"What is the finest sight in the world? A coronation," observed the waspish writer and politician Horace Walpole with heavy sarcasm, before going on to ridicule the "wretched banquet"and "foolish puppet show" of George III’s crowning in September 1761.


He had a point. Thanks to an appalling lack of preparation, the event was one of the most shambolic coronations in history. One eyewitness scornfully remarked that the dean of Westminster "would have dropped the Crown, if it had not been pinned to the Cushion". Another coronation to remember (for all the wrong reasons) was that of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066, which you can read all about in this eye-opening article.

Rest assured: things will be much more organised on 6 May, when King Charles III follows centuries of royal tradition by being crowned in Westminster Abbey.

For the coronation of his late mother, Elizabeth II, no fewer than 94 diagrams were drawn up, "each depicting different parts of the ceremony in which every minute was worked out, and every movement within each minute prescribed", as an attendant of the queen recalled. The day went without a hitch and has been described as the most magnificent coronation in 1,000 years.

Of all royal ceremonies, a coronation is the most important when it comes to projecting a monarch’s power and magnificence, as Alice Hunt reveals in this article. From usurping kings trying a bit too hard to convince people of their right to rule, to that ultimate mistress of PR, Elizabeth I – who presented herself as a caring mother to her people – coronation propaganda has been centre stage for centuries.

Charles III will be the 40th in a still-unbroken line of monarchs of England since 1066 to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. Historian David Carpenter tells us everything we need to know about this most historic of buildings. And if you want to discover some of the secrets, stories and scandals of the other 39 monarchs before our current king, then sign up for my Monarchy Masterclass. There's plenty more content waiting for you on the HistoryExtra Coronation Hub, plus keep an eye out for another newsletter from me after the event.

At the end of Elizabeth II’s coronation, one eyewitness reflected: "Shall we ever see the like again?" Watch this space…


Discover the historical context behind the coronation of Charles III on HistoryExtra's Coronation Hub, or explore Tracy's highlights:


Tracy Borman
Tracy BormanAuthor, historian, joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces

Tracy Borman is a best-selling author and historian, specialising in the Tudor period. She works part-time as joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and as Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.