Fit for a King: Dressing for the Coronation

As you of course know all too well, King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla will be crowned next month during a symbolic coronation ceremony, which will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Westminster Abbey on 6 May, following in a tradition that has remained for nearly 1,000 years. The ceremony is likely to be quite different to that of his mother's, Queen Elizabeth II, and that of her father's in 1937, namely in length - one hour versus three hours - and also in pomp:  the dress code will be comparatively downplayed. 

The most significant change to the dress code comes in the way of ceremonial dress for members of the House of Lords, which was first introduced in the late 15th century. Coronation robes became standardised two centuries later, but on the 6th May peers have been asked to dress down to better "match the atmosphere of the pared-back ceremony." So coronation robes and coronets are out, and parliamentary ermines, morning dress, or business attire is in. It would appear that King Charles is following the lead of some of his European Royal counterparts, namely the King of Netherlands who set a formal 'day dress' code for his coronation in April, 2013.

For gentlemen, this could mean traditional morning dress, in the form of a black morning coat and cashmere stripe trousers, or a charcoal grey two- or three-piece morning suit, as so often favoured by King Charles himself. Day dress can also be interpreted as business attire, so it will be interesting to see how guests navigate the dress code. For such an important occasion, our money would naturally be on morning dress, but then we are a little biased!

Regal Rocks

But what of the King himself? It's most likely that King Charles will wear his naval uniform. For the actual moment of crowning, he will wear upon his head the 17th-century St Edward’s Crown, which bar a few replacement stones, has remained identical since it was first created. It weighs nearly 5lbs and is encrusted with 444 semi-precious stones. The crown will be placed on his head by the Archbishop of Canterbury and guests will declare, “God save the King.”

King Charles will leave Westminster Abbey wearing the Imperial State Crown, of which there have been a number of iterations since it was first created for Charles II. This crown is worn after the coronation ceremony and when the King first appears before the public on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Featuring a fur trim, it is studded with one of the most impressive diamonds ever mined, the Cullinan II, also known as the The Second Star of Africa', which is a 317-carat cushion-shaped brilliant diamond set within a gold band.

The Ladies' Attire

Plenty of column inches have been dedicated to guessing what Queen Consort Camilla is planning to wear, but if the rumours are true, it is very likely to be a couture design by her good friend Bruce Oldfield, who also used to create dresses for Princess Diana. Upon her head she will wear a crown made for Queen Mary and reset with Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds from Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. It will actually be the first time in recent history that an existing crown is re-used for a coronation, the decision being one of sustainability and efficiency (not least in the midst of a cost of living crisis).

Garnering even more speculation is the attire of Catherine, Princess of Wales, who has kept it under wraps. She has hinted that it will contain an element of blue, but little else is known. In the past, notably for her wedding in 2011, she has worked very closely with Sarah Burton, the creative director at Alexander McQueen, and so many have their money on the British designer creating something unique for the occasion.

What's also unclear is whether or not the royal ladies will be wearing tiaras for this coronation. Every royal lady and a large number of aristocratic ladies in attendance at the Queen's coronation in 1953 wore one , but given King Charles' preference for a more humble event, the display of lavish jewellery might not be on the cards. In which case, neither will long gowns. Perhaps hats and fascinators will be worn instead of tiaras? We shall soon see!

For the other ladies attending the ceremony, we expect to see a number of couture creations in the crowd, but nothing too wild. They say never wear something that will upstage the bride - and you certainly don't want to be sporting a look that will upstage the King and Queen. Elegant svelte dresses and sophisticated silk or linen jackets  are where we'd put our hard-earned.