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Dehydration…heatstroke…an ordeal in the south African sun…Was this the moment that Prince Charles decided to have a cut-down Coronation?


At just two hours long, King Charles III’s Coronation in May was positively speedy by royal standards.

His mother’s enthronement in 1953 took almost three hours, with so many nobles and dignitaries crammed in to the Abbey that special gantries had been built to accommodate them all.

The chaotic coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 had taken almost five hours. There had been no rehearsal.

Prince Charles attended in his white naval uniform. The ceremony took more than four hours

Prince Charles attended in his white naval uniform. The ceremony took more than four hours

Prince Charles stands between his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, and his aunt, Princess Margaret, at the Coronation on his mother in 1953. The full ceremony lasted almost three hours, although four-year-old Charles was only brought in part way through

Prince Charles stands between his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, and his aunt, Princess Margaret, at the Coronation on his mother in 1953. The full ceremony lasted almost three hours, although four-year-old Charles was only brought in part way through

Prince Charles made a short speech on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II

Prince Charles made a short speech on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II

The coronation  of King Letsie III was staged at the Maseru Sports Stadium in Maseru, Lesotho in October, 1997

The coronation  of King Letsie III was staged at the Maseru Sports Stadium in Maseru, Lesotho in October, 1997

But was it the prolonged ceremony staged by a small nation in southern Africa nation that finally persuaded King Charles III to keep it snappy when his turn came?

In his new book, Charles III, New King, New Court, Robert Hardman recounts how Charles, then Prince of Wales, had attended the Coronation of British-educated King Letsie III of Lesotho in 1997.

It was no small affair.

‘The government of Lesotho opted for the national football stadium in the capital, Maseru, resulting in a capacity crowd of 25,000,’ writes Hardman.

‘The Prince joined the South African president, Nelson Mandela, in the royal box for what was, surely the first coronation to carry advertising hoardings (“Lewis Furniture Wishes to Congratulate His Majesty on His Coronation”).’

Not that his diminished the drama of the occasion, as King Letsie rose from his throne in a calf-skin feathered crown and cloak to receive the acclamation of his people.

The Prince of Wales in a white Naval uniform made a short speech on behalf of The Queen and seemed to be enjoying it all, writes Hardman.

But there was a drawback to all this theatre: it lasted more than four hours – in the baking heat. The crowd was dehydrated, some had sunstroke.

The Prince was concerned for the health of the British press corps. 

Basotho traditional elders placed a crown on King Letsie III of Lesotho during a lengthy which took more than four hours

Basotho traditional elders placed a crown on King Letsie III of Lesotho during a lengthy which took more than four hours

Prince Charles chatting with King Mswati III of Swaziland

Prince Charles chatting with King Mswati III of Swaziland

‘One reporter expressed the hope that the next British Coronation might be a little speedier.

‘”Don’t worry,” he replied. “I’ll keep it short.”

‘A quarter of a century later, he would be true to his word.’



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