Most sacred part of the King’s Coronation could be caught on camera for first time in history
The King could become the first monarch in British history to be publicly anointed at his Coronation, with a transparent canopy being specially made for the May 6 ceremony.
Traditionally, the most sacred part of the event - when the Archbishop of Canterbury pours holy oil from the ampulla onto the Coronation Spoon, and anoints the sovereign on the hands, breast and head - is not seen by the public.
In previous years, including Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953, a canopy of cloth-of-gold was held over the monarch’s head for the anointing to protect their privacy.
But The Telegraph understands that an alternative canopy, with a see-through top, is being made to give the King the option of allowing the anointing to be caught on camera for the very first time.
The Royal School of Needlework is believed to have already started work on the new canopy, which is being sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Weavers and the other city livery companies. The King has yet to decide which one will be used.
Historically, the cloth-of-gold canopy has been carried by the Barons of the Cinque Ports or Knights of the Garter, who performed the honour in 1953.
Whichever canopy is chosen for the Coronation of Charles III, it had been hoped it would be carried by scholars of Christ’s Hospital - a charity boarding school in Horsham, West Sussex, which offers children from humble backgrounds the chance of a better education. But there are concerns it may prove too heavy for schoolchildren and will need to be carried by Guardsmen instead.
The prospect of a public anointing poses problems for the King’s dress, however. The late Queen underwent multiple outfit changes for the Coronation in 1953 and wore a low-cut white dress for the anointing.
Buckingham Palace is yet to confirm what the King, 74, will wear.
He could opt for a traditional coronation dress of silk stockings and breeches - opulent robes made from velvet, silk, damask and ermine, and heavily embroidered gowns - or a military uniform. Alternatively, he could wear a combination of the two.
At previous coronations, the monarch has worn the “Supertunica” - a full-length, sleeved coat of gold silk, which was made for the coronation of King George V in 1911. There is also a Stole Royal to be worn over the Supertunica, as well as a Robe Royal and an Imperial Robe, both featuring intricate embroidery. Each has been worn at different times in the ceremony.
But the need for the King to expose his breast for a public anointing has caused consternation among palace staff should he opt for military dress. The easiest option would be for the King to wear his uniform as a Marshal of the Royal Air Force, because it consists of a jacket over a shirt and tie that could be easily undone.
A Field Marshal of the British Army uniform is single-breasted, while the Admiral of the Fleet uniform would pose the biggest headache because it is double-breasted. This Royal Navy uniform, however, is the one the King is thought to prefer and tends to wear most frequently.
Earlier this month, Buckingham Palace announced that the celebrations for the Coronation will include the ceremony at Westminster Abbey on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend. It will be followed by a Coronation Big Lunch on the Sunday and an evening Coronation Concert that night at Windsor Castle. A day of volunteering will be held on the Monday, billed as the Big Help Out.
Whilst around 30,000 members of the military took part in the royal procession for the 1953 Coronation, this year’s event will be significantly pared down - with around 3,000 representatives from all the Armed Forces and emergency services taking part.
It is understood that there will only be one carriage, the Gold State Coach, carrying the King and Queen Consort, accompanied by a full Sovereign's Escort of the Household Cavalry.
Other members of the Royal family are expected to travel to Westminster Abbey by car and bus. Although the final route is still being worked out, it is expected to travel from Buckingham Palace up The Mall, through Admiralty Arch and down Whitehall, through Parliament Square to the Abbey.
The procession will not be able to pass through Horse Guards arch, because the Gold State Coach is too big to fit through it.
During previous coronations, the procession travelled through the West End, taking 45 minutes to pass each stationary point. However, it is thought this will not be repeated, with organisers preferring to line the route with cameras and beam the proceedings onto giant television screens dotted across the capital and, indeed, the country.
In 1953, all peers dressed in coronation robes with coronets, whilst female guests wore elaborate evening gowns and tiaras. However, this year’s ceremony will have a day dress dress code, meaning morning suits will be optional for male guests.
As one insider put it: “It is going to be a grand spectacle but if you compare it to 1953, it’s going to look like very small beer indeed. The level of bling is going to be very sharply reduced.
“Seventy years on from the last coronation, we simply aren’t capable of putting on the kind of full-blown pageantry that we did in 1953. Between 1936 and 1953, there was a world war but most people’s uniforms were still on the hanger, whereas 70 years makes all the difference.”
The last time there was such a wide gap between coronations was when King Edward VII was crowned in 1902, 64 years after his late mother Queen Victoria in 1838.
Because few people could remember what happened when a then 18-year-old Victoria took the throne, the powers-that-be had to consult with Queen Mary’s aunt, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She attended the 1838 ceremony as a 15-year-old and was able to regale the details, by then aged 80, to Lord Esher, one of the King’s closest aides.
The insider added: “This time around, they have the film of the 1953 Coronation as a reference point - but that also gives the public a reference point for the scaled down nature of the coming ceremony.”