2023 will be a momentous year in the history of the British Royal Family. For the first time in seven decades, a new monarch will be crowned in Westminster Abbey in London. King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla will undergo the ancient ceremony, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on Saturday 6 May 2023. There will be an additional Bank Holiday to celebrate the occasion, as well as a concert, volunteering drive and other momentous events.
So, what exactly will happen on and in the lead-up to the big day, and what does it mean for numismatists and those keen on adding to their royal medal and coin collections?
Operation Golden Orb
Rather aptly from the point of view of precious metal enthusiasts, the work around planning and delivering the Coronation is code-named Operation Golden Orb. Many of the details are shrouded in secrecy, as one might expect. The ceremony will have religious and political significance, formalising Charles III’s new role, not only as King, but also head of the Church of England.
What is Buckingham Palace's stance on the Coronation's traditions?
Much has been said in the media about King Charles’ wish to have a ‘slimmed-down' Coronation in line with the country’s current cost of living challenges. However, it is still expected to be full of the majestic pomp and ceremony for which Britain is famous around the world. Buckingham Palace has confirmed that it will be rooted in long-standing traditions and will reflect not only Christianity, but other world religions. Westminster Abbey can hold around 2,200 guests; however the formal guest list has not yet been announced.
How many stages will there be for King Charles III coronation ceremony?
The ceremony itself will comprise five distinct stages. First, there will be the recognition, when the monarch is presented to those present by the Archbishop; next comes the oath, when King Charles swears to uphold the laws of the land and the Church. The anointing sees the King’s hands, breast and head anointed with holy oil, after which he is presented with a number of symbolic items during investiture. These will include the Royal Orb and Sceptre, followed by the 17th-Century, solid gold St Edward’s Crown, which will be ceremonially placed on his head. Finally, King Charles III will move to the throne, where peers will kneel before him in homage. Queen Consort Camilla will be crowned in a similar way during the same ceremony.
The Coronation procession that follows the service at Westminster Abbey is also expected to be more modest than the one that Queen Elizabeth II experienced in 1952, which took 45 minutes to file past each stationary point along its 7km route. After the procession, the newly coronated King and Queen Consort will appear on Buckingham Palace balcony with selected members of their family. The ceremony, procession and balcony appearance will be televised live and the entire event will be an historical opportunity to present the UK to the rest of the world and strengthen diplomatic relationships.
The impact of the Coronation on medals, medallions and coins production
That’s all very well, but what will the Coronation mean for the production of gold coins, medals, medallions and other memorabilia? A Coronation coin featuring the new monarch will be produced and is expected to represent an excellent investment opportunity for those who can get in on the action early on. Already, coins featuring the new monarch’s portrait are selling very fast. The first silver 50p and £5 coins issued to mark the transition to King Charles III’s reign have proven to be extremely popular among collectors, as have gold proof memorial sovereigns, half-sovereigns and quarter-sovereigns depicting both King Charles III and his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Notably, these new coins, issued towards the end of 2022, are the first examples in 70 years to depict an obverse portrait of the reigning monarch facing to the left. Tradition has it that the new monarch’s portrait faces the other way to their predecessor on coins. Other coins and medals featuring King Charles III are expected to remain popular among collectors, especially those issued for the then Prince of Wales’ 70th birthday. This is because they are they last examples to be issued during the time period when the monarch was still heir to the throne.
For many collectors, these types of coins will allow them to expand on a portfolio of coins related to Kings named Charles. Our present monarch will be the third to bear the name, with his two predecessors remining very much at the heart of British history. Several coins and medals were issued to mark key events during the reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II. They remain in demand and represent excellent additions to a ‘King Charleses’ coin and medal collection.
Some examples include:
King Charles I Coronation medal
This event took place in 1626, almost 400 years before the much-anticipated Coronation coming up in May. King Charles I was also crowned in Westminster Abbey.
Death of Charles I
King Charles I met a violent end at the hands of the executioner in 1649. He was defeated in the Civil War by Oliver Cromwell and tried for treason. This ushered in England’s only period as a Republic.
King Charles II restored the monarchy in 1660 and was crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1661 like his father, King Charles I, was before him. This followed the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and a brief, unsuccessful period in charge for his son, Richard Cromwell. Two notable medals from this time period mark the return of the monarchy, known as the Restoration;
and the Coronation of King Charles II
King Charles II married the Portuguese Infanta Catherine of Braganza, in 1662, just one year after his Coronation. The union is immortalised in a special commemorative medal, which is popular among collectors of all things to do with the three King Charleses.
For more information, or to browse our extensive collection of British royal medallions, coins and coronation medals, discover our website to see the stunning sets and individual pieces available to purchase.