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Like millions of others around the world I was riveted to my TV on May 6 watching every moment of the coronation of King Charles III. And like any Regency aficionado, I could not help comparing it to the coronation of George IV.
With the death of his father, George III, on January 29, 1820, the Prince Regent for whom “our” era is named, became King George IV. King Charles’s coronation took place seven months after he acceded to the throne. George IV’s coronation, however, did not take place until July 19, 1821. It was originally scheduled for August 1820, comparable to Charles III, but it was postponed until the parliamentary proceedings aimed at divorcing his wife, Queen Caroline, and depriving her of her titles, could be completed. The bill to accomplish this was abandoned by November 1820 so no divorce, no stripping of titles. Instead she was simply written out of the coronation ceremonies.

Undaunted, though, on Coronation Day, Caroline attempted to enter Westminster Abbey anyway, but literally had the door (several doors) slammed in her face. She always had a great deal of support from the people, but lost much of it after this display.

Contrast this with the coronation of Charles III and Camilla. Charles deeply wanted Camilla to be his queen and, before her death his mother, Queen Elizabeth gave her approval. Camilla was crowned Queen Consort at the coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.

In 1821 George IV wanted his coronation to outdo Napoleon’s. Always flamboyant, his coronation outfit cost more than £27,000, and he insisted participants dress in Tudor and Stuart period dress. His red velvet robe had a train 27 feet long. Charles III, on the other hand, chose to wear previously worn garments. For the investiture, King Charles III wore the Robe Royal part of George IV’s coronation robes.

Charles and Camilla wore crowns that were already in the Royal collection. George IV, of course, commissioned a new crown. His coronation crown contained jewels that were worth almost £25,000 in that time period. The jewels were merely on loan for the crown and Parliament declined to purchase the crown as George IV wished. The crown was dismantled in 1823. Devoid of its jewels it is now part of the Royal Collection on view in the Tower of London.

Then there was the Coronation Banquet. George IV’s banquet was held in Westminster Hall. The hall was lit by 2,000 melting candles and the guests were occasionally pelted with hot wax falling from the chandeliers. The crowd was so huge that the dinner had to be supervised by horseback. Twenty-three makeshift kitchens had to be built to produce the food. Afterwards the spectators from the galleries were allowed down on the hall floor and proceeded to help themselves to everything–the leftover food, the cutlery, the crystal, silver platters. The gold coronation plates were saved by Lord Gwydyr and armed soldiers prevented the kitchens from being ransacked.

In contrast, Charles III had a private family luncheon after the coronation and later a coronation concert.

I must say, had I lived in the Regency, I would have wanted to be one of those spectators in the gallery. I would have wanted to see every minute of all that pomp, drama, and extravagance.

Would you?

George_IV_1821_colorToday 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…


CoronationServiceI 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

George_IV_coronationThe 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.

The Wives

QueenCaroline1820When 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.

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