swore on the Bible to govern the peoples with justice and mercy, and to uphold the Churches established by law in the United Kingdom
- The Anointing – the most sacred moment of the service, with The King anointed with holy oil and marked as one chosen and set apart by God
- The Investiture and Crowning – when The King was presented with items of regalia before being crowned
- The Enthronement and Homage – with The King encouraged to ‘stand firm and hold fast’, confident in God ‘whose throne endures for ever’, before receiving oaths of allegiance from the Archbishop of Canterbury, HRH The Prince of Wales, and – for the first time at a congregation – from the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms
The Coronation of The Queen followed that of The King in a similar but simpler ceremony in which she was anointed and crowned and presented with her own items of regalia.
Their Majesties then received Holy Communion.
Alongside the ancient traditions, the service included new elements recognising and celebrating the character of the United Kingdom today:
- At the start of the service, The King was greeted by one of the youngest members of the congregation – Samuel Strachan, a 14-year Chapel Royal chorister – to whom The King replied: 'In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.'
- For the first time at a coronation, The King prayed aloud in the Abbey, saying, ‘Grant that I may be a blessing to all thy children, of every faith and belief’.
- In another first, the service included languages other than English associated with the British Isles – with a prayer in Welsh and a hymn (Veni Creator) sung in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic.
- The traditional Homage of Peers was replaced with a Homage of the People. Those watching and listening at home were invited to join the congregation in the Abbey sharing in this solemn and joyful moment.
- Girl choristers participated at a coronation for the first time, as did female clergy with the Bishops of London, Dover and Chelmsford all having roles.
- The Presentation of the Regalia was made by Members of the House of Lords and Senior Bishops in the Church of England. Those items without a Christian meaning or symbolism were presented by peers who belong to different faith traditions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.
The service was sung by the Choirs of Westminster Abbey and His Majesty's Chapel Royal, St James's Palace, together with girl choristers from the Chapel Choir of Methodist College, Belfast, and from Truro Cathedral Choir. They sang under the direction of Andrew Nethsingha, Westminster Abbey’s Organist and Master of the Choristers, who had overseen all the musical arrangements for the service.
The music was personally selected by The King, and included traditional choices such as Parry’s I was glad, sung during the Procession of The King and Queen; Handel’s Zadok the Priest, sung during the anointing; and Walton’s setting of the Te Deum, which was composed for the coronation of The King’s mother, HM Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953.
The service also included new commissions from composers Paul Mealor, Debbie Wiseman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Roxanna Panufnik, Tarik O'Regan and Christopher Robinson.
A programme of pre-service music was performed by The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner; and by the specially convened Coronation Orchestra, conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano. The programme included mainly British music from the last 350 years alongside new commissions by Judith Weir, Sarah Class, Shirley Thompson, Nigel Hess, Roderick Williams, Ian Farrington and Patrick Doyle.
The organ was played by the Abbey's Sub-Organist, Peter Holder, and before the service by its Assistant Organist, Matthew Jorysz.
The sermon was preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who spoke on the theme of loving service, saying,
‘The weight of the task given to you today, Your Majesties, is only bearably by the Spirit of God, who gives us the strength to give our lives to others. With the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the King is given freely what no ruler can ever attain through will, or politics, or war, or tyranny: the Holy Spirit draws us to love in action.’
The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Rishi Sunak MP, read Colossians 1: 9-20, which was chosen for its themes of service to others and the loving rule of Christ over all people and all things.
The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London and Dean of His Majesty’s Chapels Royal, read Luke 4: 16-21, which speaks of God's kingdom of peace, justice and mercy.
The King and Queen were joined in the Abbey by a congregation of 2,300 which included:
- Members of the Royal Family
- Members of Foreign Royal Families
- Heads of State and Foreign Ministers
- Governors General and Realm Prime Ministers
- Members of the Government, Parliament and Devolved Administrations, including former Prime Ministers
- Representatives from The King and The Queen's patronages
- Representatives from public Service organisations and the emergency services
- Nobel Prize winners
- British Empire Medal recipients
The Abbey bells
As The King was crowned, the Abbey bells rang out for two minutes in celebration. Before the service, the Westminster Abbey Company of Ringers rang 72 changes of Grandsire Caters as Their Majesties arrived in the State Carriage.
Afterwards they rang a full peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal, lasting more than three hours.
The Abbey bells are ringing out in celebration for the #Coronation. Our bell ringers are ringing a full peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal, which will last more than three hours. pic.twitter.com/IIhi3JEgYj— Westminster Abbey (@wabbey) May 6, 2023
The floral arrangements were designed by Shane Connolly and included seasonal flowers and foliage from across the United Kingdom. Among them were flowers symbolic of remembrance at the Grave of the Uknown Warrior, including bluebells, forget-me-nots and sprigs of rosemary. In the quire, the colours were inspired by the burgundies, purples, pinks and reds of the Cosmati Pavement with choices including hellebores. At the High Altar, there were boughs cut from shrubs and trees at the five Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, including branches from two Bawyck beech trees planted by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip at RHS Wisley in 1978.
Order of Service
Download the Order of Service for the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla (PDF, 1.25MB)
Discover more about coronations at Westminster Abbey
All pictures:© Press Association