How many people watched coronations of George VI and Queen Elizabeth II - did as many watch Charles III’s?
The coronation of King Charles III is expected to be one of the biggest television events of the year - but how many watched earlier ceremonies
and live on Freeview channel 276
The King’s coronation service at Westminster Abbey was watched by more than 18 million viewers in the UK, provisional figures have shown.
The lavish ceremony on Saturday which saw Charles and Camilla crowned was broadcast simultaneously on a range of channels between about 11am and 1pm, including BBC One and Two, ITV and Sky News. An average of 18.8 million people watched across 11 channels and services, with audience figures peaking at 20.4 million when the King was crowned just after midday, according to overnight ratings released by the research organisation Barb.
The figure is not quite as high as the ratings for the funeral service of the late Queen last September which was seen by 26.5 million people across more than 50 TV channels.
Charles became only the third British monarch to have their coronation broadcast on television - the first was his grandfather in 1937, followed by his mother in 1953, both of which were major TV events.
In the 70 years since Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, TV habits have changed significantly. With support for the monarchy is at an historic low, as reported by The Guardian, many Brits may choose to avoid watching the coronation, however millions still are set to watch it on TV, in person, and on the 30 big screens in cities across UK airing the event.
But how many people watched the last two UK coronations, and how many are expected to watch Charles III be crowned on Saturday? This is everything you need to know:
How many people watched the coronation of King George VI?
George VI’s coronation was the first to be televised, and 9,000 TVs were sold around London in the lead-up to the event, though there were fewer than 20,000 sets across the whole of the UK at the time.
An estimated 10,000 people tuned in to see George VI and his wife Elizabeth crowned live in black and white, in what was the first major outside broadcast in the UK - and also the first coronation to be broadcast on the radio.
As several million people owned a radio at the time, many more listened in than watched. However, the coronation was also edited for newsreel clips shown in cinemas across the British Empire - with thousands more watching in the days and weeks after the event.
How many people watched Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation?
In the 16 years since her father’s coronation, technology had moved on at a rapid pace. Once again coronation fever swept the nation and a more than half a million TV sets were sold in the year in the run up to the ceremony, with total TV set ownership topping two million.
Around 27 million people in the UK are believed to have watched Queen Elizbeth II’s coronation in June 1953 with people crowding into their friends and neighbours’ homes to make use of their sets - around 17 people watched each TV. A further 11 million listened on their radios. At the time the population of the UK was around 51 million.
This coronation was also filmed in colour, although most of those watching at the time wouldn't have seen the benefit, being that they would have been watching on a black and white set.
Additionally, because of live links, this coronation was the first UK event to be broadcast live in Europe - the worldwide live TV audience for the ceremony was 277 million, 27,000 times more than for George VI’s.
How many people watched King Charles III’s coronation?
Provisional figures show that the King’s coronation service at Westminster Abbey was watched by more than 18 million viewers in the UK. An average of 18.8 million people watched across 11 channels and services, with audience figures peaking at 20.4 million when the King was crowned just after midday, according to overnight ratings released by the research organisation Barb.
If the current trend continues and 27,000 times more people watch Charles be crowned than watched his mother, then the figures would pass 7 trillion, which is clearly impossible. In fact, it’s likely that the vast majority of people worldwide will not watch the event.
According to Republic, a British anti-monarchy website, between 7.7 billion and 7.8 billion people will not watch the ceremony.
With the world population a little over 8 billion, this means up to around 350 million are expected to watch the event. This is far less than the viewership of major sporting events such as the World Cup Final in 2022 (1.5 billion viewers according to FIFA), and far less than the reported, but much disputed, claim of more than 4 billion who watched the Queen’s funeral last September.
The coronation will be broadcast live on BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, and Sky on Saturday 6 May. However, with the growth of streaming, an alternative TV schedule on Channels 4 and 5, and the fact that pubs will be open throughout the day, there are plenty of alternatives for those who choose not to tune in.