EXCLUSIVE: Secret replica of Coronation stage at Westminster Abbey is being built in Buckingham Palace so the King and Queen Consort can rehearse for the ceremony just weeks away
- Builders working on ‘Coronation theatre’ replica for King and Camilla to rehearse
- They will learn choreography starting this week in covert operation ‘Golden Orb’
A top-secret operation is under way in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace to reproduce the Coronation stage at Westminster Abbey so that the King and Queen Consort can carry out rehearsals in private.
Builders have started work on an exact replica of the ‘Coronation theatre’, upon which the couple will be ‘throned and crowned’ in the ancient ceremony on May 6.
Rehearsals are expected to begin this week, with the King and Queen Consort learning the complex choreography that will be required of them on the day.
The stage is part of a covert operation called Golden Orb, which is designed to ensure that there are no mishaps on the day.
A source said: ‘It’s a big undertaking. Builders are working on it at the moment. It’s going to be an exact replica of the raised stage or ‘theatre’ which will be built in the Abbey when the King and Queen Consort are crowned.
GETTING READY: Charles and Camilla in the ballroom at Buckingham Palace
King George VI and Elizabeth are crowned in Westminster Abbey May 1937
‘There are lots of steps and lots of people taking part. The Queen has chosen her grandchildren to be pages and the King will choose four young people from his side to act as his pages.
‘These youngsters, along with all the bishops, the Archbishop and everybody involved, will need to rehearse away from the public eye and this seemed like the perfect way to go about it.
‘It also means that the Abbey won’t have to shut to the public for the rehearsals so they can continue to earn the revenue from visitors and not disrupt everyone else’s plans.’
Nearer to the Coronation date, the builders will construct a stage with the same proportions inside Westminster Abbey.
The raised platform – similar to that used by the late Queen in June 1953 – is designed so that those within the Abbey can see the ancient ceremony.
It is on this dias or ‘Coronation Theatre’ that the King and Queen Consort will be throned and crowned with the world watching on.
The ceremony will mirror the double Coronation in May 1937 of the late Queen’s parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, where both were crowned together.
Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1953
A Noble gesture by Canada’s Mounties
Charles meeting Noble, the horse gifted to him by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The King has been given a horse by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Noble, a seven-year-old black mare, is settling into life at the Royal Mews in Windsor, the Palace said in a statement.
The horse, who stands at 16.2 hands high, toured with the ‘Mounties’ Musical Ride in 2022, where she participated in 90 public performances at 50 different locations in Canada.
Bred and trained in the country, she received her name through the Mounties’ annual Name The Foal contest.
Charles was said to be ‘pleased’ to meet Noble at the Royal Mews earlier this week.
The move follows a long tradition of the Mounties gifting horses to the royal family.
The relationship between the royals and the force dates back to 1904 when King Edward VII bestowed the title of Royal on the North-West Mounted Police, making it the Royal North-West Mounted Police.
The Mounties gifted eight horses to Charles’ mother the Queen throughout
Members of the clergy, Palace staff and government officials have all been sworn to secrecy.
The late Queen was said to have sneaked into the Abbey late at night to rehearse for her Coronation in 1953. Closer to the date, hundreds of people crowded around Westminster to catch a glimpse of the new Queen and Prince Philip arriving for daytime rehearsals.
In the weeks leading up to the big day, Westminster Abbey was shut down entirely while vast stands were erected inside to accommodate the 8,000 guests for the three-hour ceremony. That won’t be required this time.
Only about 2,000 spectators will be invited into the Abbey for the Coronation in May.
Furthermore, a Palace source confirmed that the King was said to be ‘keen not to close the Abbey to deprive the public of the space or the Abbey of the revenue’. There are some elements of the 2023 preparation which have been borrowed from the past, however.
When the Queen was practising before her rehearsals in the Abbey, she had courtiers mark out the shape of the Abbey on the ballroom floor at Buckingham Palace.
Bedsheets were attached to her shoulders to emulate the weighty gown and velvet robes which she would wear on the day, and she practised walking with the heavy crown on her head.
This time, the King and Queen Consort – who have to learn the trickier choreography of a double Coronation – have gone one better.
With stairs built to the exact specifications of those that will be in the Abbey for the Coronation, the King and Queen will be able to perfect their footwork so that there are no false steps on the day.
As one source pointed out: ‘In your mid-70s and weighed down with crowns and heavy robes, it will be a feat of endurance. So it’s crucial that the stairs do not come as a surprise on the day.’
The King, who was aged four when his mother was crowned, is believed to be further preparing by watching footage of the 1953 ceremony.
A source said that crowns would be used for practice with full dress rehearsals to take place in the coming weeks.
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