With the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, at her rural Balmoral home in September, Charles III instantly became King. In the days that followed, he was formally proclaimed Britain’s new monarch and now, after months of painstaking preparation, his coronation is upon us.
Heir to the throne for 70 years, Charles will be officially crowned in a magnificent and deeply religious ceremony on May 6. Thousands will gather at Westminster Abbey and the surrounding streets of central London to take in a glorious display of British pageantry.
There’s a lot of speculation floating around, and some elements are still being fine-tuned, but if it’s official, we’ve got you covered. Here’s CNN’s essential guide to the celebrations – we’ll keep updating it to ensure you stay in the know.
What is a coronation?
Charles’ accession took place when the Queen died. It was, as expected, a deeply somber period when the nation came together to bid farewell to its longest-reigning sovereign. Eight months on, the coronation will feel very different. This is a moment of public celebration of the new King. It will be a fabulously over-the-top spectacle attended by dignitaries from around the world and watched by billions.
The word “coronation” is derived from the Latin word “corona” meaning a crown. But it’s so much more than literally placing the crown on the sovereign’s head. It’s a symbolic coming together of the monarchy, church and state for a religious ritual during which the monarch makes vows to both God and country.
Buckingham Palace has said it “will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.”
How can I watch the service?
If you’ve been checking your mailbox and an invitation has yet to drop in, not to worry. The ceremony itself is set to begin at 11 a.m. (6 a.m. ET) on May 6, with CNN’s special TV coverage of the King’s coronation from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (5 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET). Alternatively, join us here on CNN.com for live coverage throughout the day.
How long will the ceremony be?
This is one of the things that’s not yet confirmed. Charles’ coronation is expected to be shorter than his mother’s seven decades ago. Back then, the ceremony – which was the first live royal event to be televised – ran for more than three hours.
This time, many experts are suggesting it’s likely to be closer to two hours. Coronations have stayed largely the same for more than 1,000 years and organizers are leaning on that structure, so there’s quite a lot to get through.