Charles’s Coronation: what music is likely to be played at the coronation of King Charles III?
The Queen’s coronation in 1953 was a large state affair, lasting three hours and including many hymns and anthems. But what music might be included in Charles’s coronation, some 70 years later?
When did Prince Charles become King Charles?
Prince Charles had been heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain since he was three years old. Under the common law rule Rex nunquam moritur (‘The king never dies’), Prince Charles became King as soon as his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on 8 September 2022.
The Accession Council proclaimed him as King, but it is not necessary for the monarch to be crowned in order to become King or Queen. Parliament was then recalled so parliamentarians could take their oaths of allegiance to the new sovereign.
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When will the coronation take place?
Charles’s official coronation takes place on the 6 May, after a period of mourning. Queen Elizabeth II's coronation took place on 2 June 1953, over a year after her accession on 6 February 1952.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, following The Queen's coronation in 1953
Will there be a coronation procession?
Before the service the King and The Queen Consort will arrive at Westminster Abbey in a procession from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey, via The Mall, Admiralty Arch, the south side of Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament Street and Parliament Square. This is is known as ‘The King’s Procession’.
After the Service, Their Majesties will return to Buckingham Palace, the way they came, in a larger ceremonial procession, known as ‘The Coronation Procession’. In this procession they will be accompanied by nearly 4,000 military personnel, making it one of the largest military processions in a generation.
Military bands from all the armed forces are likely to accompany both processions
Will the Gold State Coach be used?
The Gold State Coach will only be used on the return journey. It was last seen during the Pageant of the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in June 2022
What is likely to be the format of the coronation?
Unlike the recent royal weddings of Princes William and Harry, which were semi-state and private occasions respectively, Charles’s coronation will be a full state occasion and thus funded by the UK government. The coronation will take the form of an Anglican service held in Westminster Abbey, as has been the case for the last 900 years, but it is likely that space will be made for other religions and Christian denominations to reflect a more modern sensibility.
What time does the Coronation service start?
Timings have not been announced yet.
How long is the coronation service?
The exact details have not been announced yet but Queen Elizabeth II's coronation service was three hours long.
What happens in a coronation service?
The Coronation is a solemn religious service, as well as an occasion for celebration and pageantry. It will be filled with music, prayer and vows.
It is thought Charles's coronation will follow the pattern of his late mother's coronation service, which had six parts;
- The recognition
- The oath
- The anointing
- The investiture, which includes the crowning
- The enthronement
- The homage.
Who will be conducting the coronation service?
The Coronation Service will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury
What music will be featured in Charles’s coronation?
On the programme are twelve newly-commissioned pieces of coronation music, showcasing composers from across the UK and the commonwealth.
These include a new Coronation Anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber, a Coronation March by Patrick Doyle, a new work for solo organ embracing musical themes from countries across the Commonwealth by Iain Farrington, along with new works by Sarah Class, Nigel Hess, Paul Mealor, Tarik O'Regan, Roxanna Panufnik, Shirley J. Thompson, Judith Weir, Roderick Williams and Debbie Wiseman. In total there will be six pieces for orchestra, five choral works and one instrumental work.
Who will be performing at the coronation service?
Among the soloists will be the baritone Roderick Williams, soprano Pretty Yende and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel. The organ will be played by Westminster Abbey's Sub-Organist Peter Holder and Assistant Organist Matthew Jorysz. The Royal Harpist Alis Huws will perform as part of the Coronation Orchestra in recognition of the King's long-standing relationship with Wales. Part of the service will also be sung in Welsh.
Other performers include The Choir of Westminster Abbey and The Choir of 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.
The Ascension Choir, a handpicked gospel choir, will also perform as part of the Service and The King's Scholars of Westminster School will proclaim the traditional 'Vivat' acclamations. Sir Antonio Pappano will conduct the Coronation Orchestra and Sir John Eliot Gardiner will conduct The Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque soloists in a pre-Service programme of choral music. A small group of singers from The Monteverdi Choir will also join the main choral forces for the Service and all arrangements will be overseen by Andrew Nethsingha, Westminster Abbey Organist and Master of the Choristers.
Who will be playing the organ at the coronation?
Westminster Abbey's magnificent Harrison & Harrison organ will be played by Peter Holder
Will there be fanfares at the coronation?
Fanfares proclaiming the new king will be heard of course, and they will be played on herald trumpets by The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry and The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force.
A series of fanfares marking ceremonial moments in the Service has been specially written for the occasion by Christopher Robinson, and will be performed by the Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force, conducted by Wing Commander Piers Morrell.
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Will there be a gun salute at the coronation?
The moment the king is crowned there will be gun salutes across all four corners of the United Kingdom including Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and of course London.
Across 13 locations and deployed Royal Navy ships, 21 rounds will fire, while The Tower of London and Horse Guards Parade will fire a 62 round salute and a six-gun salve.
Church bells will also ring out across the country, led by the bellringers of Westminster Abbey who will be, presumably, ringing a full peal.
Will there be a flypast?
Yes, of course there will be a flypast! A royal state occasion would not be complete without a flypast! On the May 6, after the coronation service and procession there will be a six-minute flypast through the skies of London, watched on by members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The flypast will feature aircraft from all three services and all the classics you expect - including the Red Arrows and Spitfires - as well as helicopters, aircraft used to deliver humanitarian aid and a few brand new aircraft. A real celebration of British air power - and its personnel - past and present.
Who were the previous two King Charles; King Charles I and King Charles II?
King Charles I and II were both Stuart monarchs, descended from Scotland's Royal Family. Charles I was the son of James VI of Scotland and I of England, and is infamous as the only British monarch to lose his head - courtesy of the Civil War. Charles I reigned from 1625–1649, when he died and the country became a republic under Cromwell's rule.
Charles II was his eldest son and became king when the monarchy was restored in 1660. He reigned from 1660-1685 and died of natural causes - as far as we know!
Prince Charles photo: Dan Marsh
Charlotte Smith is the editor of BBC Music Magazine. Born in Australia, she hails from a family of musicians with whom she played chamber music from a young age. She earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from London's Royal College of Music, followed by a master’s in English from Cambridge University. She was editor of The Strad from 2017 until the beginning of 2022, and has also worked for Gramophone Magazine and as a freelance arts writer. In her spare time, she continues to perform as an active chamber musician.