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Millions of people will gather to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III


Across the pond, this weekend brings the much ballyhooed crowning of King Charles III. It's the first coronation in 70 years.


Now, will it have pomp and pageantry? Absolutely. Flag-waving tourists? Check. A modern monarchy that can appeal to younger, more diverse British citizens? Maybe. King Charles' coronation comes at a time of economic crisis in the U.K., not to mention waning support for the monarchy.

FADEL: So the royals are trying to balance ancient tradition with, well, the real world. NPR's Lauren Frayer is outside Buckingham Palace and joins us now. Hi, Lauren.


FADEL: So what do the preparations look like around you?

FRAYER: Lots of flags and lots of umbrellas - it's just started drizzling, and it's actually not forecast to stop until the crown is on King Charles' head and the royals wave from the palace balcony I'm looking up at right now. That has not stopped thousands of people from gathering here, though. Some have camped out for days. The family next to me has two little boys wearing plastic golden crowns. Lots of police here, too.

World leaders are also arriving. Jill Biden will be attending, but not her husband. Another famous American, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will not be here. Her husband, Prince Harry, will. One of those who came down to check out the decorations was Mary Warman, and she describes what she's looking forward to tomorrow.

MARY WARMAN: I just want to see the whole ceremony and what everybody is wearing and how the abbey is looking, how they've decorated it. And listening to the music - I think the music is going to be thrilling.

FRAYER: She's talking about Westminster Abbey, of course. The music at this ceremony is a closely guarded secret. The coronation theme has been composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but we won't hear it until it debuts tomorrow.

FADEL: So walk us through the ceremony and what we expect to see tomorrow.

FRAYER: You are going to see a lot of royal bling. Charles and Camilla will roll up to the abbey in a golden-topped horse-drawn carriage. But, you know, this is a modern coronation. So it has power windows and AC - not that he'll need that. It's quite chilly here.

The king will wear golden robes. He'll hold a golden orb in his right hand. He's got golden scepters. They're like magic wands, kind of. The heart of this ceremony is the anointing with holy oil from Jerusalem.

And then basically everybody yells, long live the king. They sing "God Save The King." The royals return to their palace. There's a military flyover. And that wave from the balcony I mentioned. So it's basically following this thousand, more than thousand-year-old script with some differences, though.

FADEL: So what are some of the differences?

FRAYER: Well, there will be an official role for representatives of other religions besides the Church of England, which the king is the head of. All Britons, not just aristocrats, will be asked to swear allegiance to the king at the ceremony. Royals are trying to staunch waning support for this monarchy. And I asked a political scientist, Anand Menon, how they can do that.

ANAND MENON: Appearing modern and in touch, I think, is absolutely fundamental. There's some things they can't do anything about. The fact of the matter is the coronation is going to cost a lot of money. They've got to hope that that doesn't become a matter of public concern at a time when, of course, the U.K. is going through a cost of living crisis.

FRAYER: So regular folks in Britain are dealing with rising food prices and rising heating bills. And this coronation may cost taxpayers upwards of some $125 million.

FADEL: Whoa. I guess those golden orbs are not cheap. NPR's Lauren Frayer outside Buckingham Palace, where King Charles' coronation procession will begin tomorrow. Thanks, Lauren.

FRAYER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

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