close up shot of king s crown on brown box

From a crown mounted with the embroidered head of a raven, to drinking mildly narcotic beverages, to water collected from rivers at a specific time, there are a lot of unique and sometimes strange coronation ceremonies around the world. Let’s learn about a few today!

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  • Symbol (n) – a sign, shape, or object that is used to represent something else.
    • A heart shape is the symbol of love.
  • Sacred (adj) – considered to be holy and deserving respect, especially because of a connection with a god.
    • This area is sacred to Christians.
  • Enthronement (n) – the act of putting a king, queen, etc. through the ceremony of sitting on a throne (= chair used in ceremonies) in order to mark the official beginning of their period in power.
    • He attended the enthronement of the Pope.
  • Purification (n) – in some religions, the act of removing from a person, usually by a ceremony, the bad effects that they are suffering.
    • The monks undergo purification ceremonies regularly.
  • To revere (v) – to very much respect and admire someone or something.
    • Nelson Mandela is revered for his brave fight against apartheid.
  • Deity (n) – a god or goddess.
    • Ares and Aphrodite were the ancient Greek deities of war and love.
  • Dignitary (n) – a person who has an important position in a society.
    • Several foreign dignitaries attended the ceremony.
  • To bless (v) – to call or make someone or something holy.
    • The priest blessed their marriage.

Coronations around the world

A few days ago, the Coronation of King Charles III was held in the UK. The event marked the accession of the new king to the throne of the United Kingdom and followed a number of ancient different traditions and ceremonies.

Last week, I released an episode discussing the specific events of the coronation and some interesting or useful vocabulary to help you understand the event. However, as I was researching the episode, I realised something. Some of the events I was discussing probably sounded relatively familiar to many of you listening… because the UK is not the only country with coronations.

There are currently 43 countries around the world with a monarch as heads of state – including Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Eswatini, and the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, there are hundreds of non-sovereign monarchies around the world – Kings, Queens, Sultans, Emirs, and more of regions, areas, islands, and districts within countries.

Today, I want to take a look at four different monarchies in vastly different countries, each with elaborate and unique coronation ceremonies. By looking at Japan, Tonga, Bhutan, and Thailand, I want to show the differences and similarities between global monarchies, and also introduce a lot of new vocabulary to all of you listening!

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Japan has one of the oldest monarchies in the world, with a history that dates back more than 1,500 years. For centuries, the emperor was seen as a descendent of the gods, and while the royal family’s power was largely taken away after WW2, they are still a symbol of the Japanese state.

The Japanese monarchy is known as the Chrysanthemum Throne, a name derived from the imperial crest which features the chrysanthemum flower. It is the oldest hereditary monarchy on the planet – the same family has been on the throne for millennia.

The coronation, or enthronement ceremony, in Japan is written into the Japanese constitution. First, the emperor is presented with three sacred treasures: a replica of the grasscutter sword, a necklace made of stone beads, and the mirror of Yata no Kagami.

Second, the emperor will meet the leaders of different parts of the Japanese government, then the main event will be held in which the emperor will “proclaim and congratulate the enthronement.” In other words, there is a religious ceremony in which the emperor sits in the throne. The fourth step in the Japanese coronation is a celebration parade followed by a banquet.

Moreover, about a year after the emperor ascends to the throne, the “Daijosai”, a highly symbolic and ritualistic event, takes place . It is held in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and lasts for three days, with the main ritual taking place on the second day. The most recent ceremony was held in 2019 for Emperor Naruhito

The ceremony is intended to signify the new emperor’s gratitude to the gods for the harvest and to ask for their blessings for the nation. There are various rituals, including the consumption of sacred rice, which is offered to the gods in gratitude for the harvest.

The Daijosai also involves a purification ritual performed by priests from the Shinto religion. The emperor also offers new clothes and other offerings to the gods during the ceremony.

Another significant part of the Daijosai a ritual in which water is taken from a special well in the Imperial Palace and used to make sake, a traditional Japanese rice wine. The emperor then drinks the sake as an offering to the gods.

The Daijosai reflects the importance of the emperor as a symbol of unity and the relationship between the emperor and the gods. The ceremony is also an important part of Japanese culture and history and is a fascinating example of the role of religion and tradition in coronation ceremonies around the world.


Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom located in the South Pacific and is one of the few remaining monarchies in the region. The Tongan monarchy has a history that dates back more than 1,000 years.

The Tongan coronation ceremony, the “Enthronement of the King,” is a colourful and unique event that is steeped in tradition.

It begins with the presentation of gifts to the new king, including traditional items such as woven mats, bark cloth, and kava. Kava is a mildly narcotic drink popular in the Pacific Islands and considered an important cultural tradition. The new king then walks to the royal palace, accompanied by traditional Tongan music and dances.

Once at the palace, the king is presented with a sceptre, ring, and anointed with holy oil. In the most recent coronation ceremony, of King Tupou VI, the coronation service was conducted not by a Tongan but by an Australian citizen Reverend D’Arcy Wood.

While this may seem strange, there was good reason for the decision. Native Tongans are not supposed to touch the head of the King. The Reverend Wood, although born in Tonga, was Australian and therefore allowed to place the crown on King’s head as well as anoint him with holy oil!

The Enthronement of the King also involves a number of other traditional rituals and practices, including the burning of torches and the presentation of food offerings. The ceremony is typically followed by a large feast which features traditional Tongan foods such as roasted pig and taro.


Bhutan is a small Himalayan kingdom located between India and China, and is known for its stunning natural beauty and unique culture. The Bhutanese monarch is known as the “Dragon King” and is highly revered by the people of Bhutan.

The Bhutanese coronation ceremony is rooted in Buddhist religious rites and ancient traditions. The most recent coronation took place in 2008, with 20,000 Bhutanese citizens lining the streets near the coronation ceremony.

In Bhutan, the precise date and time of the coronation ceremony is decided by astrologers in accordance with traditions and religious beliefs. Last time, the King was crowned at precisely 8:31am!

Early in the morning, large tapestries of the Buddha and other gurus are unveiled, before the king arrives in a procession of monks and soldiers. The long ceremony features dances and ancient costumes.

Bhutan’s crown is unique – it is known as the “Raven Crown” and features an embroidered raven head and white skulls. This is a symbol Bhutan’s protector – a raven headed deity!

One of the most notable traditions in Bhutan is that people pay homage to the king by gifting him with white scarfs. In return for the scarfs, the new king of Bhutan will give out special coronation coins.

Senior Buddhist leaders also present the King with a number of important objects that symbolise the different qualities of a successful leader. For example, there is the fish of wisdom and umbrella of supremacy.

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Thailand is also a monarchy with an interesting coronation ceremony. The Thai monarchy is known as the “Chakri dynasty,” and has a long history that dates back more than 200 years.

The Thai coronation is elaborate and highly ceremonial, held in the capital city of Bangkok, and is attended by dignitaries from around the world. It includes elements from both Buddhist and Brahmanic religions.

The Royal Coronation Ceremony involves a series of complex rituals and practices, including the anointing of the king with sacred water and the presentation of a variety of royal regalia, including the sword of victory, royal staff, and great crown of victory.

In last week’s episode I discussed how the oil used to anoint the King in the UK will be made from a variety of sources. In Thailand water is used – the water is collected from hundreds of different locations around the country precisely between 11:52 and 12:38, before being blessed in a ceremony.

Most famously, the ceremony also involves the placement of the royal nine-tiered umbrella over the king’s head, which symbolizes the monarch’s supreme authority. The royal nine-tiered umbrella comes from ancient Hindu traditions – each tier demonstrates the amount of honour and power possessed by the king.

Before the ceremony begins, the Thai King will take a ceremonial bath to purify himself. Then, after putting on the robes of a monk, a gong is struck by a member of his court. It is also tradition in Thailand that King places the crown on his own head – unlike in the UK, Bhutan, or Tonga.

The Royal Coronation Ceremony is a major event in Thai culture and society. The ceremony is held only when a new king ascends to the throne, usually as soon as possible, and is typically followed by a series of celebrations and public events.


Final Thought

Coronation ceremonies have played an important role in the history and culture of monarchies around the world. Although each ceremony has its unique customs and traditions, there are some similarities and differences that can be observed across different cultures.

One common thread among many coronation ceremonies is the use of symbols and regalia to represent the power and authority of the monarch. From crowns and sceptres to thrones and swords, these items carry deep symbolic significance and spiritual or religious meaning.

Another common feature of many coronation ceremonies is the inclusion of religious elements, such as prayers, blessings, and offerings to the gods. These elements highlight the close relationship between religion and monarchy in many cultures.

At the same time, there are also notable differences between coronation ceremonies in different cultures. For example, the Japanese coronation ceremony emphasizes harmony and balance, with a focus on the emperor’s role as a unifier of the country. In contrast, the Thai coronation ceremony is marked by elaborate displays, with an emphasis on the king’s connection to the divine and the country’s history and culture.

Compared to the ceremonies discussed in this podcast, the British coronation ceremony also features a rich array of traditions and customs, such as the anointing of the monarch with holy oil and the presentation of various regalia. However, the British ceremony also differs in some key ways, such as the inclusion of political elements, such as the oath of allegiance to the government.

Overall, while each coronation ceremony is unique, they all serve as powerful symbols of tradition, continuity, and national identity. Through these ceremonies, monarchies around the world have been able to maintain their cultural heritage and connect with their people, even as the world around them has changed.

What do you think? Does your country have a similar ceremony?

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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