Inside Lionel Richie and King Charles' Friendship

The legendary singer is set to perform at Charles' coronation concert on Sunday.

Lionel Richie has what some might consider the most unlikeliest of friendships with King Charles III, but one quick glance at their history and it all makes sense.

The "All Night Long" singer is one of the many artists slated to perform on Sunday following Charles' coronation ceremony in London. When his name was among those announced, many wondered about their connection. But it turns out they have quite a meaningful history. Richie met Charles when he was then known as the Prince of Wales. And while it wasn't until 2019 when Richie was named a founding global ambassador for the Prince's Trust, he had been attending the charity's events long before that.

In fact, it was at a Prince's Trust event in 1987 when Richie first met Princess Diana. At that event, Richie was photographed gifting the Princess of Wales two leather jackets for Prince William and Prince Harry. Not only that, but another photograph of them together caused a bit of an uproar when she was photographed with Richie holding a drink in her hand, which is a no-no for royal protocol.


In any event, Richie's history with the now-king goes way back to the 1980s, and he's been working with the Prince's Trust ever since, a charity that "has supported more than 950,000 young people across the U.K. into education, employment or training." Idris Elba is among those the charity has helped. He said as much in an Instagram post celebrating a past charity event, saying he was 18 years old when he was awarded a grant to help him start his career. He'd go on to attend the National Youth Music Theatre.

"I've known him for a while," Lionel recently told Parade. "I’ve been Global Chairman of the Board of his Prince’s Trust. What we’ve done over the last 30-some odd years, we’ve helped a million kids."

In describing his role as ambassador, you can sense a gleefulness in Richie's voice and a big sense of pride at being a part of a charity associated with Charles.

"I’m the face basically," he told the outlet. "My job is to introduce King Charles to the rest of the world. He can’t do that on a daily basis, so I’ll gladly take that as my charity, as well. It’s been my charity for a while. To get that invitation, 'Would you like to witness a little bit of history?' is not too bad for a little Alabama boy coming up through the ranks. I’m very proud to be [at the coronation]."


When Richie was named global ambassador to the Prince's Trust in 2019 in Barbados, the two shared a big laugh when, according to Yahoo News, Charles couldn't resist quoting Richie's hit track, "Hello." The outlet reported that after Charles thanked him for accepting the role, the future king told Richie, "It must have been you I was looking for."

Apparently Richie was taken aback (in a good way!), because he responded by saying, "Oh, did you say that?! He did say that!"

Despite their long history, Richie recently admitted that being asked to perform at the coronation was a "surprise."

"I mean, you don’t get in the business and say, 'You know what? I’ll be at the king’s coronation.' You know, that just never comes up," the singer told People last month.

Speaking to ET at the 9th Annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, Richie recalled the feeling of getting such an invitation to perform at the king's coronation.

"It's an honor," Richie told ET. "I mean, first of all, when you've been in the business a long time, and, of course, when you get an invitation like this, the answer is absolutely. We've been friends a long time, I've known him a long time, but to be asked is the whole thing."

And get this -- they have such a close friendship that the new monarch requested from Richie a specific track for the ceremony.

"And the answer is yes, I will do it," Lionel told E! News. "We will not reveal because it's completely enveloped in secrecy. So, all I can tell you is I'm very happy to be there."

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Richie and Charles got a chance to get chummy on Wednesday for the king's first official garden party at Buckingham Palace. Richie, who attended the shindig with his girlfriend, Lisa Parigi, were spotted hanging out with the king and having a grand ol' time.

Rebecca Anne Timmler, who got invited to the garden party by the New Zealand Embassy, tells ET that she and her husband were standing very close to Richie at the event and hadn't realized it until Charles beelined it to Richie.

"His Majesty walked up to Lionel, and my husband said, 'Wait, that's Lionel Richie!'" Timmler recalled. "We then watched King Charles walk past us to chat with Lionel and it was all so surreal. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day."

Timmler said King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort "seemed very relaxed and were very friendly" and "they took their time talking to people and seemed genuinely interested and happy to be there. Lionel was friendly too and seemed to have a great chat with King Charles."

"King Charles and Lionel seemed like old friends," Timmler added. "It was really special to watch."

Apart from Richie and Katy Perry, additional performers set to sing at the star-studded coronation concert include Andrea Bocelli, British pop group Take That, Sir Bryn Terfel, Alexis Ffrench and Freya Ridings.

Although the actual anointment during the coronation ceremony is not broadcast publicly, plenty of special programming and live footage from the ceremony will be available to watch live on May 6, starting at 5 a.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+. Audiences will also be able to view coverage on CBS News, including the concert featuring Richie and Perry on Sunday, May 7. Additionally, others can watch the coronation online on these streaming platforms.