Get us in your inbox

Westminster Abbey
Photograph: Wangkun Jia /

What happens in the King’s sacred anointing ceremony? And why can’t we see it?

This traditional stage of the coronation will involve holy oil and a very, very old spoon

Amy Houghton
Written by
Amy Houghton

This weekend the UK will see the first coronation that most of us have been alive for, and that means we’re about to witness a bunch of centuries-old traditions for the first time too. Perhaps to the disappointment of some, Charles has ditched a few rituals in an effort to appear more modern and #relatable. But he will continue to uphold the holiest part of the event – the sacred anointing ceremony.

The only catch is that we won’t be able to watch it. Here’s why.

RECOMMENDED: Here’s the full schedule for King Charles’s coronation

What is the sacred anointing ceremony? 

It is the third stage of the religious ceremony, taking place before the investiture and the crowning. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury will pour holy oil from a gold eagle-shaped flask (known as the Ampulla) onto an almost 700-year-old coronation spoon covered in pearls and engravings. These objects have been described as the ‘most important’ ones being used in the ceremony. 

After that, the archbishop will dip two fingers into the holy oil and anoint Charles on the hands, breast and head. 

What does it mean? 

It is a tradition dating back to the Old Testament and was originally meant to emphasise the monarch’s divine right to the throne. 

While monarchs are no longer considered to be directly appointed by God, the anointing ceremony will still confirm Charles as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. 

Why can’t we watch the anointing of King Charles?

Because it is just that sacred. The ceremony has been conducted in private for centuries and even for Lizzie’s coronation, it was carefully hidden from public view. The King will follow in his mother’s footsteps and the moment will not be filmed or shown on television.   

A royal source told The Times: ‘Precedent has never been for it to be a publicly viewable moment, given its sanctity. A way has been found to ensure that remains the case this time.’

Read more: here’s everything you need to know about the King’s coronation.

Plus: what time is the coronation and how long is it?

Oh, and: the coronation concert line-up has finally been revealed.

More on the King’s coronation

    You may also like
    You may also like