Crowds were gathering on London’s Mall on Saturday morning ahead of the coronation of King Charles III, heralding a day of ancient ceremony and military spectacle that will draw on a millennium of British history.
Global leaders and foreign royalty will attend the event at Westminster Abbey — scene of royal coronations since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066 — before participating in a day of celebrations.
The ceremony, the first since Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953, will begin at 11am. King Charles and Queen Camilla will be crowned at about midday.
Some 7,000 military personnel were gathering in London ahead of the biggest parade by the armed forces for 70 years, many of them arriving in full uniform at Waterloo station.
Other events will include a military fly-past by 60 aircraft and the royal family will appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace at around 2pm to greet the crowds.
London’s weather will be mixed with forecasts of rain during the day, similar to the meteorological conditions that greeted Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
The country has been given a Bank Holiday weekend to mark the event, and street parties are planned across the country.
Some anti-monarchy protesters were also assembling in London and the event is surrounded by a huge security presence; organisers are also planning for the possibility of protests aimed at visiting world leaders.
A suggestion by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, that the public should be invited to take part by saying an oath of allegiance to the king has caused some controversy.
Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster and a friend of King Charles, said he thought the monarch would find the idea “abhorrent”. On Saturday it was confirmed that the wording of the service would be changed.
Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, told the BBC that the “words of invitation” had changed and people would be asked to express their support for the king “in a slightly different way”.
Britons remain generally supportive of the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth’s death last year was a moment of national unity after years of political divisions.
London has been steadily filling with foreign visitors over the past week. On Friday the King hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for foreign royals and other guests, including US first lady Jill Biden and Olena Zelenska, the Ukrainian first lady.
Rishi Sunak, prime minister, said the coronation would be a “moment of extraordinary national pride”.
He added: “It’s a proud expression of our history, culture and traditions. A vivid demonstration of the modern character of our country. And a cherished ritual through which a new era is born.”
The face of Britain has changed considerably since Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. The UK is now a far more diverse country and has a Hindu prime minister, a Muslim mayor of London and a Muslim first minister in Scotland.
On Saturday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a BBC broadcast that King Charles would bear the weight of expectation of the nation.