The Edit


king charles coronation


We offer our congratulations to King Charles III and Queen Camilla, following the coronation service at Westminster Abbey – the location for coronations since 1066. The service – led by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury on Saturday, 6th May 2023 – cast a spotlight on British composers and performers and, in a historic first, the complete coronation was recorded and released as an album on the day of the ceremony.

Here’s an overview of the music enjoyed by the millions watching worldwide, together with a look at King Charles’ relationship with music and the arts, and his life to date.

The Processions

The King and the Queen Consort arrived at Westminster Abbey in a procession from Buckingham Palace, known as ‘The King’s Procession’, travelling in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach. After the service, The King and Queen returned to the Palace in a larger ceremonial procession, The Coronation Procession, in the 200-year-old Gold State Coach, accompanied by nearly 4,000 military personnel and military bands from all the armed forces.

Music Fit for a King

Buckingham Palace revealed that the music for the King’s coronation – a full state occasion – would include a new Coronation Anthem by Andrew Lloyd Webber, an adaptation of Psalm 98, together with 11 other pieces personally commissioned by King Charles, from world-renowned British composers. These pieces consisted of six orchestral commissions, five choral commissions and one organ commission.

The six orchestral commissions were performed ahead of the service, before the King and Queen Consort arrived at Westminster Abbey, ‘complemented by a programme of mainly British music spanning 350 years.’ The Coronation Orchestra were assembled from musicians from eight leading orchestras for which the King acted as patron when he was Prince of Wales.

Before the service, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists performed:

  • Bach: ‘Magnificat anima mea’ from Magnificat in D
  • Bach: ‘Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen’ from Christmas Oratorio
  • Bach: ‘Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied’ from New Year Cantata
  • Bruckner: ‘Ecce sacerdos magnus’
  • Bach: ‘Alla breve in D’ was performed by Westminster Abbey’s assistant organist, Matthew Jorysz

The first of the King’s commissions, a short overture by Judith Weir, the Master of the King’s Music, was ‘Brighter Visions Shine Afar’, followed by Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets.

There were performances from Sir Bryn Terfel (‘Kyrie Eleison’), who also performed at the King Charles III Coronation Concert with Andrea Bocelli (‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’); South African soprano Pretty Yende performed new commission ‘Sacred Fire’ by Sarah Class and baritone Roderick Williams sang Walford-Davies’s ‘Confortare’, with a special orchestra conducted by Sir Antonio Pappano, the music director at the Royal Opera House.

Tradition & Today’s New Musical Voices

The Palace said that the musical programme was looking to blend, ‘tradition, heritage and ceremony with new musical voices of today, reflecting the King’s life-long love and support of music and the arts.’ The music was conducted by Andrew Nethsingha, who was appointed organist and master of the choristers at Westminster Abbey last year. He said that the choice of music, ‘reflects the cultural breadth of the age in which we live.’

The Coronation Anthem was joined by a Coronation March by Scottish film composer Patrick Doyle. Another new commission for the Abbey’s organ incorporated musical themes from countries around the Commonwealth by Iain Farrington.

We were delighted that two of Audio Network’s composers were specially commissioned for the ceremony: Classic FM’s Composer in Residence, Debbie Wiseman and Classical BRIT Award winner Nigel Hess. Wiseman’s two-part composition, ‘Alleluia (O Clap Your Hands)’ and ‘Alleluia (O Sing Praises)’ featured a gospel choir, The Ascension Choir.  

Alongside Roderick Williams and Shirley J Thompson, Nigel Hess was one of a trio of composers who created a contemporary response to the Irish hymn 'Be Thou my Vision - Triptych for Orchestra'. Hess opened the piece with a stirring rendition arranged for the full orchestra. 

Composer Paul Mealor’s ‘Coronation Kyrie’ was the first Welsh language work to be performed at a Coronation, and had themes of hope, peace, love and friendship. Royal Harpist Alis Huws performed as part of the Coronation Orchestra, celebrating the King’s long-standing relationship with Wales, in a new arrangement of a Welsh folk song set by Sir Karl Jenkins, ‘Tros y Garreg’ (‘Crossing the Stone’).

As a tribute to his late father, Prince Philip, the Byzantine Chant Ensemble performed a piece of Greek Orthodox music as he received the jewelled Sword of Offering and spurs.

A series of fanfares, played on herald trumpets by The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry and The Fanfare Trumpeters of the Royal Air Force, was specially written by Christopher Robinson.

Traditional music favoured by royalty over the centuries also featured, including pieces by Edward Elgar, William Byrd, Sir Hubert Parry, Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Handel.

These included:

  • Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’
  • Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on Greensleeves’
  • ‘Trumpet Tune’ by Purcell
  • Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ from Solomon
  • ‘Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre’ from Handel’s Joshua
  • Handel’s ‘Care Selve’ from Atalanta
  • Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’
  • Harris’s ‘Flourish for an Occasion’
  • Prelude on ‘Rhosymedre’ by Vaughan Williams

The Choir of His Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James Palace, Truro Cathedral’s girl choristers Methodist College, Belfast and the Monteverdi Choir performed Parry’s ‘I Was Glad’, and following the Archbishop’s sermon, the choir performed an arrangement of a Christian hymn incorporating the traditional languages of the four UK nations, ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’.

The choir sang the iconic ‘Zadok the Priest’ composed by Handel in 1727, as the King was anointed behind ceremonial screens.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s coronation anthem, ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ was sung by the choir after the Queen was enthroned.

During the King and Queen’s procession out of the Abbey, the orchestra played Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4’ and Parry’s ‘March’ from The Birds.

The Coronation Oath

The tradition of the oath may stretch back centuries, but it changes with each successive coronation. King Charles III changed the oath to embrace all faiths and chose to prominently include an array of religious leaders in the ceremony.

The Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, received the Bible from the Dean of Westminster and presented it to The King, saying:

‘Sir, to keep you ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, receive this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.’

The Moderator received the Bible and placed it before the King. The Archbishop then said:

‘Our Majesty, the Church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain, is committed to the true profession of the Gospel, and, in so doing, will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely. The Coronation Oath has stood for centuries and is enshrined in law.

‘Are you willing to take the Oath?’

The Archbishop administered the Oath:

‘Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, your other Realms and the Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws and customs?

‘Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

‘Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?

‘And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?’

The oath finished with King Charles declaring:

‘I Charles do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.’

A Historic Moment

It’s estimated that more than 20 million viewers in the UK tuned in to watch the coronation; 29 million watched the Queen’s funeral in September.

The service took place in front of 2,200 invited guests in the Abbey, including all of the living Prime Ministers and their partners, Joe Biden’s wife, Jill Biden, Monaco’s Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, together with royal members from Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Luxembourg, Greece and the Netherlands, Malaysia, Jordan and Ghana.

The guest list featured dignitaries, heads of state, members of other royal families and celebrities, as well as more than 1,250 volunteers and young people who were invited to attend the ceremony or associated events.

King Charles and the Creative Arts

King Charles is president or patron of more than 20 performing arts organisations, which include the Royal College of Music, the Royal Opera, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Welsh National Opera and the Purcell School.

In 2000, King Charles revived the tradition of appointing harpists to the Royal Court by appointing an Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales.

He has also been patron of the British Film Institute since 1978.

From Heir Apparent to King Charles III

As Queen Elizabeth’s eldest child and the heir to the throne, King Charles III has had a varied and interesting life. Here is an overview of his history. 

Prince Charles was born at Buckingham Palace on November 14th, 1948, and was christened Charles Philip Arthur George in the Music Room there on December 15th. He became heir apparent at the age of three on the death of his grandfather, King George VI, when his mother succeeded to the throne on February 6th, 1952. 

Under a charter of King Edward III in 1337, he automatically assumed the traditional titles of Duke of Cornwall and, in the Scottish peerage, the titles Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. At the age of just nine, Charles was created Prince of Wales in 1958, becoming the 21st Prince of Wales in the process. 

His investiture was carried out by the Queen on July 1st, 1969 at Caernarfon Castle when he was 20 – which was televised and watched by an audience of 19 million people in the UK. Prince Charles spent 10 weeks leading up to the investiture learning the Welsh language and about Welsh culture and history. During the ceremony, he gave his replies in both English and Welsh.  

As a teenager, Prince Charles attended Gordonstoun school, near Elgin, Morayshire, in the Scottish Highlands, where his father, Prince Philip, had also been educated. He read Archaeology and Anthropology at Trinity College, Cambridge, later switching to history – he was the first British heir apparent to earn a university degree.  

Prince Charles took his seat in the House of Lords in 1970 and became the first royal to speak from the floor since the future Edward VII in 1884. 

Prince Charles joined the armed forces in 1971, served on a number of ships and also did helicopter flying training. The final 10 months of his active Royal Navy service were spent commanding the minehunter HMS Bronington. 

In 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and had two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. The couple divorced in 1996; Princess Diana died in a car crash the following year. In 2005, he married his long-term partner, Camilla Parker Bowles. 

The Prince’s Trust

Prince Charles set up his trust in 1976, using money he was given when he left the Navy. The youth charity offers training, personal development, business start-up support, mentoring and advice. The King is a patron, president or member of over 400 other charities and organisations and is passionate about the environment and the importance of architecture in society. As an environmentalist, Charles was an early champion of organic farming and has authored or co-authored more than 20 books. His interest in gardening began in 1980, when he took over the Highgrove Estate.

King Charles’ own organic brand, Duchy Originals, was launched in 1990, and now sells more than 200 different sustainably-produced products – the profits are donated to the King’s Charities.  

In 2007, His Majesty launched the Prince’s May Day Network, which encourages businesses to take action on climate change. And in 2021, he joined with Jony Ive to announce the Terra Carta Design Lab, a competition to find solutions to climate change and environmental issues.  

Official Duties

Prince Charles regularly represented his mother at events and ceremonies, and in 1997 represented the Queen at the Hong Kong handover ceremony. Two years previously, he’d become the first member of The Royal family to visit the Republic of Ireland in an official capacity. In May 2022, Prince Charles attended the State Opening of Parliament and delivered the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother.  

On 19th March 2023, King Charles began his first foreign visit as monarch, and became the first British monarch to address the Bundestag in Germany.

Becoming King

Charles became King of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms on the 8th September 2022, when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, died. At the age of 73, King Charles III is the oldest person to accede to the British throne. He’s also been the longest-serving heir apparent in British history since Edward VII, who was heir apparent for 59 years. King Charles III also became the oldest monarch in British history, at the age of 73 – the previous record holder was William IV, who was 64 when he became King in 1830. 

Charles was publicly proclaimed King of the United Kingdom by the Accession Council on 10th September 2022 – a ceremony that was televised for the first time. 

Regal Music

Audio Network has a host of regal music to license, from ‘Zadok the Priest’, which has featured in every coronation ceremony since 1727, when Handel wrote it for King George II, to the appropriately-titled, ‘Coronation Dream’. ‘Legacy Unfolds’ is a heart-warming orchestral theme, while ‘Royal Hymn’ is a serene, majestic piece.

Golden Times’ is bright, brass-led track, whilst ‘Grateful Nation’ is a patriotic theme with stirring strings. If you’re looking for military overtones, then choose ‘Quiet Grandeur’ and on this unique day, ‘An Ode to History’ feels apt.

Find more regal ensembles in this hand-picked playlist, and for more music from Debbie Wiseman, whose work featured in the service, explore her album, Kings and Queens.

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