May 4, 2023
Seventy years after the last crowning of a monarch in the United Kingdom, another coronation is on the horizon: that of King Charles III, which takes place on Saturday, May 6. The ceremony will only be about a third the length of that of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, but there’s still plenty of pomp to go around. Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed a new anthem for the ceremony; Charles’ scepter, orb, and crown are bedecked in jewels and gold; pubs and bars are allowed to stay open two extra hours; and the following Monday is a national holiday in the U.K.
You can watch live coverage of the coronation on WTTW from 1:30 am through 9:00 am. A special showcasing spotlights from the day, The Coronation: A Day to Remember, will air at 9:00 pm on May 6 and be available to stream. May 7 will have a broadcast of The Coronation Concert featuring Lionel Richie and Katy Perry at 2:00 pm on WTTW (and be available to stream), and May 8 will explore Charles' life at 8:00 pm in Charles R.: The Making of a Monarch, which is also available to stream.
If you’re fascinated by the royal family, whether in a positive or negative way, WTTW and PBS have plenty of further ways to indulge your curiosity as you look forward (or disdain) the coming coronation. Here are some shows both fictional and documentary to sate your royal craving.
Queen Elizabeth II
Obviously, the only reason there is a coronation is because Queen Elizabeth II died last year at the age of 96, whose nearly 71 years of reign make her the longest-reigning British monarch (and explain why Charles will be 74 when he officially takes the throne in the coronation). PBS NewsHour devoted an hour-long special to her life and legacy upon her death that is available to stream for free, while WTTW revisited her lone trip to Chicago as a young queen in 1959.
WTTW Passport members can also revisit the Queen’s life in an episode of In Their Own Words. The Queen at War examines her experience as a young girl during World War II and how it shaped her, while Royal Wives at War dramatizes the conflict both before and during the war between her mother and Wallis Simpson, the American socialite for whom Edward VIII abdicated from the throne in order to marry, thus leading Elizabeth II’s father to become king.
Cooking and Gardening
What do two DIY hobbies have to do with royalty? First, the food. Grandiose royal occasions and anniversaries offer a chance for official royal dishes: at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, it was the still-popular coronation chicken, and King Charles III has a slightly controversial Prue Leith-approved coronation quiche that has been dubbed Quiche Le Reign. Upon the occasion of the Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee anniversary shortly before her death last year, the department store Fortnum & Mason hosted a competition for a new dessert. Mary Berry was among the judges; WTTW Passport members can watch the competition in The Jubilee Pudding: 70 Years in the Baking.
And gardening? The Queen’s Garden is a documentary that explores the manicured grounds of the Buckingham Palace Garden and its history—with permission from the Queen, of course.
The historian Lucy Worsley is joint chief curator of the U.K.’s Historic Royal Palaces, so it’s no surprise that many of her immersive historical shows and specials have investigated kings and queens. There’s a look into the secrets of those palaces (Lucy Worsley’s Royal Palace Secrets) as well as some of the mysteries they and other important parts of British history hold (Lucy Worsley Investigates). Lucy Worsley’s Royal Myths and Secrets looks at infamous chapters of royal history in both Britain and the rest of Europe. Tales from the Royal Bedchamber looks at the role and image of the royal bedchamber throughout British history, and Lucy Worsley’s Royal Photo Album examines the royal portrait through the years. They’re all available to stream by WTTW Passport members.
The First Queen Elizabeth
The three-episode series Queen Elizabeth’s Secret Agents looks at the world’s first secret service, which helped keep Queen Elizabeth I in power over more than 40 tumultuous years, another impressively long reign. It’s available to stream by WTTW Passport members.
We’ve mentioned two long-reigned, influential British queens; now it’s time to cover a third, Queen Victoria. The three seasons of Victoria dramatized the early years of that monarch’s reign. They’re available to stream by WTTW Passport members, while our recaps can catch you up.
Atlantic Crossing dealt with a contemporary royal of Queen Elizabeth II, Crown Princess Märtha and her husband Olav, who would eventually become king of Norway. The fictionalized drama detailed Märtha’s time in America during World War II, possibly having a relationship with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and advocating for support of Norway against Nazi Germany. WTTW Passport members can stream it, and we also have recaps as well as a look at the real historical figures of the drama.
While the British king never actually appeared in Sanditon, as different monarchs did in both Upstairs, Downstairs and the first Downton Abbey movie, a royal visit to the seaside resort town nearly happened in episode two of season three—and caused plenty of drama when it was canceled at the last minute. WTTW Passport members can still stream that show, which just wrapped everything up.