“This really is a moment that I think a lot of us were debating how would they keep it in or would they allow it to be televised,” royal historian Gareth Russell exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, May 2, of the royal tradition, which he called “the most intimately personal moment of the coronation.”
Charles, 74, will be anointed at Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6, a longstanding practice that goes back to the Old Testament. According to Buckingham Palace, “The Dean of Westminster pours holy oil from the Ampulla into the Coronation Spoon, and the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the Sovereign on the hands, chest and head.”
The ritual “emphasize[s] the spiritual status of the sovereign,” per the Royal Collection Trust.
Queen Elizabeth II was “very firmly of the opinion” that her own anointment should not be televised during her 1953 coronation, Russell explained, revealing that Charles opted to undergo the rite behind a screen in order to keep “the tradition of his mother, of not televising it, and also the tradition of his ancestors in keeping [the] moment [sacred].”
“It is a moment when the king is really at prayer and taking almost a form of a sacrament in terms of his promises to the nation,” Russell added. “I think it is something that he takes very, very personally as a practicing Christian. … I think it’s something that he takes very seriously at his faith.”
Russell concluded: “He has held very firm that he wants this to be a moment of privacy between him, the Archbishop and God.”
The screen itself “has has been blessed at a special service of dedication at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace,” per Buckingham Palace. The ornate shield features a tree “which includes 56 representing the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth,” the palace notes. “The King’s cypher is positioned at the base of the tree, representing the Sovereign as servant of their people.”
The screen was designed by iconographer Aidan Hart, who was inspired by “the stained-glass Sanctuary Window in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace,” itself a gift to mark the late Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The design was picked by Charles.
Queen Camilla, however, will be anointed in full view of the public.
According to the Daily Mail, Buckingham Palace revealed that Charles’ wife, 75, will not be shielded when she is anointed with the holy oil, despite the fact that Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother — the last queen consort — was blocked from view. The breaking of this tradition is “just one of a number of ways in which the service has been adapted, evolved, simplified without losing any of its magic and majesty,” the palace said, according to the outlet.
Both the king and queen will be anointed before they are crowned.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi