King Charles coronation: why monarch's eyes may look different in official portrait

An eyecare expert has urged people to get their eyes tested regularly as some people notice something a little unusual about Charles’ coronation photos

The eyes of people across the world were on King Charles this weekend as he was crowned in a historic ceremony. On Saturday 6 May, millions of people around the world watched as King Charles and his wife Queen Camilla were officially titled.

To mark the occasion, a special three-day bank holiday weekend was called to allow people to celebrate and, as those celebrations came to an end, the official coronation portraits of our new King and Queen and the royal family were released by the palace.

The King was pictured sitting on a Throne Chair in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace by photographer Hugo Burnand in his full regalia. He was wearing the Imperial State Crown, holding the Orb and Sceptre with Cross, and dressed in his regal purple tunic and Robe of Estate. Camilla was wearing Queen Mary’s Crown, with the train of her lengthy embroidered Robe of Estate spread in front of her. 

But it wasn’t the opulent outfits that captured some people’s attention when looking at the photos. Some have commented that one of Charles’ eyes looks different to the other. The King’s left eye appears to be smaller and duller than the other. NationalWorld has spoken to an optometrist to explain why this may be.

The official coronation portrait of King Charles III. Credit: Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023.The official coronation portrait of King Charles III. Credit: Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023.
The official coronation portrait of King Charles III. Credit: Hugo Burnand/Royal Household 2023.

Bhavin Shah, a multi-award-winning, global pioneer in eyecare and founder of Central Vision Opticians, from London, said that any potential differences in His Majesty’s eyes is not 100% clear on the photos, and that any difference which does exist is subtle. He added:  “There are several different reasons why one eye would be different to the other, but it’s impossible for me to give a definitive answer without having examined His Majesty.”

He said the most likely cause could be that one eyelid is lower than the other, which is a condition called ptosis also commonly known as drooping eyelid. This can happen to anyone, but is most common in people who are older as it can occur during the natural ageing process. The King is now 74 so this is perfectly possible. The condition may unfortunately cause some vision loss, but is harmless.

Shah also said that any difference in eyes may be anatomical and that it may simply be that King Charles was born like that, but it is only noticeable at certain times or from certain angles or in specific lights and so on.

It is also possible that a difference in the appearance of the eyes could be caused by eyelid surgery, although in the case of Charles there is no information to suggest that he has had any kind of procedure.

Another possible explanation, according to Shah, is that at the time the photos were taken one of the King’s eyes could be slightly swollen because of allergies, dryness, an infection or a blocked gland. He added: “There may also be some less common causes, such as having one eye that turns in or out, or there could be a serious health problem in one eye - but this is just speculation.”

If there is a difference between the King’s eyes he will have access to the medical care to give him any treatment needed, but Shah said anyone who notices an issue with their own eyes should book an appointment with their optician to check their own eye health as soon as possible. He added that people should ensure that their eyes are tested regularly, even if they do not see any noticeable changes in their eyes.