21 Photos Show London Preparing For The Coronation

By M@ Last edited 12 months ago

Last Updated 09 May 2023

21 Photos Show London Preparing For The Coronation
A tacky crown on a bus stop on oxford street

Editor-at-large Matt Brown took a walk around central London three days before the coronation of Charles III, chronicling the flags, the royalist flourishes and a golden carriage-load of minutiae.

The coronation is a huge national, indeed international, event. But it's also a London event. There are few streets in central London it hasn't touched — whether formal flags, ad hoc bunting or something more... odd. Here are 21 photos from a walk around the city, a few days before the coronation.

Odds and ends from around town

Most importantly, before I get onto all the bunting and crown worship, we should note that Charles has now been included on Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese's board of monarchs. This means he is now officially our true sovereign, even if the Fleet Street pub has got his accession date wrong.

Charles III's name is added to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese's board of monarchs, but they've got the date wrong as 2023.
Someone's already graffitied on a prediction for Charles's reign... does this count as treason?

Heading west, Covent Garden is very much bunting central, with more union flags than you could wave a golden sceptre at. The Apple Market is probably the most patriotic building in London right now.

The Apple Market at Covent Garden with hundreds of union jacks hanging from the ceiling

They've also got a coronation-themed al fresco pub round the back, known as The Crown Jewels.

A hanging sign saying the Crown Jewels Garden

More bunting in Chinatown, where the Union Flags are bunking up with the perennial lanterns. I happened to be walking past just as they were going up.

A man on a ladder in London's chinatown adds union jacks to the usual display of lanterns

I had to make a beeline for the Prince Charles Cinema. The much-loved venue is famous for its sense of humour and, right now, it certainly doesn't disappoint.

Prince Charles Cinema near Leicester Square, stoutly refusing to change its name
This one went viral on Twitter

One of the highlights, if that's the right word, of the coronation hype can be found around Oxford Circus. Here, three bus shelters have been topped by somewhat tacky replicas of St Edward's Crown. As we discovered in a separate article, one of them seems to have been nicked.

A crown on top of a bus shelter with the sun eclipsed behind

Piccadilly, like Oxford Street, is replete with Union Flags. But turn off into Burlington Arcade and you'll find something even more dignified. The entire arcade is decked out in New Carolean finery. Very classy. I counted three costumed beadles standing guard, which is two more than usual.

Burlington Arcade with red New Carolean carpet

Meanwhile, the National Gallery gets the award for most majestic scaffolding. The venue is busy covering its ongoing renovation works with a similar red royal wrap. The coronation procession, after all, will be passing close by at the foot of Trafalgar Square (where the Charles I statue has been cordoned off).

The national gallery covered in the red wrap of the coronation

Anti-coronation posters

Word on the street isn't universally deferential. I clocked a number of critical posters across the West End. Not sure who's behind them.

A poster asking how much the coronation will be costing
A comedic poster of Charless III putting on an invisible crown
A poster against monarchy

Along the coronation procession route

Admiralty Arch in London with Happy and Glorious banners for the coronation

The processional route itself was a hive of activity by Wednesday afternoon. Large sections of the carriageway have been closed off, with king-seekers fenced off to the side. The Mall is, of course, lined with the expected Union Flags as well as those of other Commonwealth nations. Admiralty Arch — still a building site in its conversion to a hotel — is draped with Happy & Glorious banners. Blue is very much the colour along the procession route, where elsewhere flags and banners are red.

A colony of portable toilets behind a fence
Western Europe's entire stock of portable toilets seem to have formed a colony just off The Mall

One surprise was to find an official Charles III gas lamp, augustly combusting fossil fuels at the entrance to St James's Park.

A gas lamp in yellow and black to mark Charles III's coronation

Meanwhile, the western end of The Mall is filling up nicely with tents. It's a long wait, but what's a few days when it's been 86 years since you could last see a king on his way to be crowned?

A group of tents on the mall with a behatted person being interviewed

And then, of course, we have the characters. It takes a certain determination to sleep among the grit and horse shit of The Mall for several nights. I think it's fair to say that this chap might be a royalist.

Arch royalist in a union jack suit with King Charles beside him
The queen (a cutout obviously) with a sign saying my boy on her chest

The road in front of Buckingham Palace was off limits on my visit, thanks to a huge palace garden party which saw thousands of people queueing in their finery for perhaps quarter of a mile. So I headed down towards the Abbey.

A media stand in front of Westminster Abbey
A media stand in front of Westminster Abbey

Here, the centre of Parliament Square is cordoned off with a heavy police presence, presumably to deter protestors ahead of the big event. Meanwhile, the viewing stands and television cranes are being installed. I've rarely seen Westminster so busy. It's clear this is to be one of the largest events in recent London history.

A camera crane on the lawn outside westminster abbey.

Bonus photo: And then there's Penge...

.Penge's WI clock covered in coronation bunting

All images by Matt Brown