Today marks the anniversary of the coronation of George III! Unfortunately, once I started trying to research the occasion in more depth, I found out it was really very dull (as so much was in the reign of George III and Queen Charlotte…) There was lots of pomp and ritual, and a big banquet, and yards and yards of brocade, but it seems the only thing out of the ordinary that happened was a traffic jam in the midst of the procession through London. William Hickey, who watched the parade as a schoolboy and left a record of it, wrote “Drivers and horses ran into each other whereby glasses and panels were demolished without number, the noise of which, accompanied by the screeches of terrified ladies, were at times truly terrific.” But then the King and Queen arrived at Westminster Abbey (in sedan chairs, not golden coaches) and were duly crowned.
George IV had a much more eventful affair for his coronation, on July 29, 1821. For one thing, it was enormously lavish–the whole thing cost 243,000 pounds (with 24,000 on his attire alone). His father’s coronation cost 10,000. And the estranged Queen Caroline, denied entrance to the Abbey, ran around pounding on all the doors only to find them all barred and guarded.
Mary Queen of Scots had a memorable coronation as well–memorable to all who were there except her, that is, because she was 9 months old at the time. It was a hasty ceremony at Stirling Castle, in the midst of a civil war, but all the regalia and ceremony was trotted out for the occasion. The baby wore her jewel-encrusted satin gown and massive velvet and ermine train to be carried down the church aisle; the crown was held above her head and the ceremonial sword strapped around her waist. The orb was put in her hand, and she grabbed onto the shiny jewels. Then she pitched a screaming fit, and her nurse put her in her cradle while the court held a ball.
Her arch-enemy Elizabeth I had a much grander coronation on January 15, 1559 (at age 25, so she could carry the scepter herself), one full of joy and promise after the dark years of Mary Tudor’s reign. Her procession was marked with no less than 4 pageants as she made her way through London in a golden litter, her red hair loose and clad in gold brocade and ermine. It was the beginning of the masterful combination of pageantry and the common touch she displayed in her reign.
Charles II also had a big, wild, joyous coronation, which Londoners thought was the start of the fun times again after the reign of the Puritans. It was April 23, 1661, and it was the last time the traditional procession from the Tower to Westminster Abbey was held, amid cheering crowds and lavish pageants (including one of Rebellion Crushed By Monarchy Restored–though the king probably appreciated the half-naked nymphs more). Pepys wrote “The City had a light like a glory round about it with bonfires.”
It was for Charles’s coronation that all the regalia (melted down and sold by Cromwell) had to be re-made, and it’s these objects that are used to this day. I had a wonderful time getting to see these astonishing objects at the Tower last year, and I bought a colorful booklet in the giftshop. This is what it has to say about the coronation objects:
The Imperial Crown of India actually dates even later than the Charles II coronation. It was made for the visit of George V to Delhi as Emperor of India, since the Crown Jewels are forbidden to be taken out of England. It’s decorated with more than 6000 diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.
The Queens Consort traditionally wore the Crown of Mary of Modena (James II’s queen), but by the 20th century that crown was in a fragile condition (and is now in the Museum of London). All of the 20th century Queens (Alexandra, Mary, and Elizabeth) had their own crowns, including this one made for the Queen Mother. It contains the famous Koh I Noor Diamond, said to be lucky for women and unlucky for men. She wore it at her own coronation, as well as her daughter’s, and it was placed atop her coffin at her funeral.
The Crown of St. Edward was made in 1661, and is said to be composed of the melted gold from King Alfred’s Crown. It is used only for the actual crowning, though petite Queen Victoria went with the much lighter Imperial State Crown (and later wore a little diamond crown for the rest of the festivities)
The Imperial State Crown contains most of the surviving historic jewels, including Edward the Confessor’s sapphire, the Black Prince’s ruby, and pearls from Elizabeth I’s earrings. It also holds the diamond the Second Star of Africa. It’s worn at the end of the ceremony when the monarch leaves the Abbey, and then every year for the opening of Parliament.
The Ampulla and spoon (used for the annointing oil) are the only objects that are pre-Commonwealth.
The Orb is a hollow golden sphere, with a cross representing the title of Defender of the Faith. This and the smaller orb made for Mary II were placed atop Victoria’s coffin for her funeral.
The Scepter contains the Great Star of Africa, a diamond of over 530 carats which is the second largest cut diamond in the world (and possibly the sparkliest thing I’ve ever seen!)
Whose coronation would you like to have attended? What would you have worn? (Speaking of what to wear, I have an Emmys post-mortem over at my own blog! Visit there to vote for your modern favorites…)
Definitely I would have liked to have seen Charles II’s coronation. It must have been a wildly happy and wild time.
Going to look at your Emmy gowns!
jeez, it’s early and I’m apparently feeling wild…
Wow, great research and nice photos. I remember watching the movie about Mary Queen of Scots, very tricky time.
Bargain with the Devil
I just spent a whole bunch of time at your blog looking at dresses. I totally missed the Emmys this year!
About coronations…..Oh, give me George IV! Opulence and drama!! and that gold coach we saw in London!
An absolutely exquisite post! Thanks:)
This was great stuff to read about, almost like a wedding, where the style of a coronation follows the personality of the person. But love the jewels. . . just would like one little tiny one, a one or two carat stone is fine for me, 500-something, ah, can’t really wear that to the grocery store (though I’m sure someone would, just not me! LOL).
If they have over 6000 diamonds in one crown alone, surely they can spare some. :)) It is a lot like a wedding–the basic rituals and costumes are the same, but each monarch puts something on their own stamp on it.
On line waiting to see the jewels at the Tower, they show a film of Elizabeth II’s coronation, which is a good idea. Then everyone can see the objects “in action”, and there was a nice display about the coronation clothes created for that occasion. I think I’d like to witness a coronation for myself, but everything I’ve read says they’re actually long, mostly tedious affairs (and people sneak snacks in under their robes for the long day, LOL)
I must say my favorite crown is Queen Victoria’s miniature diamond crown. I have a replica of it that’s charm sized and made out of sterling silver.
I was in London for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and purchased a replica set of the Crown Jewels. They are quite cute.
I think I’d have gone to George VI’s coronation. I’d have liked to been there during the war effort as well with Bertie and Lilibet. I know it’s not nearly as grand as some, but it’s the one I’d go to.
Ammanda, I love gawing at the royal treasury, especially after our August trip when I was within five feet of the most astounding jewels. QEII looks fab with that purple crown.
Now, I’m off to your Emmy post…
I do believe I would have liked to have been at Elizabeth the 1st’s or Victoria’s coronation.
Victoria has always been fascinating to me. 🙂
Wouldn’t we all have enjoyed watching Princess Diana taking her place as Queen?
“I think I’d have gone to George VI’s coronation.”
I think I would have liked that, too! It must have been such a jolt of optimism and happiness after the abdication. (btw, I just saw that William Shawcross has a new bio of the Queen Mother coming out–it looks very interesting)
I was actually in London when the Queen Mum died. I was alone and waiting for my parents to arrive. I had just flown in from Munchen. When I saw that people were laying flowers I went to this flower stand near the hotel I was staying at and bought a 3-foot long stemmed red rose and took it to St. James Palace. That night when I was watching the BBC I saw me placing the rose at St. James. I was sad because I had no one to call to say “Hey! I’m on the BBC!” Oh well.
I also remember the next day my parents got lost driving to the hotel and my mother said “I think we were at the bridge where Diana died.” And I said “Then you must really have been lost because that’s in Paris.”
I would have loved to have seen Elizabeth’s coronation. I really admire her.
Do you mind if I use your personal blog to show a museum on how to do a blog? It’s a small museum with a small staff and I think if they stuck to topics by day like you do they would be able to do a blog. I wanted to ask permission first though. Thanks.
Jane, that would be totally fine! I’ve found that having a “theme” (and being open to deviating from it, if something big comes up) really helps keep things organized