Most “American Idol” fans already knew that Sunday night’s live episode was going to be extra special, thanks to a one-night shakeup to the judging panel. But they had no idea just how historic it would be.
Music superstars Ed Sheeran and Alanis Morissette made headlines for filling in for longtime judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie, who were in London performing at the Coronation Concert for the newly crowned King Charles III and his wife, Queen Camilla, on May 7, 2023 — the same day “Idol” was scheduled to announce its Top 5 contestants in a two-hour live episode.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to viewers when Perry and Richie were beamed in via a live virtual feed at the start of the show to say hello, but fans were floored when the new King and Queen walked into the room to appear on “Idol,” too. Even host Ryan Seacrest said he only learned about their participation hours before going on-air.
Across its 21-year history, “American Idol” has welcomed major celebrities and dignitaries, including former U.S. presidents George W. Bush in 2007 and Barack Obama, who’s appeared multiple times. But this marks the first time anyone in the Royal Family has appeared on the show, let alone the head of the monarchy.
The surprise appearance followed a massive outdoor concert outside London’s Windsor Castle for over 20,000 spectators, according to the Daily Record. Perry and Richie’s performances fired up the crowd and even got members of the Royal Family on their feet, which also created a stir on social media.
King Charles III and Queen Camilla Appear on ‘American Idol’
Several minutes into the “Idol” episode, with Morissette, Sheeran and longtime judge Luke Bryan at their seats, host Ryan Seacrest welcomed Perry and Richie to the show via satellite and asked how the Coronation Concert went.
“What a party, what a party, it was unbelievable,” Richie said from Windsor Castle, where the concert was held, and Perry agreed, saying that it was “incredible.”
Richie then said they’d been trying to think of a way to bring “something different” to “Idol,” and then paused and looked off-camera. Perry turned around and exclaimed, “Oh! Oh! Goodness!” She then curtsied as King Charles and Queen Camilla walked into the shot and stood in between them.
“I just wanted to check how long you’ll be using this room for,” King Charles III joked, and Richie looked into the camera and quipped, “We have to give the room up right away!”
Richie then thanked them for coming and the King said, “Thank you so much for your brilliant performance, and Katy — wonderful.”
At one point, they were all talking over each other, with Perry asking if they were making too much noise while Richie and King Charles continued to talk about the concert. Then Queen Camilla turned to Perry to say, “I loved your frock,” which clearly delighted the pop singer.
Richie then said, “We understand there’s a party” and the King, with whom he has been a friend for years, replied, “Ahhh, you heard about that?”
“Well you’re throwing the party right next door,” Richie said, and King Charles responded, “Ahh, that’s right” and then offered to take him to the party until realizing he was busy with “Idol” duties.
“You’re busy with these other things,” he said, pointing at the camera.
“As soon as we finish, we’re coming to the party,” Richie responded, looking at Perry to make sure she agreed, and she did, exclaiming, “We’re coming to the party!”
When the live episode of “American Idol” hit the airwaves in the U.S., it was already 1 a.m. London time. But there was, indeed, a top-secret after-party held for special guests, which Irish performer Olly Murs accidentally revealed to the Irish Mirror.
“Idol” fans were wowed by the show’s “Royal Surprise” and were quick to comment on the appearance via social media.
When “Idol” posted the video to Twitter, one fan wrote, “I was gobsmacked! For a second, I thought they were royal impersonators! That was cool, King Charles asking when will they be done with the room was the best!!!”
Another wrote, “This is very sweet I think it’s great that they took there time before the after party to have a special appearance on their show since they did amazing show for them!”
When the video was posted on the “Idol” Instagram page, Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini, who appeared as a mentor for contestants earlier this season, was impressed. He wrote, “Only @americanidol could pull this off. Amazing! 🙌🔥❤️🙌”
The King and Queen’s appearance was even unexpected for Seacrest, who told Entertainment Tonight that he only learned about it as he was driving into the studio hours before.
“I have to tell you, I was driving in and my phone rings and it’s the executive producer and she says, ‘Well, we’ve got some news,'” Seacrest explained, adding that she told him the King and Queen were going to appear on the show but she wasn’t sure how.
Seacrest recalled her saying, “‘They’re just gonna figure it out when Lionel and Katy are in some room in Windsor Castle.”
Katy Perry & Lionel Richie Dazzled the Royal Family & British Fans
Perry and Richie — who both were selected for the event because they’ve both been heavily involved in King Charles’ children’s charity programs, per USA Today — weren’t the only performers at the Coronation Celebration.
Other entertainers included British boy band Take That, Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, and Welsh bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel, according to the BBC. Actor Tom Cruise also made a pre-recorded video tribute that played during the event.
Perry and Richie made headlines not only for dazzling the crowd but for getting the Royal Family on its feet. In a video shared by the Telegraph, many members of the family were dancing during Richie’s songs. Even King Charles was seen bopping to “All Night Long” while waving a British flag, as were two of his grandkids, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince George, 9.
Meanwhile, in a video shared on Twitter, Prince William told well-wishers earlier in the day that he was most looking forward to Perry’s performance, and it was clear during the concert that she was his young family’s favorite. When Perry appeared in a gold metallic ball gown, Charlotte was seen singing along to her hits “Roar” and “Firework,” which Perry dedicated to King Charles and the work they’ve done together for the British Asian Trust.
“Thank you for bringing out the firework in so many young people,” she said.
Both Richie and Perry will return to “American Idol” next Sunday, May 14, when the Top 5 perform for the series’ annual Disney Night.