Fact Check

Was the Grim Reaper at King Charles' Coronation?

Eagle-eyed internet sleuths spotted a mysterious cloaked figure crossing the abbey.

Published May 10, 2023

 (Screenshot via Twitter/realjoegreeeen)
Image Via Screenshot via Twitter/realjoegreeeen
An online video shows the Grim Reaper, seen as a figure in a dark cloak representing the personification of death, walking around Westminster Abbey before King Charles’ coronation on May 6, 2023.

As King Charles III's May 6, 2023, coronation was both celebrated for its pageantry and scrutinized for its inclusion of jewels taken from former colonies, and an ill-timed giant penis etched into a lawn near the coronation party in Bath, yet another mysterious figure gained the attention of eagle-eyed sleuths on the internet. A figure in a dark cloak, referred to on social media as the "Grim Reaper" was spotted crossing Westminster Abbey just before the coronation ceremony began.

The figure can be seen wearing a dark cloak, carrying a stick, and walking under the gold arches toward the end of the video below.

The Grim Reaper is often depicted in folklore as a skeletal figure, shrouded in a dark, hooded robe who carries a scythe to "reap" human souls, and is considered to be a harbinger of death. However, the Reaper was not present at the coronation.

Newsweek reached out to Westminster Abbey to determine who the figure was and was told that the individual was a verger, "a member of the abbey community who assists with religious services but who is not a member of the clergy."

According to the report, in the weeks leading to the coronation, a team of workers was needed to prepare the venue and additional staff and helpers were engaged to ensure that the event ran smoothly. 

According to Merriam-Webster, a verger is "a church official who keeps order during services or serves as an usher or a sacristan." 

Since the personification of death was not present at the coronation, we rate this claim as "False." 


Crawford-Smith, James. "Coronation Viewers Spot 'Grim Reaper' at Westminster Abbey—Video." Newsweek, 6 May 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/ccoronation-viewers-spot-grim-reaper-westminster-abbey-viral-tiktok-video-1798815. Accessed 10 May 2023.

"Definition of VERGER." Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verger. Accessed 10 May 2023.

Ibrahim, Nur. "Was a Giant Penis 'Drawn' Into Lawn Where a King Charles Coronation Party Was Planned?" Snopes, 5 May 2023, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/giant-penis-coronation-party/. Accessed 10 May 2023.

Kasprak, Alex. "Were the Diamonds in Queen Camilla's Coronation Necklace 'Stolen'?" Snopes, 9 May 2023, https://www.snopes.com/news/2023/05/08/queen-camillas-coronation-necklace/. Accessed 10 May 2023.

Where Does the Concept of a "Grim Reaper" Come From? | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/story/where-does-the-concept-of-a-grim-reaper-come-from. Accessed 10 May 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.