Coronations have always been symbolic. They take place in an Abbey because there’s an anointing, they use ancient regalia and language to offer a sense of continuity, and they are a performance because they aim to project something that isn’t religious, isn’t legal, isn’t political, but is interesting, curious, even quaint.

Gathered in the abbey on Saturday will be church and state, civic and ceremonial, domestic and international, all of which have a connection to the continuation of ‘the Crown’ and the role it plays in symbolism, history and tradition.

The King became Head of State in September last year because the Crown passes immediately from one Sovereign to the next. The Accession Council gave the formal proclamation, and the leading ministers of the Government swore their new oath. So, the King has had authority since the moment the crown passed, but his Coronation will see him swear his own oath – an acceptance to uphold the constitutional role of the Crown. This is the only legal part of the ceremony.

The most ancient continuing part of the Coronation, the recognition, will see the King then turn to each corner of the Abbey and be ‘recognised’ by his ministers, his Governors-General, his officers, and his people.

The Government will want the Coronation to project an image around the world of a global Britain hosting heads of state in the heart of London. There’s clear soft power value here, but also an economic one – major royal events drive substantive revenues and, as a return on investment (Brand Finance estimates that the return is in the region of £60bn), the Coronation matters to the United Kingdom in the way Bastille Day matters to France and the Super Bowl to the United States.

The timing is also not an accident. Coronations don’t usually happen as quickly as this – the late Queen waited 16 months for hers. But the Coronation of King Charles III comes at a time when economic tumult and cultural unease dominate daily discourse. A spectacle unlike anything anybody under 75 will have witnessed will be a distraction and a shared experience – something increasingly rare in a fragmented and increasingly divided society. It also helps the Government, as it takes place a day and a half after local government elections.

And let’s not forget the geo-political value. Gathered in London will be prime ministers, presidents, and ministers from Commonwealth nations and beyond. Many of them represent places with which the British Government wants to strike trade deals, build new alliances, and show that Britain has a convening power that many felt might have disappeared with the demise of Elizabeth II.

The success of the Coronation can’t be easily measured; if there’s a big TV audience in the US, if there’s a summer tourism boom, if there’s still talk of it in years to come, then we might all say it was worth it.

But there is a nervousness in Buckingham Palace; courtiers know that there has been a big shift in social and cultural attitudes, that the King doesn’t (yet?) enjoy the same popularity as the late Queen, and that the Coronation is likely to influence attitudes towards the Royal Family for years to come.

Only time will tell whether the extraordinary amount of work put into planning tomorrow’s Coronation will pay dividends for the UK’s influence on the work stage, and for the Royal Family’s influence in the UK.