There will be roughly 2,000 guests at King Charles’s slimmed-down Coronation on May 6—only about a quarter of the guests in attendance at his mother Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1953, but still a lot of people. That said, there are three people who notably will not be at the ceremony at Westminster Abbey: Two who were invited but declined, and one who was not invited at all.
U.S. President Joe Biden—who, along with his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, attended Her late Majesty’s funeral last September—was invited to the Coronation, but will reportedly not be in attendance, instead opting to send a delegation in his place consisting of the First Lady. This is not a snub, as some have made it out to be—for historical reference, at the last Coronation in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower was president and he too did not attend the Coronation.
He sent a delegation of four high-ranking officials in his place, so it seems almost more personal that Biden is sending his wife in his stead. The Telegraph reported that Biden was missing the event because of scheduling conflicts.
“You have to bear in mind that, when an American president goes anywhere, with him comes an entire circus,” royal expert Victoria Arbiter tells Marie Claire exclusively. “There are security personnel and a lot of people that travel with the president. We expect to see the U.S. delegation being led by Dr. Jill Biden, and that speaks to the respect the Bidens do have for the royal family. They could have sent a U.S. ambassador but sending the First Lady says a lot about how the Bidens view the royal family.”
This decision is in line with previous U.S. policy, Christopher Andersen, author of The King: The Life of Charles III(opens in new tab), tells Marie Claire exclusively. “No American president has ever attended a Coronation,” he says. “Not that Joe Biden seems wedded to precedent—last year he became the first U.S. president ever to attend a British state funeral.”
Also notably, the King’s daughter-in-law Meghan Markle has opted not to attend, choosing instead to stay behind in California with her and her husband Prince Harry’s two children, Princess Lilibet and Prince Archie, whose fourth birthday happens to fall on the day of the Coronation.
“I’m personally not surprised the Duchess of Sussex declined,” Arbiter says. “Archie’s birthday would put any parent in a difficult position, but the Platinum Jubilee was over Lili’s birthday weekend, and they did manage to do both. It’s a little bit of a convenient excuse to use. It’s a shame she doesn’t feel safe and secure enough or confident enough to attend the Coronation.”
And, while Arbiter says she is sad but not surprised that Meghan isn’t going, she feels Harry has made the right decision in choosing to attend: “Harry is taking the mature approach in this instance,” she says. “Looking ahead to the future, in five, 10, or 15 years, he’d regret not going to the Coronation.”
Not invited to the Coronation was the King’s former sister-in-law Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of his brother Prince Andrew. (Andrew was invited and is expected to attend, as are Andrew and Ferguson’s daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.) Though the two have been divorced since 1996, they still live together (albeit in the large Royal Lodge), and Ferguson spends holidays like Christmas and Easter with the royal family.
Instead of attending the ceremony at the Abbey, Ferguson told ITV she will spend May 6 “having a little tearoom and Coronation chicken sandwich and putting out the bunting, that’s what I’m going to be doing,” she said. “Because that would make me very happy. I also love to watch it on the telly because you hear a lot on the telly. The commentators are always so good. And then all the family come back.”
Ferguson seemingly understood her lack of invitation, telling ITV “Remember, I am divorced from him [Andrew],” she said. “I don’t expect—you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be divorced and then say, ‘I want this.’ You’re in or you’re out.” Of the King and Queen, she said in March “I’m very supportive of the King and the Queen Consort, and I really am glad to do whatever it takes to support them on their road ahead.”
For her part, Rachel Bowie, cohost of Royally Obsessed, a Gallery Media Group podcast, tells Marie Claire that Ferguson “is such a big part of the family, I assumed she would have been a part of the Coronation,” she says. “I thought they would make space for Fergie.”
Because of the guest list’s slimmed-down nature, Bowie’s cohost Roberta Fiorito says that, instead of folks turning down invitations to the Coronation, like Ferguson, the opposite is happening: “A lot of people weren’t invited who wished they were,” she says. “The aristocracy is up in arms a little about it.” Instead of maybe a Coronation’s more traditional guest list, Fiorito says, the King made a point to include representatives of many of the charities and causes he’s worked with throughout the years.
And, more notable than who isn’t coming is who will be there, Arbiter says. There will be many fellow European royals there whose families may have never attended a Coronation before, a nod to the fact that the King is close friends with many of them and is related to some as well.
The King has also invited individuals who may have been outspoken in the past about their dislike or disdain for the monarchy but will be in attendance and pledge their allegiance to the King while there. “It’s more remarkable who is going,” Arbiter says. Inviting those who may have spoken out against the monarchy in the past is “an incredibly mature and responsible approach by the King,” she says. “It also shows his desire to follow in his mother’s footsteps and extend the hand of friendship. It’s all about unity.”