Coronation vs. Accession: What’s the Difference?

On June 2, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her history-making coronation with ample pomp and circumstance at London’s Westminster Abbey. It was more than a year after the death of her father, King George VI, but the kingdom had not been without a ruler during those 14 months. That’s because the UK adheres to the old Latin adage rex nunquam moritur — “the king never dies.” In other words, whoever is next in the line of succession automatically inherits the role when the sitting monarch dies, precluding even a fleeting gap in leadership. The moment George VI passed away, then-Princess Elizabeth became queen — no ceremony necessary. That metaphorical passing of the baton is known as the accession. So, when Queen Elizabeth II passed away on September 8 after a record-setting 70-year reign, Prince Charles immediately became king — King Charles III, to be exact. The coronation, on the other hand, is when the UK marks the formal investiture of a new sovereign. King Charles III will likely don St. Edward’s Crown and the other Coronation Regalia, and the ceremony will almost certainly be held at Westminster Abbey, as it has been for nearly a millennium. A date hasn’t been announced for Charles’s coronation, but it probably won’t be held for a number of months. This is partially so the royal family can duly mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, and also as the result of the enormous amount of preparation required to organize the ceremony.