Where the Royal Family Is Rehearsing for King Charles' Coronation

The ballroom at Buckingham Palace has been set aside to play the part of Westminster Abbey as the royals and their staff prepare for the big May 6 ceremony

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort
King Charles and Queen Camilla. Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The royals are in prep mode ahead of King Charles' coronation on May 6 — and they have chosen a spot close to home as they practice for the big day.

Rehearsals are taking place at the ballroom at Buckingham Palace, PEOPLE has learned. The large space mimics the top end of Westminster Abbey just beneath the High Altar, so participants can get a sense of the layout of the key area that will be used for the historic ceremony.

It also means the royals, their staff and clergy members can rehearse in private. Apparently, nothing elaborate has been built, but they have tried to capture what it will be like in the "Coronation Theatre" in Westminster Abbey.

When Queen Elizabeth was crowned in 1953,, wooden steps were constructed on top of the Cosmati pavement in the sacrarium at the Abbey. Those steps led up to a raised platform where the throne was placed. Something similar will likely be in place in May for Charles' big moment with Queen Camilla by his side.

For more about the countdown to the coronation and the celebration weekend, check out this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort visit Brandenburg Gate
King Charles and Queen Camilla in Germany. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The ballroom at Buckingham Palace is usually the scene of state banquets and investitures of people receiving knighthoods and other honors.

The practical rehearsal space contrasts widely with how then-25-year-old Queen Elizabeth and her attendants prepared for her coronation day in 1953. There were around a dozen rehearsals for the last coronation, with Elizabeth's maids-of-honor joining in with other dignitaries and clergy at the Abbey. When the Queen joined them on one occasion, a curtain was draped behind her to replicate what it would feel like to trail the train, one of her maids, Lady Anne Glenconner, wrote in her bestselling book, Lady in Waiting.

Today's option means the Abbey can "keep their doors open to tourists and the revenue that comes from that," while also enabling those taking part to have a feel for what it is going to be like, a palace insider tells PEOPLE. Adds another palace source, "In 1953, the Abbey had to be closed for some time."

King Charles III and Britain's Camilla, Queen Consort attend the Commonwealth Day service ceremony, at Westminster Abbey
Charles and Camilla at Westminster Abbey. JORDAN PETTITT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Charles' coronation is expected to be attended by 2,000 guests, from world leaders (the president of Poland has been confirmed via Prince William during his trip to Poland last week) to religious leaders and those associated with causes close to King Charles' heart. It is a world away from the more than 8,000 people — many of whom "were seated into seating reaching 11 tiers high," says Dr. Bob Morris, from the constitutional unit at University College London. "That isn't the case this time."

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Lady Glenconner tells PEOPLE, "A lot of the [Lords] and people are going to have to ballot for the seats, so there'll be a lot of disappointed people."

"It's going to be more inclusive, with many more religions playing a part," she adds.

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