Coronation of King Charles III: How It Works and When He'll Be Crowned

There's a lot for King Charles to do before the official coronation date.

Peter Butler Senior Editor
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
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Peter Butler
5 min read
A red UK throne with the UK Union Jack flag behind it

The coronation of King Charles III will be the first British coronation in more than 70 years. 

Mustapha Gunnouni/Getty Images

Following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8, her son Charles -- the former Prince of Wales -- immediately succeeded her to become the new British monarch. Although Charles has already assumed the royal title King Charles III, the British royal family announced today that the official coronation will take place on May 6, 2023.

King Charles III did have a choice of titles. His full name is Charles Philip Arthur George Windsor, and he could have selected any of his four given names. His wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, is now the queen consort.

British customs spell out in exacting requirements the complicated official procedures following the death of a reigning British monarch, and the rules for ascending to the throne are likewise detailed.

What happens next for King Charles, and when will he be crowned king in an official coronation?

When does Prince Charles become the King of England?

It's already happened. Prince Charles is no longer a prince; as soon as Queen Elizabeth died, Charles became the head of the United Kingdom. 

The British constitution specifies that the heir to the throne immediately becomes king or queen after the death of the previous monarch. There is no interregnum -- that is, a period without a reigning queen or king.

However, the official process for ascending to the throne should take up much of Charles' time until May. On Sept. 10, 2022 -- two days after the death of Queen Elizabeth II -- the Accession Council met at St James' Palace to proclaim King Charles III as the new sovereign of Britain. The two-part session of the Privy Council was the first official ceremony for the new king, where he swore an oath to preserve the Church of Scotland

After the council's announcement, King Charles III hit the meeting trail, starting with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and her cabinet, the leader of the opposition party (Keir Starmer), the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) and the Dean of Westminster (David Hoyle).

Then came necessary travel -- visits to Northern Ireland and Wales, where he received condolences and met with leading ministers. The United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, or the UK, is made up of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

From now until the coronation, King Charles will be working with the "Operation Golden Orb" committee to plan the event. The last British coronation attracted 8,000 attendees and lasted longer than three hours.

When will King Charles have his coronation?

King Charles' coronation will take place May 6, 2023. The coronation, or crowning, of the British monarch is mostly ceremonial. King Charles assumed the throne immediately after Queen Elizabeth II died, so there is no concern about a lack of a sovereign.

After her father, King George VI, died on Feb. 6, 1952, Queen Elizabeth II was not crowned until June 2, 1953, almost 16 months later.

The official website of the British monarchy notes that a new sovereign's coronation "follows some months after his or her accession, following a period of mourning and as a result of the enormous amount of preparation required to organize the ceremony."

What will happen at the coronation for King Charles III?

A coronation means a crowning, and that's exactly what will happen. It's been almost 70 years since the UK last held a coronation, and the ceremony is likely to be a very big event, whenever it happens.

For the last 900 years, Westminster Abbey has hosted all of the royal coronation ceremonies, which have been presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury since 1066.

During the ceremony, King Charles will pledge to "rule according to law, to exercise justice with mercy … and to maintain the Church of England." He will receive blessings from the Archbishop and accept the orb and scepter of the Crown Jewels. Then the Archbishop will place a crown on King Charles' head.

Until his coronation, King Charles III is not allowed to wear any of the multiple crowns in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

How is succession to the throne of Britain determined?

The UK is a hereditary monarchy -- succession to the head of British royalty is determined by "descent," or parentage.

Primogeniture -- or the state of being born first -- is the most important factor in determining the next British monarch. The eldest child of the reigning monarch is first in line for the throne, followed by his or her descendants. 

Prince George waves while sitting next to his father, Prince William

Nine-year-old Prince George, sitting next to his father Prince William, is now second in line for the British monarchy.

Sebastien Bozon/Getty Images

For example, King Charles III is the oldest child of Queen Elizabeth II. His oldest son, Prince William, is now the next in line for the throne. After William, his three children -- George, Charlotte and Louis are next in the order of succession. And after William's family comes Prince Harry, who's now fifth in line.

This system of primogeniture gives short shrift to younger siblings. King Charles' brother, Prince Andrew, is now eighth in line for the throne, after Prince William and his children and Prince Harry and his children.

In the event that King Charles and Prince William both die, William's 9-year-old son George would indeed become king. If his father and grandfather pass away before he turns 18, the Regency Act of 1937 stipulates that the royal family must appoint a regent -- an adult who will rule for George until he reaches 18.

Could anyone challenge King Charles' claim to the British throne?

Not really. The UK isn't the Iron Islands from Game of Thrones, and there won't be a Kingsmoot. It is incredibly unlikely that anyone will challenge King Charles III's legitimacy as the new king of Britain. The Act of Settlement of 1701, which prescribes the rules of British succession, is still in full effect and very clear.

However, it is possible that King Charles III may abdicate, or give up, the throne at some point in the future, allowing Prince William to become the reigning monarch. 

King Charles is 73 years old and the oldest ever to assume the crown. He might not want to continue as sovereign to the age that his mother did. On the flip side, only four British kings have abdicated throughout history.

The last to abdicate was King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II's uncle. He gave up the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American of whom the royal family did not approve. Edward's reign lasted 325 days, and he was never crowned.

For more on the British monarchy, learn all about the official proceedings following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.