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What is the coronation coach? How old the Gold State Coach is and history of the two carriages explained

The coronation is set to be a display of British pomp, as thousands of fans, dignitaries, royals and celebrities flock to London to catch a glimpse of the occasion.

It will feature the largest military ceremonial parade in 70 years, with more than 6,000 men and women from British and Commonwealth armed forces set to lead the King and Queen to and from Westminster Abbey.

The royal couple will travel in some of the monarchy’s grandest carriages to travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.

What happens on coronation day?

The King and Queen will be crowned in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Here is the full timetable of events:

  • 6am – viewing areas open along the procession route
  • 7.15-8.30am – guests to Westminster Abbey begin to arrive at security checkpoints in Victoria Tower Gardens9am – congregation to be seated inside the Abbey
  • 9.30-10.45am – heads of state, overseas government representatives, Government ministers, First Ministers, former PMs, foreign royals and members of the Royal Family arrive
  • 9.45am – the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry begin to gather ready for the procession from Buckingham Palace
  • 10.20am – the King and Queen’s procession sets off from the Palace
  • 10.53am – the King and Queen arrive at Westminster Abbey
  • 11am – Charles and Camilla enter the Abbey through the Great West Door and the service begins
  • 12pm – the King is crowned. The Archbishop of Canterbury places the St Edward’s crown on Charles’s head. Trumpets will sound and gun salutes will be fired across the UK
  • 1pm – the service ends and the newly crowned King and Queen begin their coronation procession back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach
  • 1.33pm – Charles and Camilla are expected to enter Buckingham Palace through the Centre Arch
  • 1.45pm – the King and Queen receive a royal salute from the military in the palace gardens
  • Around 2.15pm – the King, Queen and members of the Royal Family appear on the palace balcony to watch the flypast

According to the Buckingham Palace, the coronation itself – which is expected to be scaled back from previous versions – will be “a solemn religious service, as well as an occasion for celebration and pageantry”.

The service will “reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”.

Which carriages are being used?

Embargoed to 2230 Sunday April 9 File photo dated 14/10/2019 of Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, returns to Buckingham Palace, London, in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, having delivered The Queen's Speech. The King and Queen Consort will travel to the coronation in the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach and return in the historic Gold State Coach. Issue date: Sunday April 9, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Coronation Carriages. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Elizabeth II, accompanied by the former Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach (Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Charles and the Queen Consort will take a shorter route than the late Elizabeth II, travelling 1.3 miles from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach – a modern and more comfortable carriage.

This is a break from tradition as the late Queen travelled both ways to and from her 1953 coronation in the elaborate – but famously bumpy – carriage.

Instead, they are using black and gold Diamond Jubilee carriage, built in Australia and first used by the late Queen at the State Opening of Parliament in 2014, is the newest in the Royal Mews.

It features modern technology, with six hydraulic stabilisers to stop it from swaying, and traditional craftmanship with interior wooden panels made from objects donated by more than 100 historic sites including royal residences, the Mary Rose, 10 Downing Street and the Antarctic bases of Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton.

The couple will travel back in the 260-year-old Gold State Coach in a reverse of their outward journey but it will take longer as the historic carriage, drawn by eight Windsor Grey horses, is so heavy it has to travel at a walking pace.

Sally Goodsir, curator of decorative arts at the Royal Collection Trust, said: “The Gold State Coach will be the centrepiece of the much larger procession from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace on coronation day.

“It weighs four tonnes and because of that it can only be used at walking pace which really adds to the majesty and stateliness of this great royal procession.”

Embargoed to 2230 Sunday April 9 File photo dated 2/6/1953 of Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke Of Edinburgh, in the Gold State Coach as it neared Trafalgar Square on the route to Westminster for her Coronation. The King and Queen Consort will travel to the coronation in the modern Diamond Jubilee State Coach and return in the historic Gold State Coach. Issue date: Sunday April 9, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Coronation Carriages. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II in the Gold State Coach (Photo: PA Wire)

Martin Oates, senior carriage restorer at the Royal Mews, said the carriage creaks like an “old galleon” as it moves along, but it runs smoother than it used to as the original leather straps that support the body of the carriage have been replaced.

Charles’s route is understood to be shorter than his late mother’s for practical reasons although the palace declined to comment on whether this was due to the back pain suffered by him and Camilla.

A spokesperson said: “The carriages chosen reflect the smaller procession to the Abbey and the larger procession back to Buckingham Palace.

“They were the personal choice of Their Majesties.”

What is the official coronation route?

The coronation procession route of Charles III stretches to only 1.3 miles, a quarter of the length of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s five-mile celebratory journey.

After they are crowned, Charles and Camilla will make their way back from Westminster Abbey via a tried and tested journey. They will follow Parliament Square, along Whitehall, around Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall back to Buckingham Palace – the reverse of their route to the Abbey earlier in the day.

It is much shorter than the Queen’s five-mile return expedition around central London, which saw the 27-year-old monarch waving to crowds along Piccadilly, Oxford Street and Regent Street. The Queen’s journey to her crowning on 2 June, 1953 was 1.6 miles, and included a tour along the Victoria Embankment by the River Thames.

The grand procession in 1953 took two hours and featured tens of thousands of participants, with the two-and-a-half mile cavalcade taking 45 minutes to pass any given point.

Charles’s shorter routes are understood to have been chosen for practical reasons, with a preference for the familiar journey used on many a royal occasion.

Who will be in the coronation procession?

About 5,000 armed forces personnel will accompany the King in two separate parades.

The first, the King’s procession, will be smaller, featuring just under 200 members, centred around the Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.

The Marquess of Anglesey, the Duke of Westminster, the Earl of Caledon and the Earl of Dundee will lead the procession.

King’s champion Francis Dymoke will carry the Royal Standard, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff will act as the Lord High Constable of England.

The Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, will also take part, as will the Earl of Erroll will serve as Lord High Constable of Scotland.

The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres will be present as Deputy to Prince William.

The second, the coronation procession, will follow the same route back to Buckingham Palace from Westminster Abbey, and will represent the diversity and traditions of the UK and Commonwealth armed forces, featuring nearly 4,000 personnel.


The coronation of King Charles III

You can follow the coronation as it happens with our live blog here, and this is a full timetable of the coronation, including when Charles will actually be crowned, and details of the concert.

The ceremony has taken an astonishing amount of preparation, with Operation Golden Orb – decades in the planning – bringing in snipers and police officers from across the country to aid security. The coronation will also feature the biggest military procession in 70 years, no small feat of logistics, but still intends to be the most sustainable ever.

This week, The i Podcast looks at whether King Charles III could be the last monarch of a Commonwealth realm which was born from the British Empire and funded by the proceeds of slavery. Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Acast | Wherever you listen

Nearly 400 armed forces personnel from at least 35 Commonwealth countries will also be on parade to mark the day.

“The coronation procession will include armed forces from across the Commonwealth and the British Overseas Territories, and all services of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, alongside the Sovereign’s Bodyguard and Royal Watermen,” Buckingham Palace said.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “The contribution of the Armed Forces to the coronation symbolises unyielding service to King and country.

“It reflects centuries of tradition, but is indicative of the integral role the armed forces play in modern Britain and the extraordinary ways we support the nation, whether deterring aggression and maintaining stability worldwide or strengthening our domestic resilience and prosperity.

“The soldiers, sailors and aviators participating in the coronation are privileged to be part of this historic ceremony and all it represents. Thousands more servicemen and women will be watching at home and overseas, and are justly proud to wear the King’s uniform on this special day.”

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