Coronation of George IV

The procession to Westminster Abbey. George IV in his Coronation robe and black Spanish hat surmounted by sprays of ostrich feathers and a heron's plume. His 27 foot train is held by pages who are the eight eldest sons of peers assisted by the Master of the Robes, Lord Francis Conyngham.
Dean of Westminster
Dean of Westminster
John Ireland
George Augustus Frederick Hanover became King George IVth of England on the death of his father George III on January 29th 1820. His Coronation was not held until July 19th 1821. George IV greatly enjoyed planning events. His Coronation would be his grandest. He wished to outshine Napoleon's coronation.

The new king selected costumes for all the participants that were inspired by Tudor styles. He spent 24,000 pounds on a Coronation robe of crimson velvet with gold stars and ermine trim costing 855 pounds with a train that stretched 27 feet. He rejected the traditional Coronation crown, St. Edward's Crown, and commissioned a new crown adorned with 12,314 hired diamonds, rented from Rundell & Bridge at a cost of £6,525, or a rate of 10% of their actual value (£65,250). The diamonds encrusting the crown were set in a new style that allowed light to enter through the open back of the setting, as are modern jewels. The new king also acquired the large blue diamond, which would become known as the Hope diamond. It had been looted from the French crown jewels in 1792. The gem turned up in England as a precut stone, after the statute of limitations had run out in 1812, in the possession of a diamond merchant. George IV purchased the stone in 1820.

George IV paid the rent on the hired jewels for 3 years while he tried to persuade Parliament to purchase them, so that his crown could remain intact. He finally bowed to pressure to return the jewels.
The Standard of St George
borne by Baron,
Lieutenant General Lord Hill
The Coronation Service of George IV, July 19, 1821
King Edward's Chair

Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of the King, was prevented from entering Westminster Abbey on the occasion of the Coronation by prize fighters dressed as pages. They had been hired by her vengeful husband who feared she would make a scene at his Coronation. Though George IV th had been unable to obtain the divorce he wanted, the trial had ruined the Queen's reputation. Between the King's efforts and a general lack of support from the crowd she was unable to effect an entry into either Westminster Abbey or Hall.

George IV crown
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Nicholas Vanstiltart
Baron Bexley

Those in the Coronation Procession met in Westminster Hall. The King was half an hour late due to a piece of clothing having torn while he was dressing. The procession to Westminster Abbey proceeded along a raised awning covered processional way with blue cloth covering the board floor. The Coronation Procession was led by the King's herb woman and her six young attendants dressed in white who strewed the way with herbs and flowers in accordance to centuries-old tradition that was a precaution against Plague. Next came the officers of state with the crown, the orb, the scepter, and the sword of state. Then followed three bishops carrying respectively a paten, a chalice, and a Bible. King George IVth was next in line dressed in the sumptuous coronation clothes and robe wearing a brown wig topped with a black Spanish hat surmounted by sprays of ostrich feathers and a heron's plume. His 27 foot train was held by pages. The King ordered the pages to hold the train well spread out so that people could see the gold embroidery well. A cloth of gold Coronation Canopy was carried just behind the King by the barons of the Cinque Ports. The Canopy was held just behind George IVth to enable those in windows overlooking the route to see him. Following this group were the peers in their state robes and coronets marching in order of seniority. The dignitaries of the City of London in their ceremonial robes with their chains and emblems of office followed.

A Knight of the Garter
Coronation procession.
Lord Chancellor
of Great Britain
John, Earl of Eldon (1751-1838)
bearing the Purse and
the Great Seal
attended by a page

For the last 900 years, the Coronation ceremony has taken place at Westminster Abbey. During the Coronation ceremony, the Sovereign takes the coronation oath. He swears to rule according to law and to exercise justice with mercy. These promises are symbolized by the three swords of Justice in the coronation regalia. The three swords of Justice, now and anciently borne before the king at his coronation, known as the sword of the clergy, the sword of the laity, and the third (curtana) the sword of mercy. He also swears to maintain the Church of England. Two more swords are used in the coronation. The Great Sword of State and the sovereign's personal sword. The Great Sword of State is great indeed at 47½ inches long. This two-handed State sword weighs 8lbs. It symbolizes the sovereign's power and authority and is carried before the sovereign on all state occasions. The last sword in the ceremony is the Jeweled State Sword, made for the coronation of George IV, which is known as the 'Sword of Offering'. The sword is considered the most beautiful and valuable in the world. This sword is used in coronations and knighting ceremonies. It's blade is damask steel with a scabbard is a dull gold with jewels of all colours set in images that include an English rose, Scottish thistle, and Irish shamrock. The Archbishop of Cantebury delivers this sword to the sovereign. The sovereign then lays the sword at the altar as an offering. It is redeemed for 100 shillings by the peer who carries the Sword of State in the procession. As a Knight of the Garter, the Sovereign wears the golden spurs of Saint George. Knights of the Garter held the Coronation Canopy over the king during the anointing in Westminster Abbey.

The Sovereign is then 'anointed' with holy oil contained in the Ampulla. This Golden Eagle dates from the 1661 Coronation of Charles II. It is poured from the beak of the eagle shaped Ampulla into the twelfth century Anointing Spoon (The spoon, dating from 1199, survived Cromwell's destruction of the royal regalia.), to be applied to the new Sovereign's head, breast and palms in the most solemn moment of the ceremony. Followed by the Sovereign being blessed and consecrated' by the Archbishop of Canterbury, whilst the Sovereign is seated in King Edward's chair (made in 1300, and used by every Sovereign since 1626). After the King receives the orb
(The orb set under the cross is a reminder that all power is held by God's will. The Orb of 1661 is a hollow gold sphere set with 365 diamonds, 9 emeralds, 9 sapphires, 18 rubies, 363 cultured pearls and 1 amethyst.) and scepter (the ensign of kingly power), the Archbishop places the Crown on the Sovereign's head. The scepter used in George IV's Coronation only exists in part today as the scepter was altered when the over 530 carat Cullinan I diamond was added in 1907. After homage is paid by the Archbishop of Canterbury (Charles Manners-Sutton at this time) and senior peers, Holy Communion is celebrated.

Westminster Abbey
of Canterbury
Charles Manners-Sutton

The Sovereign's Ring, also called " The Wedding Ring of England," is worn on the ring finger of the right hand. Until the time of William IV it was customary to make a new ring for each monarch. It was destroyed at the king's death. Since Henry III (1216-1272) a ruby had been used as the central stone in the coronation ring, as it was considered to be the most beautiful of the precious stones. The ring for the coronation of George IV (1820-1830) departed from this tradition, and he had a ring made with a large sapphire head. Here rubies were only used in the form of a cross overlaying the sapphire.

John Manders who was present at the Coronation recounts that:

" This day at half past one O'Clock, His Most Gracious Majesty, King George the 4th...was Crowned at Westminster Abbey, amidst the acclamations of thousands. The Archbishop of Canterbury standing before the alter, and having St. Edward's crown before him, took the same into his hands, and consecrated and blessed with the prayer, " O God, who crownest thy faithful servants with mercy," . Then the Archbishop, assisted by other Bishops, came from the alter, the Dean of Westminster carrying the crown, and the Archbishop took and placed it on his Majesty's head; while the people, with loud and repeated shouts, cried, " God save the King!" the trumpets sounding, the drums beating; and the Tower and Park guns firing by signals. The acclamation ceasing, the Archbishop pronounced the exhortation, " Be strong and of good courage," . The choirs then sung the following anthem, " The King shall rejoice in thy strength," . As soon as the King was crowned, the Peers put on their coronets, the Bishops their caps, and the Kings of Arms their crowns."

Lord Mayor of London
John Thomas Thorp

Shouts of " God Bless the King" and waving of caps and handkerchiefs followed the crowning. The King appeared " much gratified" and some thought surprised by the vociferous acclamations. Finally as the premier Earl present, the Earl of Denbigh performed homage to the King by repeating the oath of allegiance, kissing his hand and left cheek and touching with a finger the crown on the king's head. This completed the ceremony.

" The appearance of the Abbey during the ceremony of the coronation, was a scene of grandeur of which description can convey but a faint idea. The King was seated on his throne, dressed in a robe of a most splendid and sumptuous description. Around him stood, on one side the Bishops, with their copes of gold, and robes of black velvet - and close by them the Heralds, with their gorgeous and many-coloured vestments."

" On his right and left were the Peers, with their different coronets on their heads, and with the robes of state loosely flowing around them. Before him stood, in front, on the extreme right, the Knights of the Bath, distinguished by the taste, lightness, and elegance of their vesture, and the unbounded profusion of their snow-white plumage; next to them were the Knights of the Garter, not Peers, in all the splendid paraphernalia of their Order. Their gorgeous appearance contrasted well with the elegant simplicity of the blue dress assigned to the Privy Councilors, who were flanked by Heralds and Officers at Arms. On the King's left, here stood in front five officers, armed with ponderous gold or gilt maces (symbolizing Royal authority and approval), and dressed in a most beautiful suit of blue silk and gold. These were mixed up with various Officers of Arms, who, by the mingled hues of their habiliments, produced a most noble and picturesque effect."

" In the rear of these Gentlemen, the grand mass of persons who had marched in the procession was formed in a close and ???ied phalanx - the Yeomen of the Guard, in their splendid liveries being in the centre of it, and forming, as it were, its point d'appui. In short, the coup d'Šil, which afforded to the spectator, by this condensing into one small space of all the proudest ornaments of English chivalry, was one of the grandest and most magnificent scenes, which possibly can be imagined. The grace and dignity of his Majesty's demeanour, throughout the whole of this august ceremony, was the theme of universal admiration."

Extracts from the Anecdotes of John Manders : Book No. 7, 1820-1829, pps. 964-967

Duke of York

July 19th, 1821 was a hot summer day and the King began to suffer from his heavy robes and wig during the five-hour Coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey. George IV was according to Lady Cowper " distressed almost to fainting" and had to be revived with sal volatile.

Following the ceremony in Westminster Abbey the Coronation procession of King George IV now wearing his crown wended its way to Westminster Hall on the raised and canopied processional way. " The awning over the platform on which the Coronation procession is to pass, is of Russia duck, and 2,000,000 yds. will be required to complete it." Crowds lined the streets to watch the parade pass. Wealthy spectators could book seats on platforms erected for the occasion. " Ten thousand Guineas were given by a person for the fronts of four houses, in Palace-yard, to hire for seeing the Coronation. He must have lost considerably, as places were to be had on the day so low as ten shillings and sixpence and even seven shillings and Sixpence." Soldiers both on foot and on horseback lined the route.

of the King's household
the Right Honourable
Lord Charles Bentinck
Privy Councilor

The coronation dinner was held in the huge 290 by 68 foot Westminster Hall. The mediaeval banqueting Hall dating from 1099 is topped by a magnificent oak hammer beam ceiling. The King was escorted to his place by the Barons of the Cinque Ports who traditionally have the right to hold the canopy over the king on the occasion of the Coronation Processions. Once the King was seated the Lord High Constable, the Lord High Steward and the Deputy Earl Marshal rode into the hall on horseback. The Deputy Earl Marshal had difficulty with his horse and swore at the animal in a voice that resounded through Westminster Hall. The Hereditary Champion, a member of the family of Dymoke of Scrivelsby, in full armour rode a horse into the Coronation Banquet in Westminster Hall to throw down his gauntlet and challenge anyone to deny the new sovereign. The rider was actually the son of the hereditary Champion as Rev. John Dymoke thought it incompatible with his profession as a clergyman to appear as an armoured Champion. The family, perhaps forewarned by the problems of previous Champions, took the precaution of borrowing a white horse from Astley's circus for the ceremony. The animal was well used to enclosed spaces and crowds and the Champion's part of the ceremony went off perfectly. After no one had taken up the Gauntlet, George IV drank to the Champion from a gold cup. It was passed to the Champion, Henry Dymoke (1801-1865), who also drank from it and then took it away as his rightful trophy of the day. This ceremony ceased after George IV's coronation in 1821. Then it was the turn of the peers and bishops at the long tables to drink his Majesty's health followed by the customary rounds of cheering. The King stood up to thank them for their good wishes and to do them " the honour of drinking their health and that of his good people" . The Earl of Denbigh wrote, " It exceeded all imagination and conception. Picture to yourself Westminster Hall lined beneath with the peers in their robes and coronets, the Privy Councillors, Knights of the Bath, and a multitude of different attendants and chief officers of State in most magnificent dress, and with a double row of galleries on each side above, filled with all the beauty of London, the ladies vying with each other in the magnificence of their apparel and the splendour of their head-dresses. Some of them being literally a blaze of diamonds."

Westminster Hall
Privy council Guard
The Coronation Banquet of George IV in Westminster Hall; Painting at Museum of London
Yeomen of the Guard

The Coronation Banquet for three hundred guests at Westminster Hall was served by a procession of household Officials and Gentlemen Pensioners. Some of the dishes served were: soups including turtle, salmon, turbot, and trout, venison and veal, mutton and beef, braised ham and savoury pies, daubed geese and braised capon, lobster and crayfish, cold roast fowl and cold lamb, potatoes, peas and cauliflower. There were mounted pastries, dishes of jellies and creams, over a thousand side dishes, nearly five hundred sauce boats brimming with lobster sauce, butter sauce and mint. The peers and bishops having had nothing to eat since breakfast turned to their plates with relish. The guest's wives and children could only look on from the galleries built for the occasion. One peer at least tied a capon in his handkerchief and tossed it up to his famished family. Lord Denbigh (1796-1865) was given the honour of serving the King and the royal Dukes. One of the things he served was a pineapple weighing eleven pounds which Denbigh cut up with the assistance of Lord Chichester (1756-1826). At about half past seven the King retired from the Hall and returned to Carlton House.

On the way back to Carlton House after the banquet, the King's cortege was blocked by two overturned carriages. This occasioned a detour through the slums of Westminster. The king had become fearful of large gatherings of people, particularly the poor, since the French revolution. King George IVth was very nervous and kept calling to the officers of the escort to " keep well up to the carriage windows" . During the detour the carriages crossed over a bridge that turned out to have been long condemned. It was only luck that the structure didn't give way drowning the King in the canal the bridge spanned.

portrait of George IV
in Coronation robes
by Lawrence

A Coronation Fete was held in Hyde Park to celebrate the accession of George IV to the Throne. The old brick wall around Hyde Park dating from the reign of Charles II was replaced with new railings. There were fireworks displays and balloon ascents. Charles Green made the first balloon ascension using coal gas instead of hydrogen gas on George IV's coronation day. Chinese lanterns were suspended from the trees in Hyde Park and an illuminated temple surmounted by a crown was erected in the Park in honor of the Coronation. A pair of richly caparisoned elephants pulled a golden car in the parade opening the fete.

George IV was determined to have a magnificent Coronation that would outshine Napoleon's Coronation of 1804. Parliament had voted £100,000 for the costs in 1820. An additional sum of £138,238.0s.2d paid "out of Money received from France on Account of pecuniary Indemnity, under Treaty, Anno 1815", made a total £238,238. 0s. 2d, which amounted to the most expensive coronation ever held in Britain costing over £9.5 million in today's money.
. Medals were struck to commemorate the Coronation and to raise funds to pay the costs. The splendid Coronation was a new experience for the vast majority of George IVth's subjects. The last Coronation, that of his father George III, had taken place over sixty years earlier. The novel ceremony captured the imagination of the public. George IVth enjoyed a few weeks of popularity as a result.

The Coronation was so popular that souvenirs were a lucrative business. The Marshall brothers were pioneers of the moving panorama or " Grand Historical Peristrephic Panorama" as handbills of the time termed it. They achieved great commercial success in several British cities. Their panorama of the coronation, consisting of a canvas sheet wound between two large rollers, portrayed about 10,000 figures of the coronation procession and gave rise to various spin-off products including a souvenir hand-held panorama reel. W. Sams of London published a hand held panorama of the Coronation in 1822. The long pictorial strip is wound on a bobbin inside the four inch cylindrical casing, and can be drawn out to its full length through a slot. A crude representation of movement can be achieved as the figures of the coronation procession pass before a viewer's eyes, as though the viewer were watching the procession itself pass a fixed point.


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