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What to expect at the coronation of King Charles III — and how to watch it

A general view along the Mall toward Buckingham Palace on Thursday in London.
Leon Neal
/
Getty Images
A general view along the Mall toward Buckingham Palace on Thursday in London.

Updated May 5, 2023 at 2:06 PM ET

Royal fans and heads of state alike are arriving in London for the first British coronation in 70 years.

On Saturday, King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, are expected to be crowned at Westminster Abbey — continuing a tradition that dates back more than 1,000 years.

Technically, King Charles is already Britain's head of state, having assumed the role immediately after the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September.

But the ceremony is about more than crowning the new monarch. The event — which lasts through Monday — will be filled with celebrations, performances and royal customs not seen since 1953 during Elizabeth's coronation.

Here's a rundown of the weekend's events — which are expected to cost U.K. taxpayers over $125 million — and how to watch them live.

Three days of festivities

On Saturday morning, King Charles and Camilla will travel by horse-drawn coach along the broad, tree-lined Mall from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey as part of the King's Procession.

The coronation service is largely a religious ceremony conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The anointing, which includes placing consecrated oil on the monarch's hands, chest and head, has never been televised, but there has been speculation about whether that might different this time around.

After the service, King Charles and Camilla will return to Buckingham Palace in an even larger ceremonial procession. They will join the royal family on the palace balcony where the day's public festivities will end with a military flyover and royal wave.

On Sunday, a special coronation concert produced and broadcast live by the BBC is scheduled at 8 p.m. local time or 3 p.m. ET. Held at Windsor Castle, musical icons from across the globe are expected to perform, including American pop singers Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel.

How to watch the coronation live

The coronation service on Saturday is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. local time or 6 a.m. ET. The event will last about three hours.

NPR.org will be streaming special coverage of the event starting at 1 a.m. ET.

The royal family's Youtube channel is also preparing a livestream of the service. BBC will begin broadcasting live for the coronation starting at 7:30 a.m. local time or 2:30 a.m. ET on the BBC News channel or on BBC iPlayer, its video-on-demand service.

Other networks will also be broadcasting and streaming live.

The ceremony will be a test for the modern monarchy

The last British coronation for Elizabeth captivated people across the world. It is unclear if King Charles and his wife's anointing will garner the same jubilation.

Over the years, the royal family has received widespread criticism for offenses both old and new: from the treatment of Prince Harry's wife, Meghan Markle (who will not be attending the service), to the renewed scrutiny of British colonialism, which may be behind the royal family's decision not to show the controversial Kohinoor diamond at the coronation.

In some ways, the ceremony is a test to see whether the monarch can adjust to the changing times and engage with a younger, more diverse United Kingdom.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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