Today is a grand day in the United States of America. Inauguration Day! No matter what our political affiliations, Inauguration Day is a day we celebrate. In a way it is a celebration of our system of electing government.
In honor of Inauguration Day, I thought it would be fun to do some contrast between this day and the Coronation of George IV, formerly the Prince Regent or informally, “Prinny.”
Our inauguration ceremony is not on the actual day of inauguration. The legal oath of office took place yesterday, November 20, but the ceremonial oath of office and parade are taking place today. George III died January 29, 1820, and upon his death, the Prince Regent became king, but he was not crowned king until July 19, 1821. George wanted a little time to plan…
I suspect the planners of the Inauguration want it to stack up nicely with other inaugurations, especially those of the opposing political party. George IV had a similar (if exaggerated) bent. He was determined that his coronation would outshine Napoleon’s coronation of 1804, which was a lavish affair memorialized in a painting by David. George IV’s coronation painting by A.C. Pugin showcases the grandeur of Westminster Abbey as well as the pageantry of the ceremony.
Both ceremonies take place in/around famous buildings. President Obama’s inauguration will take place on the Capitol steps. George IV’s coronation took place in Westminster Abbey.
George IV’s coronation cost the equivalent of 15 million dollars, a little more than half of this amount was compelled to be paid by France, which was like thumbing his nose, I suspect. George IV’s coronation was Britain’s most expensive ever, but, shockingly, it does not compare to the cost of our inauguration. Estimates put that cost at $53 million (paid for by donations). Of course, there are costs for the inauguration that simply would not have existed in 1821. There will be a security force including 6,000 military personnel, 45 dog handlers, 7,000 police, as well as other expenses.
The clothes that interest us at the inauguration are worn by the women. What will Michelle Obama wear? Jill Biden? Any of the other female dignitaries and guests? We’ll notice the men only if their suits are odd for some reason. But George IV was made of sterner stuff. He spent 24,000 pounds on a Coronation robe. It was made of crimson velvet with gold stars and ermine trim and a train that stretched 27 feet. George IV also commissioned a new crown adorned with 12,314 hired diamonds. The jewels were rented from Rundell & Bridge and were set so that light entered through the open back of the setting, like jewels are set today. The new king also acquired the Hope diamond. In addition to his own costume which included a brown wig and a black Spanish hat with ostrich feathers and a heron’s plume, George IV commissioned costumes for his participants in the Tudor style. One has to wonder what the various lords felt about such dress.
When our President takes the oath of office, standing next to him, looking as proud as a woman can look will be Michelle, his wife, the First Lady. All of our modern images of the inauguration ceremony include the wife. Caroline of Brunswick, the King’s wife, however, was banned from the ceremony altogether. The King had already tried and failed to get a divorce from Caroline; he was determined that she be banned from the coronation. He hired prizefighters dressed as pages to prevent her entrance into Westminster Abbey. Although she did try to gain entrance, crying, “I am the Queen of England,” she failed. She died 19 days later.
The world will no doubt be watching the inauguration with great interest. Thank goodness the First Lady will be in her rightful place at the centre of things, not banging on the doors demanding to be allowed in like poor Queen Caroline. She ought to have guessed what George would do and so saved herself the humiliation. Easy to be wise after the event though. Thanks for an interesting and informative post.
Did you brave the crowds and attend the inauguration? 🙂
I didn’t doubt Prinny spent a fortune on his coronation, but good heavens! And to be forced to wear Tudor dress in July? UGH! Poor Queen Caroline. Talk about a match made in hell !! One wonders how long it took George IV to drag that 27 foot train up the aisle at Westminster Abbey! I’ve worn many dresses with trains in my life and they are no fun to drag around!
I did not attend in person, Louisa, although I did watch the whole thing on TV. In my youth I did attend one inauguration (won’t say which one or it will date me) and my all abiding memory of the day was being colder than I’ve ever been in my life. All Day.
This was before the huge Jumbotrons so we couldn’t see anything. We did see the parade, though. That was exciting!