King to be adorned in heavy priest-like golden robes for moment of crowning

With less than five days to go until the King's coronation, ITV News' Vincent McAviney takes a look at the congregation guestlist and Charles III's ceremonial attire.

The King will be adorned in heavy priest-like golden robes worn by his ancestors for his moment of his crowning on 6 May. He will put on layer upon layer of glittering coronation vestments, inspired by priestly attire, in the middle of Westminster Abbey’s coronation theatre during the religious service. For the investiture, during which the crowning takes place, Charles will be given a long shimmering gold-sleeved coat to wear called the Supertunica.

It was created for his great-grandfather George V in 1911, and worn at successive coronations including by Elizabeth II. Made of cloth of gold, which is silk thread wrapped in thin pieces of gold or silver gilt metal, the Supertunica, also known as the Close Pall of Cloth of Gold, weighs around 2kg and is embroidered with stylised arabesques and floral motifs. On top of the Supertunica will be placed a floor-length cloak called the Imperial Mantle – or Robe Royal – made for the King’s extravagant ancestor George IV in 1821.

The Supertunica (left) and the Imperial Mantle (right), displayed in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace. Credit: PA

Heir to the throne the Prince of Wales will play a role in the service by entering the coronation theatre to assist with placing the robe on his father. It weighs around 3-4kg while the St Edward’s Crown will add an extra 2.23kg to the King’s load after his crowning. The mantle is inspired by ancient coronation ensembles and its representation of priestly robes symbolises the divine nature of kingship. Made from cloth of gold, it is brocaded with colourful motifs including fleur-de-lis as a nod to the ancient claim of England over France, as well as imperial eagles, and national floral emblems of red-pink roses, blue thistles and green shamrocks. The mantle – also known as the Pallium or Dalmatic Robe – was worn by previous House of Windsor monarchs at their coronations including the late Queen in 1953 and it has a spiral twisted bullion fringe and is fastened across the chest with a golden eagle clasp.

The Coronation Gauntlet glove and Sword Belt, which form part of the Coronation Vestments. Credit: PA

Caroline de Guitaut, deputy surveyor of the King’s works of art for the Royal Collection Trust, described the clothing as “absolutely redolent” of the coronation ceremony and the most important historic textiles in the Royal Collection. “They have clearly incredible historic significance, but they’re also significant because of the sacred nature of their use during the investiture part of the coronation ceremony,” she said She added: “They are absolutely redolent of coronation ceremony. They have been worn at numerous coronations and His Majesty the King is following in this tradition of rewearing these very ancient and historic garments.” The vestments are usually kept in the Tower of London and form part of the coronation regalia. Monarchs in the modern era have traditionally reused the garments just as Charles is, but they usually receive a new Coronation Sword Belt and a new Coronation Glove to be used during the ceremony.

Caroline de Guitaut, deputy surveyor of the King's Works of Art for the Royal Collection Trust, adjusts the Imperial Mantle. Credit: PA

But Charles, for reasons of sustainability and efficiency, has decided to reuse the belt and glove worn by his grandfather – the last male monarch – George VI. Ms de Guitaut said: “It’s quite unusual in modern times… It was the King’s personal decision and it’s in keeping with this idea of sustainability and efficiency to reuse these pieces. “They are in remarkable condition and it’s also reflecting back to the coronation of his grandfather King George VI.” The Coronation Sword Belt from 1937, also known as the Coronation Girdle, is made of embroidered cloth of gold and has a gold buckle stamped with national emblems. It will be placed around Charles’ waist over the Supertunica and has a gold clip used for briefly attaching the jewelled Sword of Offering – symbolic of being able to decide between good and evil – during the investiture.

The Imperial Mantle is inspired by ancient coronation ensembles and its priestly-appearance symbolises the divine nature of kingship. Credit: PA

The single Coronation Glove – also known as the Coronation Gauntlet – goes on the King’s right hand while he holds the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross during the crowning. It is made of white leather, and the large cuff is embroidered with gilt metal thread, wire and spangles in the form of national emblems including the Tudor rose, thistle, shamrock, oak leaves and acorns. The back of the hand has an embroidered ducal coronet above the coat of arms of the family of the Dukes of Newcastle. Charles arrives at the Abbey in his grandfather King George VI’s crimson red Robe of State which he removes for his anointing, when he will be consecrated in holy oil while wearing a simple white shirt. Then for the investiture element which features his crowning, the King will first put on a sleeveless white garment called the Colobium Sindonis – Latin for shroud tunic.

The King will put on layer upon layer of glittering coronation vestments in the middle of Westminster Abbey’s coronation theatre. Credit: PA

He will also be given a Stole Royal – also known as the Coronation Stole – a long, narrow embroidered band of gold silk which goes around the shoulders on top of the Supertunica, mirroring outfits worn by a priest or a bishop. At the end of the entire service, the King takes off the priestly robes and changes into George VI’s purple Robe of Estate for his departure from the Abbey. The order of the garments the King will wear at his coronation are: The Robe of State, a simple white linen shirt for the anointing, the Colobium Sindonis, the Supertunica, Coronation Sword Belt, Stole Royal and Imperial Mantle (Robe Royal), and the Robe of Estate. Buckingham Palace has yet to confirm what the King will wear – uniform or otherwise – under his Robe of State on his way to the Abbey.

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