Coronations make great television. The BBC knew that in 1937 when its only outside broadcast unit was deployed to cover the royal procession of King George VI as it passed Hyde Park Corner.


Those who saw it on their rudimentary television sets must have thought they had witnessed a miracle, although according to Petroc Trelawny, one of our contributors to this special commemorative issue of Radio Times magazine, no more than 10,000 viewers saw the show.

But times – and technology – change. By 1953, more than 20 million witnessed the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II as a camera with a high-powered lens zoomed in on the smallest details including, at one point, the smile of a four-year-old Prince Charles.

70 years on, the most up-to-date technology will be in action again – remote cameras, airborne cameras, high-definition cameras – recording the coronation of King Charles III in Westminster Abbey for not just the BBC, but also ITV, Sky and television stations around the world.

As the woman in charge of the BBC’s operation, Claire Popplewell confirmed to Radio Times this week that Saturday’s coronation ceremony and the coronation concert on Sunday will be seen in more than 125 countries which, although astonishing, is just about par for the course, it seems. According to Popplewell, it’s estimated that four billion people around the globe watched the coverage of the state funeral of her late Majesty the Queen.

But as much as the pomp and ceremony of a royal occasion will attract the attention of people from across the globe, reaching the most remote corners of the world including, apparently, Antarctica, this coronation is a uniquely British affair. And it’s closer to home that its real impact will surely be felt.

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Because on Saturday, the nation will enjoy a collective experience unlike any other that most of us have known. In the age of streaming, when a huge variety of competing screen-based distractions have fractured our media into a blizzard of choice, we will come together to share a moment of joy and celebration with tens of millions of others.

That, in its own way, is something of a miracle. We hope this special issue will help guide you through the day so you can enjoy it to the full.

Radio Times coronation cover

Also in this week’s Radio Times:

  • Kirsty Young on doubting she would be asked to present the coronation, worrying people are bored of her, and her role making sense of the big occasion for viewers
  • Huw Edwards discusses feeling “excited and terrified” about the coronation, his thoughts on David Dimbleby, Prince Andrew, and worrying about talking over the Archbishop on the big day
  • The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle MBE, Dean of Westminster, shares the behind-the-scenes secrets of his “roller coaster ride” since becoming the latest incumbent in 2019
  • Kay Burley on the “brilliant PR plan” to rehabilitate Camilla, reporting on the ups and downs of “three in the marriage”, and Diana’s “unwise” interview with Martin Bashir
  • Simon Schama puts the coronation into an historical context, charting its over 1,000-year heritage
  • Deborah Roberts of ABC News provides the American view of “standoffish” Charles and his “trailblazer” mother, the ongoing American fascination with the monarchy and why President Biden won’t be attending

The King's coronation will take place on Saturday 6th May, with the Coronation Concert airing on Sunday 7th May. Visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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