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Title: Crowns and Sceptres
Author: Marjorie Bowen
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1402241h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  May 2014
Most recent update: Jun 2014

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Crowns and Sceptres


Marjorie Bowen

Cover Image


First published by John Long Ltd., London 1937
This e-book edition: PGA and RGL, 2014


Hold up our young King
Ave Benigna
And send us peace in our land
Ave Regina.

—Written for the Coronation of Henry VI, 1431.





This little book is intended to serve as a reminder of some facts concerning the ancient ceremony of "the crowning of the King," that may be of interest to those whose attention is turned, as the attention of so many people, of so many lands, will be turned to the rites and pageantry attendant on the coronation of His Majesty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Much of what we term "romance," and many beautiful, odd and moving anecdotes and traditions have, during the ages, become attached to the installation of the Sovereign in various countries; a selection from this material is offered here, together with a brief mention of those cities for so long associated with coronations, in many of which, perhaps, no monarch will ever again be enthroned and crowned.

The book is for the general reader and no attempt has been made to deal exhaustively with any aspect of the vast subject; accuracy has been striven for where matters of fact are concerned, but some anecdotes touch on the fascinating world of legend, and are given as such, while there are points debatable among the learned that can only be given under reserve and with due deference to expert opinion.

Richmond, Surrey.
November, 1936.


King Edward the Second's Coronation.
From an old illuminated manuscript.


THERE is perhaps no more significant ceremony than that of the crowning of the King. It is a double bond, a double promise, one between God and the King, one between the King and his people. The King becomes something more than himself: he is not only symbolical of a whole people, their virtues, strength, excellencies and magnificence, but he was for long considered, and in many cases still is, God's Vice-gerent on earth, a man Divinely appointed to rule over a chosen nation.

It is a ceremony of triumph and of gladness, and in every country has always been celebrated with the greatest pomp and a wealth of gorgeous details. Most of these are symbolical; the meaning of some is still obvious, that of others has become clouded, portions of the ancient ceremony have become obsolete and been discarded, a few have now little meaning and are retained merely for their fitness and beauty.

The first symbol of the coronation in importance is the crown. This is one of the oldest of human inventions; King David in the Psalms mentions the crown as an important item in the Consecration of the King:

"Thou hast set a crown of pure gold upon his head."

We do not know exactly the form of this Biblical crown. The oldest emblems of sovereignty seem to have been a fillet of pure white undyed wool, which signified that the wearer was set apart to rule direct from God and not merely elected by the wish of the people. This was worn by the priests and was the kind of crown that was offered to Julius Caesar in the market place, that he was afraid to accept; it is notable that for three hundred years no Roman Emperor dared to wear a crown, though on their coins they are represented with their brows bound by this impressive symbol. The Greek Kings wore the vitta, a ribbon tied in a knot behind the head.

It is believed that the first regal head-dresses took the form either of this sacred band of pure white virgin wool or of a silk scarf embroidered with jewels. These bandages or fillets probably had their origin in the handkerchiefs worn by athletes round their brows to catch the sweat when they were at their games. This fillet was termed diadema, from the Greek verb to bind, and the diadem, not the crown, was the original emblem of sovereignty.

The word crown is from corona, and the Romans had six important crowns that they gave to their great or successful men; the most splendid of these was the Corona Triumphalis conferred on a general returning triumphant from a war; it consisted of a plain wreath of laurels tied by a ribbon at the back and clasping a star in front.


Inauguration of a King
From a Greek manuscript of the twelfth century


The Corona Obsidionalis was given to a general by a garrison that he had saved from a siege; it was originally woven from grass snatched from a nearby tussock after the relief of the town. Crowns of bay were worn by military leaders who had been successful in a less resplendent way. The crown given for saving a citizen's life in battle was of oak leaves, the Corona Civica; this carried with it the privilege of freedom from taxes. For storming a wall there was the golden Corona Muralis, and for first climbing the wall of an enemy camp the Corona Castrensis. The naval crown, with ornaments representing the beak or prow of a ship, was given to those sailors who, in battle, first boarded an enemy vessel. The garland of bay survived all the other crowns, and it is this that the Roman Emperors wear on their coins; it was used on the medals of sovereigns until recently.

Victorious soldiers in ancient times were offered golden crowns by their allies and friends; the Greeks had the crown of bay as a symbol of office and honour; originally these crowns were made of real leaves and berries, but later of gold and precious metals fashioned to represent bay or laurel. Crowns, too, were used at religious rites, and, in the form of coronals of flowers, at festivals and banquets; in the winter the ancients wore crowns made of dried flowers or painted wood; the industry of making these crowns was in the hands of women and was a highly skilled craft.

The raised crown was introduced in the first century A.D., and was supposed to be the sign of the Emperor of the World. It represented the sun, as did the magnificent and formidable crowns of ancient Egypt. When the Roman Empire was divided, the Emperors of the East adopted the fillets of silk set with pearls and the Emperors of the West, the crown with spikes of gold; this form was afterwards adopted by all the Christian Kings, the spikes being altered in shape, set with pearls or jewels or crosses, or fleurs de lis placed on the points. The Byzantine circlet, formed of square plates, added to the Persian cidaris or tiara, forms the model for all subsequent crowns including those of popes and doges. Christian Kings always surmounted the crown with the Cross; convenience afterwards caused it to be padded with velvet and fur. This inner cap of rich material makes its first English appearance on a great seal of Henry VIII.

In order to emphasise the sacred character of the ceremony, it was always the High Priest in ancient times who crowned the King. In the short-lived Lutheran kingdom of Prussia, where there were no bishops, the King crowned himself; he used to take the diadem off the altar and put it on his own head; the Czars of Muscovy also crowned themselves. The Western Christian symbolism is, however, that the kingly office is conferred, not assumed, and of Divine origin; the French Kings definitely, the English Kings vaguely, entered the priesthood.

The robes of the King were always as rare and splendid as befitted the occasion, and colours, not only symbolic of magnificence and power, but gorgeous in themselves, were always chosen—the richest blues, purples and crimsons, and the finest materials of silk, velvets and linens, adorned with as many jewels and as much gold as the people could afford; crimson, scarlet and purple were also the most costly and difficult dyes.

In almost every country the crown jewels used to be the first treasure of the realm; they were guarded most jealously, not only on account of their value, but because of their association and half-sacred meaning; for instance, the iron crown of the Lombards, still to be seen in Italy, is of no intrinsic value, but priceless because it represented the sovereignty of a proud people; in Budapest is still preserved the crown of Saint Stephen that represented the pride and glory of Hungary. The anointing of the King also is of profound religious significance. The ceremony is described in the Old Testament; Saul, the first King of the Israelites, was anointed by Samuel with a phial of oil which was poured on his head, the prophet saying:

"Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?"

The oil (Chrism) was supposed to confer a specific grace, and the believers in the Divine Right of Kings thought that it gave the Sovereign a certain Divinity, so that, however unworthy he might be as a man, he was infallible as a Monarch; this was the attitude taken up by the non jurors, after the deposition of James II—though many of them had opposed his measures they could never accept another Monarch while the anointed King lived.

It was the anointing that gave the power of "touching" for the King's evil (scrofula); the Kings of France exercised this power three days after their coronations, and seemingly in their capacity as priests; the Kings of England were persona mixta, their office being considered half-sacred, half-secular, but they all claimed this miraculous power.

Ardent Jacobites claimed that Lord Derwentwater, son of an illegitimate daughter of Charles II, had this Divine gift, and as a descendant of an anointed King was able to work miracles of healing. The Chrism was supposed to have been sent from Heaven by a Dove to Clovis, King of the Franks, and brought by the Virgin Mary to St. Thomas à Becket.

The ancient ceremonial of the Kings of France, who were crowned at Rheims, had an even stronger religious character than had the English coronations; the Kings of France proclaimed with much emphasis the sacredness of their position; by the anointing they were set apart from other men even more definitely than was the English monarch. The most remarkable assertion of this claim was that when St. Joan took the Dauphin (afterwards Charles VIII) to Rheims and crowned him in direct obedience, as was believed, to the Divine Will.

From this religious attitude sprang the political doctrine that was for so long so powerful that of "the Divine Right" of the anointed King, as opposed to the other doctrine that a King was elected by the people, and his rule and power only rested on his keeping a bargain with the people.

The word Chrism, given to the anointing oil, signifies grace; the belief was widely held that a King, once crowned, remained a King, as a Christian, once baptised, remained a Christian; one might become an exiled, dethroned King or a renegade Christian, but that was not the same thing as never having been a King or never having been a Christian. Hence there was always great eagerness on the part of any Pretender to a throne, or lawful successor to a throne, to be crowned as soon as possible; an uncrowned King never had much authority and was usually regarded as a mere adventurer, however good his claim. The setting apart of the King for his high function by means of a religious ceremony surrounded him with majesty and a certain terror:

"There is a Divinity doth hedge in a King."

After the King had been anointed and crowned he assumed a sacred character; an injury against the King was more than treason—it was blasphemy. The anointing was done on the head, hands and over the heart.

The sceptre is another very ancient symbol, obviously deriving from the staff or baton of command; it was used to point with, and to administer chastisement; the Old Testament speaks of King Ahasuerus as having a golden sceptre. The King holds it in his right hand at the coronation; various countries have given different ornamentations to the sceptre, usually of a symbolic character.

The King's left hand, when he is formally enthroned, holds the orb, first seen on the reverse of the coins of the later Roman Empire. It obviously represents the ball of the world and was used by the Emperors of the West, claiming control over the whole civilised world. It was used by the Saxon Kings of England and may be seen on their coins. A coin of Edward the Confessor shows him crowned and throned, with a long staff or sceptre in one hand and an orb in the other. There arc golden pennies of Henry III and Henry VIII with the sword, instead of the sceptre, in the right hand and the orb in the left. The orb, like the clown, is surmounted by the Cross; the Kings of Spain had an apple of gold instead of the globe.

Many of the garments kept specially for this occasion, that the King wears at his crowning, are priestly in origin, as the stole. The other vestments, the silk dalmatic, the tunic, the buskins and sandals, the spurs and the various swords, all date from later times, mostly those of chivalry, and are part of the equipment of a knight. They are kept to enhance the beauty of this elaborate ritual and all have a lofty and even beautiful meaning; for instance, the blunt-edged sword, Curtana, showing Mercy.

The robes and undergarments were copied by the sovereigns of Western Europe from those worn by Charlemagne; these were found on the corpse of the great Emperor when his tomb was opened by Frederic Barbarossa in 116 5; Frederic II also was buried in the Imperial dalmatic, boots and tunic; as late as the eighteenth century, the Holy Roman Emperors reserved to themselves the privilege of scarlet stockings.

These early regal garments were always of costly, sometimes of almost priceless, materials. The most beautiful colour combinations, the most exquisite embroidery, were employed. It was remarked that at the coronation of Anne Boleyn an unusual extravagance was permitted—the hangings in Westminster Abbey were of pure gold tissue, that is, warp and woof were both of the precious metal, instead of one being silk; some of the hangings were so heavy that they had to be kept on rollers and worked up and down by little pulleys. Some of the coronation dresses of the Queens of France were so stiff with gold that they were reckoned to weigh as much as a suit of armour, and only heroic endurance could support them even for a few hours.

It is estimated that a peeress's robes for the coronation will cost, in the finest materials, £500. For the coronation of Elizabeth it cost more to fit out a noble's wife; plain narrow satin was fourteen shillings a yard, taffeta the same price, velvet went up to nine pounds a yard; huge quantities of material were used, and embroidery, laces, ribbons, buttons and so on, added greatly to the cost. "Velvet on velvet" or "velvet on satin" with two or three piles was the most luxurious material known, after the metallic tissues, and was used in coronation robes. Edward IV had many garments of these stuffs made for his crowning; the colours were black on white, blue on tawny, crimson on white and motley. Richard III had a resplendent mantle and train of velvet for his coronation, so magnificent that his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, who had to carry it in the procession from the tower, was first seized by the sight of it with the envy that afterwards drove him into rebellion.

Coronations set fashions; Elizabeth's installation was responsible for taffeta hats and crystal buttons; as early as 1403 Henry IV forbade the wearing of the choicest materials—cloth of gold, velvet or crimson cloth—to anyone below the rank of "banneret," even in coronation week.

It is difficult to visualise the splendour of these ceremonies, such as coronations, weddings or christenings, when these superb hand-made, hand-worked materials were lavishly used and displayed in the intimacy of a narrow street or in some church or hall, where every inch of the walls, ceilings and floors was covered with rich stuffs, tapestries, Italian velvets and cloth of gold.

It was always believed that the King, by reason of his consecration, could intercede with God for his people, and stood nearer to the Deity than others. It is obvious that one who was to be admired, obeyed and even worshipped, should be raised above his fellows; therefore, the idea of the throne is as old as that of the crown, the orb and the sceptre. The earliest thrones were, perhaps, the seats occupied by the priests near the altar, where they sat enthroned in awful majesty to receive supplicants and sacrifices; the Roman Consuls had the curule chair as a symbol of their authority. These classic seats of honour were lofty and had footstools, the backs were high and straight, the legs upright and there were arms at their sides. From this model most of the Christian thrones were copied.

In primitive times Kings, rulers and chieftains sat on mounds, usually under a tree for the sake of the shade; St. Louis used thus to sit to administer justice, and Saxon Kings in the same manner sat on raised seats in the open air; these were probably like the more recent thrones used by African chieftains composed of turf and covered with skins and woven grass. More luxurious nations made their thrones into objects of great beauty. King Solomon had an ivory throne with lions; possibly these were mechanical and emitted roars. Many Eastern Kings had beasts as arms to their thrones that on pressure made angry sounds. The gorgeous peacock throne of the Tartar Kings was world famous; it was composed of solid gold with the markings of a peacock's tail in jewels. The Kings of Persia had dazzling thrones with golden pillars supporting canopies of rich purple silk; Mark Antony and Cleopatra sat on golden thrones in Egypt.

The English throne is in the House of Lords; in the Abbey is the Coronation Chair, which was made to the order of Edward I; beneath it is the ancient Celtic stone taken from Scone by the same Monarch. The Celtic tribe usually owned such a stone for the crowning of their chieftain; there is one at Kingston-on-Thames that gives its name to the town, where many Saxon Kings, including Athelstan, who called himself King of All Britain, were crowned, and at Tara, the Irish had a similar stone for the crowning of the "High King" or chieftain; this stone was supposed to give forth a musical sound when the King stepped on it. These stones were usually supposed to be those that Jacob had used for his pillow when he saw the vision of the angels on the ladder going to and from Heaven.

The stone in Westminster Abbey is of red sandstone and was brought to England in 1296. The chair has been marked all over by names and initials; these are supposed to be those of former scholars of Westminster School, when the boys used to have the run unchecked of the Abbey; there was, and perhaps still is, an inscription stating that one, "P. Abbot slept in the chair in Jan. 1801." The chair is usually covered with rich brocade, cushions and velvet, for a coronation; it has only once been taken from the Abbey—by Oliver Cromwell—when it was placed in Westminster Hall to serve as the Protector's seat.


The Coronation Stone, Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey


The Coronation Stone in Chair at Westminster

There is another coronation chair in the Abbey that was made for a unique occasion—the crowning of two sovereigns together; the first cousins, William and Mary, ruled as joint Sovereigns in equal right over Great Britain; this chair has never been used since and it is not likely ever to be again.

The King, Emperor or Chieftain, used to be lifted up at his coronation, and, with the orb in one hand, the sceptre in the other, his glittering robes clasped over his breast and his raised crown or jewelled helm on his head, shown to the crowd so that there might be no confusion about the personality that had been accepted as leader of, and symbolic of, a people.

The earliest form of this was the placing of their leader by the soldiery on their shields; a relic of this ancient custom is our modern "chairing" of some popular or successful person.

As soon as the King is crowned—it must be emphasised that the entire people are supposed to have a part as individuals in this ceremony—the estates of the realm come to do him homage, first the Bishops, then the Lords temporal, then any tributary Princes there may be, as in the case of Great Britain, the Indian Princes; in England, after the homage, the Lords, spiritual and temporal, touch the orb and kiss the King's hand; this is symbolical of their resolution to defend the crown with their lives. The service of Holy Communion is then held, and the superstitious have remarked with delight that the only two English Kings who did not communicate on their coronation day were John and James II; both of them were exceedingly unfortunate monarchs.

The elaborate and carefully worked-out ritual of the coronation of Kings of Great Britain has been little changed. The first mention of the coronation of British Kings is by Gildas, a monastic historian who wrote before 547; two hundred years later Egbert, Archbishop of York (A.D. 732-767) had set out an elaborate ritual for a coronation, and we know that the great and wise St. Dunstan placed a golden circlet on the brow of the boy Ethelred with full ceremonial in 979. The "Pontifical of Egbert" was elaborated for Richard II (1307) and in some form used for all subsequent English coronations; the book, Liber Regalis, still in Westminster Abbey, was written for this King's installation and contains a full account of all coronation rites and ceremonies. The ancient ritual was followed till the Reformation, when another service was employed for Edward VI; Mary and Elizabeth reverted to the Latin service. The old ceremonial was modified again for James I and finally mutilated by Sancroft for James II. At the coronation of William and Mary, when Sancroft refused to officiate, the service was badly muddled, no one "knew his part," and the King had not been told that he had to make an offering of a pound of gold, so there was a delay while the money was borrowed from one of the peers. This gold was originally meant to be a pound in weight, not in face value.

As the country became more wealthy and was no longer torn by internal wars the coronation tended to become more elaborate and costly. A much enjoyed part of the pageantry was the banquet; highly relished also were the two processions on foot, from the Tower to the Abbey and vice versa, before and after the coronation, when the people of the capital had an opportunity of seeing all the great ones of the land grouped together in their most magnificent and picturesque array. This procession was discontinued by James II on the score of the expense, yet his crowning cost £60,000, most of which went on the Queen's dress.

Naturally, between the coronation ceremony itself, the banquet and the two processions, there grew up a large number of offices, which became hereditary, and were jealously guarded as they carried with them gifts and privileges. This question became so complicated that an ancient Court of Claims was instituted; this dates at least from the coronation of Richard II. Two of the most important claims, those of the Bishops of Durham and of Bath and Wells, "to support the Sovereign" during the ceremony, have never been disputed, nor has that of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, "to instruct the King in the rites and ceremonies."

Some of these privileges are exceedingly picturesque. The Duke of Newcastle, by virtue of the Manor of Worksop, was allowed to provide a glove for the King's right hand at the last coronation. The claim to carry a canopy over the King, if he wishes to have one, was last allowed to the Barons of the Cinque Ports; the Lord Mayor of London is usually allowed to bear the crystal mace.

The great banquet in Westminster Hall was held for the last time at the coronation of George IV, and there, in all their glory, could have been seen the final representatives of the old offices of Chief Butler, Larderer, Carver, Naperer and so on. A hundred and one claims have been automatically disallowed by the discontinuation of the banquet; one was for the right to make wafers, another to be Serjeant of the Silver Scullery, another to serve the King with a towel before the banquet, and more curious still, the right to furnish "a mess of dillegrout," a kind of rich porridge that was especially made for the coronation banquet. It was made of coarse meal flavoured with still water and mingled with fat.

The office of King's Champion was hereditary in the Dymoke family as owners of the Manor of Scrivelsby in Lincolnshire, granted by William I to Robert de Marmion, the first Champion, from whom the Dymokes descended in the female line. The Rev. John Dymoke held this office at the coronation of George IV, his deputy, his son, mounted and in full armour, cap-à pie, with red, white and blue feathers in his helm, entered Westminster Hall, threw down his glove and challenged to mortal combat anyone who would dispute the King's right to the crown; the Sovereign then drank the health of the Champion in a silver gilt cup that afterwards was presented to him as his fee. This was the last appearance of the Champion. A Jacobite tradition says that at the coronation of George I, a follower of the Stewarts, disguised as a woman, slipped through the crowd and picked up the flung gauntlet, an incident used by Scott in Redgauntlet. A Dymoke was Champion at the coronation of Richard II; this is the first authentic record of this ceremony.

All these offices were not only considered highly honourable in themselves, but were bountifully repaid by land tenure or other emoluments. Some accounts say that the Champion, for example, received the horse with trappings and the superb suit of armour that he wore and a gold or gilt cup and cover; others, that he received a sum of money in lieu of the equipment; at the coronation of William and Mary, the Champion not only claimed two cups, but kept the armour, at that of Anne he received £50 and bought his own outfit. The splendour of this may be gauged by the fact that the plumes of red, white and blue, worn by both the Knight and his horse, consisted of eighteen "falls" (tiers) surmounted by a "heron's top." The behaviour of the horse on these occasions was always a cause of grave anxiety, for the later Champions had to ride, armed at all points, into Westminster Hall where the banquet was held, cast down his gauntlet and deliver his challenge, then back out; if, therefore, the steed became restive the stately ceremonial was spoiled. At the coronation of George III, a trusty steed said to have been ridden by George II at Dettingen was chosen; if this was true, the animal was twenty years old at least. However, despite the care taken in choosing an ancient animal, the gallant bay insisted on entering the Hall backwards. Some stories say that it was the steed used by the Earl Marshal that made this odd entry.

The office of "royal champion" is very old; there was a Champion in attendance on Charlemagne.

The Regalia of England are kept in the Tower of London, and are one of "the sights" of the capital; they contain many famous and unique jewels and are among the few complete Regalia now left in Europe. When the French Regalia were seized at the time of the Revolution some of the crowns were found to contain glass jewels, the bankrupt Bourbons having long since abstracted the original stones; a magnificent treasure remained, however, one crown having eight thousand diamonds, among them two of fabulous value, the Sancy and the Regent; these were stolen from the royal garde-meuble and recovered by the police from the gutters of Paris. What is left of the French Regalia is in the museum of the Louvre.

The superb jewels used at the coronations of the Emperors, of the Czars, of the Kings of Spain, have been scattered or are hidden; wars and revolutions have, in the last quarter of a century, dispersed most of the Regalia of Europe.

Napoleon I's coronation ceremonial was in many ways unique; this military dictator worked out the ceremony for himself on new lines. There had not been an Emperor of France since the days of Charlemagne, and Napoleon, ignoring the Bourbon Lilies, chose as his emblem the little golden and cornelian ornaments said to have been found in the tomb of the Frankish King, Childeric, when it was opened in 1653; these were supposed to represent bees, but it seems more likely that these fleurons were the studs from the royal charger's harness. Napoleon used them on a green ground, believed to be the original Merovingian colour. This coronation did not take place at Rheims, but in Notre-Dame in Paris; it was dated by the Republican Calendar, AN13, but the Pope, Pius VII, was present, and though Napoleon crowned himself with a plain wreath of golden laurel, His Holiness consecrated the Imperial Regalia and offered the prayers; this is the only occasion on which a pope has left Italy to crown a sovereign.

The French goldsmiths made a superb Imperial crown formed of eagles with upraised wings for Napoleon, who, a year after the ceremony in Paris, 1805, was crowned with great pomp in Milan with the famous Iron Crown of the Lombards. This famous crown is of Byzantine origin and the subject of many legends; it is stated that it was given by St. Helena to her son, the Emperor Constantine, and is supposed to have been presented by Gregory the Great to Queen Theodelinda. It is known that it was worn by Henry VII at his coronation in 1311 and whatever its age or history it is one of the most celebrated emblems of sovereignty in the world and was always guarded in the Cathedral of Monza with as much care as a sacred relic; it is an emblem only of sovereignty, it appears, as it is barely large enough to fit the head of a young child and it probably hung before the altar as a votive offering, the sovereign's head being merely touched with it during the consecration ceremony. The Iron Crown is of the ancient Byzantine shape of six plaques of fine gold, each with a jewel in the centre on a ground of green flower-strewn enamel, bent into the shape of a circlet; within the gold is the iron ring, supposed to have been made out of the nails used at the Crucifixion. The authenticity and subsequent sacred character of this crown were in active dispute among historians and priests until 1717, when it was decided that it might be "exposed to the adoration of the faithful and carried in processions." Napoleon's coronation was the subject of one of the most sumptuous publications ever undertaken—Sacre de Napoléon dans l'Eglise de Notre-Dame, 1804. Isabey made the superb drawings of the personages, ceremonies and pageantry of that great day of pomp and the most loving care was taken to render the book perfect; it was not finished by the time Napoleon was in exile and the restored Bourbons ordered the whole edition to be destroyed, only a few hidden or overlooked copies of this incomplete monument to human pride survived. The golden bees also disappeared. These little insects were an interesting, but short-lived symbol; Louis XVIII restored the Lilies and these shone in their silver splendour for the last time, 1824, when his brother, Charles X, was crowned with the full ancient ceremonial; Louis Philippe erased the Lilies from the Bourbon Shield, and his installation as King of the French—not as King of France and Navarre—was a simple affair; but as his devoted wife wrote to their children: "Papa looked very handsome in his robes." Thus vanished the famous "lilies of France" that some authorities believe to have been taken from the Egyptian Royal head-dress; the fleur de lis is possibly the lotus flower; others think it was inspired by the iris; this flower shows clearly on the heraldic Florentine "lily." A pretty legend says that the three golden lilies were brought from Heaven by an angel to Clotilda, wife of Clovis, when that King was converted to Christianity, and then took the place of the three toads Clovis had borne on his shield. This story is at least as old as the fifteenth century, for in the Bedford Missal, offered to the infant Henry VI when he was crowned King of France, the angel presenting the heavenly flowers to St. Remy and Clotilda is the subject of one of the illustrations. Edward III introduced the fleurs de lis, in right of his mother, into the English arms; they were borne by all British Kings until George III discarded them by royal proclamation in 1801.

The gorgeous intricacies of heraldry have always enriched and enlivened our British coronation, and though many of us do not understand the exact meaning of all these symbols—many of which are obscure even to the learned in such matters—they have their own obvious fitness and beauty as reminders of the long pageantry of British Kings, British chivalry and world-wide traditions associated with human achievement and human aspiration.

The scarlet that was the royal colour of England added greatly to the splendour of the English coronations; this hue was believed to be a variant of the famous Tyrian Imperial purple which was taken from the colour of the border of the robe of a Roman Senator and used by the Byzantine Emperors of whom it was said that they were "born in the purple."

England was the only nation to preserve this magnificent hue; the households of the Bourbon Kings, the Portuguese, Prussian, Swedish and Netherlands sovereigns and most of the German Princes wore blue; those of Austria (the Empire) wore black and yellow, Russia, dark green. Some think this English scarlet colour was taken from the gules of the Royal Standard or from the Red Rose of the Plantagenets. Henry VIII used it for the uniform of the Yeomen of the Guard.

This scarlet was always associated with royalty and very costly owing to the dye—taken from the insect, coccus ilicis, that had to be brought from South Europe. It was a pure vermilion, with no tincture of purple. Though other shades of red were used by all classes, only royalty or their servants were allowed to use the true scarlet.

A profusion of this regal hue in liveries, hangings, tablecloths, carpets and in the royal arms and standards, repeated as often as possible, gave a truly brilliant air to the medieval coronations.

There is a complete wardrobe account of the year 1433 of the coronation of Richard III, which describes the robes worn by the whole Court, pages, attendants, ladies, peers and peeresses. This shows in detail the fashions of this ceremony, wool and silks were both used, and we read of weaving, fringe-making, damasking, elaborate cutting and dyeing and many other species of work which proves that these arts and crafts were in a very high state of finish.

The King's cousin and six other Lords and Knights had, by the King's high command and as his special gifts, delivered to them cloths of gold and silver velvet, peculiarly superb. Among the items listed by Piers Courtes, the King's wardrobes, on this occasion, is that of "divers stuff" delivered for the use of "Lord Edward, son of the late King Edward IV," and his "henchmen," that proves, some think, that the unhappy "Princes in the Tower" were present at the crowning of their uncle—a rare instance of the rightful King being present at the coronation of a usurper, as Richard was in the eyes of most people. On the other hand, it may be that the rich robes were ordered for the proposed crowning of the boy himself that never took place. To the religious aspect of the ceremony there gradually came to be joined the political or feudal; in this country the King, to whose election the people had assented, obtained, publicly, renewal of the oaths of allegiance due to him from his fiefs of whom he was overlord; the King was bound to protect his people in return for their services, and, as our Constitution has not been altered on these points since feudal times, these observances continue, though now they have only a symbolic meaning.


A TREATISE on the British coronation ceremony could be made to fill a stout volume; here, only a few of the notable features can be shortly described.

The ceremony has changed only in detail; the setting, with few exceptions, from the crowning of William I, has been Westminster Abbey, though the church has been rebuilt and altered.

Froissart described the crowning of Henry IV and it differed very little from that of George V. Even the Reformation had little effect upon this magnificent ceremonial with its double sacred and worldly significance and its pretext for all manner of rejoicing.

The procession will, according to precedence, be headed by the clergy—the Chaplains in ordinary, the Domestic Chaplains, the Dean and Prebendary of Westminster, followed by Officers of Arms and Officers of the various orders of Knighthood. The Comptroller and Treasurer of the Royal Household are followed by the Standard Bearers, and then, after several other officers, the two Archbishops; after these, representing the Church, come the nobles and gentlemen bearing the Regalia, St. Edward's Staff, the Sceptre with the Cross, then the Golden Spurs, then the Sword of Mercy, then that of Spiritual and that of Temporal justice.

The Kings-of-Arms walk immediately behind the Regalia, and behind them come the Lord Mayor of London, Garter Principal King-of-Arms, and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.

The Lord Great Chamberlain of England walks alone, other Officers of State follow, the Earl Marshal and the Lord High Constable escort the Sword of State that is followed by the Dove, St. Edward's crown, the Orb, borne by three noblemen, and the Paten, Bible and Chalice, borne by three Bishops.

This procession meets that of the King, who advances in his crimson robe of state, with eight gentlemen bearing his train, supported by the Bishops of Durham and Bath and Wells, and attended by Gentlemen-at-Arms and officers of his household. The crowning and sacring of the King will then follow; the ritual being based on those of Archbishop Egbert and the Liber Regalis; the crown, by tradition that of the Confessor, will rest on the altar in front of the shrine where the relics of the royal saint lie.

King George is forty-first in succession from Egbert (d. A.D. 839) and representative of the oldest reigning family in Europe; no other country can now show such a continuity of a royal line and a national loyalty to an ideal of Kingship formulated over a thousand years ago and still deeply respected and firmly upheld. Queen Elizabeth is of equally ancient family, she is descended direct from Robert II of Scotland.

The background will be the tapestry-hung walls and arches of the splendid Gothic Church of Westminster Abbey, and the lighting, most carefully planned, will mingle with the glow of a May day streaming through the coloured glass of the beautiful windows; the congregation will consist of the peers and of representatives of the activities and achievements of the Empire, notable among whom will be the Indian Princes. The colouring of this superb pageant will be in heraldic reds and blues, mostly primary colours relieved by gold, silver and furs and the flash of jewels. The presence of the Queen Consort and the peeresses adds greatly to the splendour of the spectacle; the crowning of Queen Elizabeth will follow precedent. The crown in the British Regalia for the royal consort is that made for Mary II, but subsequent queens have had especial crowns designed and made for them; that fashioned for Queen Mary, consort of George V, is considered a model of beauty and elegance. It is probable that Queen Elizabeth will wear a crown composed entirely of diamonds; the consort wears only one crown, the King is crowned with the diadem of Edward the Confessor and afterwards wears the Imperial Crown.

The British Regalia also contain the Queen's sceptre with the Cross, and the Queen's ivory rod made for Maria d'Este, wife of James II. Another sceptre, with Dove and Cross, is believed to have been made for Mary II. Her Majesty will wear splendid robes of British material and workmanship. The Queen consort has always been regarded as second in dignity only to the King himself, and she enjoys many rights and privileges.

The earliest account we have of the crowning of a Queen consort in this country is that of the ceremony whereby Judith, daughter of Charles of France, wife of Ethelwulf of Wessex, was crowned with great pomp, 856.

Before the conquest the queens consort were not only anointed and crowned, but sat beside their husbands on chairs of state.

Matilda, wife of the Conqueror, was crowned at Winchester, her husband being recrowned at the same time, April, 1068.

The queens consort used to come from the Tower in litters of cloth of gold drawn by white palfreys escorted by knights and followed by rich chariots in which rode the ladies of the Court.

The coronation of Eleanor, the beautiful young wife of Henry III (1236), and that of another French Princess, Katherine, wife of Henry V (1421), were occasions of great magnificence.

Shakespeare gives a realistic description of the coronation of a queen consort in his relation of the installation of Anne Boleyn (1533), these ceremonies are but little different from those that will be used at the sacring of Queen Elizabeth.

At length her grace rose, and with modest graces
Came to the altar; where she kneel'd, and, saint-like,
Cast her fair eyes to heaven, and pray'd devoutly:
Then rose again and bow'd her to the people;
When by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
She had all the royal makings of a Queen,
As holy oil, Edward Confessor's crown,
The rod, and bird of peace, and all such emblems,
Laid nobly on her; which perform'd, the choir,
With all the choicest music of the Kingdom
Together sang Te Deum.

If the history and meaning of all the details that go to make this moving and impressive rite and gorgeous formality of the crowning of the King and Queen are understood, what we may see or hear of the coronation becomes more interesting and lingers in the mind as well as gratifies the eye and ear.

The correct title of the King Emperor is: George VI, By the Grace of God, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Dominions Overseas, Emperor of India, Defender of the Faith.

English royalty claimed an Imperial character from early times; Edward III, in particular, asserted his Imperial rights, so did Henry VIII, the crown of England was, of set purpose, termed "the Imperial Crown." The Queens regnant, Elizabeth and Anne, were sometimes referred to as "Empresses." The title, "Defender of the Faith," was given to Henry VIII by Leo X and has been retained by every subsequent British sovereign.

His Majesty is also Chief of the great orders of knighthood, of which the most important is the Most Noble Order of the Garter, instituted by Edward III in 1350. The Most Noble and Ancient Order of the Thistle of Scotland, of early origin, was revived by James V of Scotland in 1540. The Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick is of much more recent date, 1783. The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is ancient and was refounded by George I in 1725. The most distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George was founded 1818, that of the most exalted Order of the Star of India in 1801. The garter itself—a blue buckled ribbon fastened beneath the left knee—is shown encircling the Royal Arms inscribed with the motto—Honi soit qui mal y pense ("Evil be where evil is thought"). "By the Grace of God" means—that the King has no overlord, but receives his title from Heaven. Henry III first used—Dei: Gratia: Anglie: Rex.


This is a most elaborate subject and full of difficulties, even heralds themselves having differences of opinion as to the meaning and origin of various charges, badges and devices, most of which go back beyond written records. The three English lions passant gardant, in pale, or, are by some authorities supposed to have been leopards; these royal beasts are very ancient and were used by the Plantagenets; they appear on the great seals of these Kings; the fleur de lis was placed on the shield by Edward III, and this coat, known as England ancient, was borne by all sovereigns till Elizabeth; the French Lilies appear in the first and fourth quarters, the English lions in the second and third; the shield is extremely elegant and beautiful, an exquisite specimen of the art of heraldry. Elizabeth sometimes added Ireland, a harp or stringed azure, and James I and VI, first King of Great Britain (though Elizabeth had occasionally used the title in anticipation) incorporated the Scottish Lion, a magnificent charge—a lion rampant gules with the superb tressure fleury double fleury; in this rearrangement, the heralds placed France and England (the original shield) first and fourth grand quarter, Scotland second grand quarter and Ireland third grand quarter. William III, as an elected sovereign, placed in pretence his paternal arms of Nassau, azure billetée, a lion rampant or; a beautiful example of this rare shield is to be seen in the stone surmounts of the entrance to Kensington Palace. After the Union, 1707, England, impaling Scotland, occupied first and fourth quarters, France second and Ireland third. George I placed the Arms of Hanover in the fourth quarter instead of the repeat, Scotland and England.

George III omitted the lilies; and on the accession of Victoria, Hanover became a separate Kingdom, and the royal shield of Great Britain returned to the Insignia of the United Kingdom that it still bears; this is a simple and yet magnificent coat-of-arms, more effective now than when it bore the complicated charges of Hanover.

The supporters of the British Shield have frequently changed; some examples are: Edward III, a lion and a falcon; Richard II, two white harts; Henry IV, a lion and a swan; Henry V, a lion and an antelope.

Elizabeth had a lion and a dragon; James I brought in the Scottish Unicorn, and since his time the supporters have been on the dexter (right) a lion rampant gardant or imperially crowned proper, and sinister (left) a unicorn argent, armed enguled and crined or, gorged with a coronet composed of crosses pattées and fleur de lis gold.

There has been much variation also in the royal mottoes, Richard I Christo duce (Christ lead me); Rosa sine spina (rose without a thorn) Elizabeth; Beati pacifici (blessed are the peacemakers) James I. The present royal motto is an ancient war cry—first assumed by Henry VI—Dieu et mon Droit (God and my right.)

The Helm of the Sovereign that appears above the shield is affronté or (full face in gold) with six bars; only princes of the Blood royal are allowed this form of helmet.

The royal English badges were very numerous; Henry II introduced the branch of broom, planta genesta, from which his house took its name Plantagenet.

Richard I used a star rising above a crescent in reference to the crusade. Edward I had a golden rose. Richard II, among many others, an ostrich feather and a sun in splendour. Edward IV, a black bull; Henry VII introduced the famous Tudor badges, a portcullis, the double rose of York and Lancaster, and the red dragon for Wales. From the reign of James I the English rose and the Scotch thistle were used as badges of the United Kingdom; the shamrock for Ireland was added later, and these are now permanently in the royal achievement, though the sovereign has long ceased to use a personal badge.


The English Regalia used to be kept in the Chapel of the Pyx, or the King's Treasure House, in Westminster Abbey, and in times of danger were sent to the safer custody of the Tower of London; they formed the nucleus of a considerable treasure, gold plate for the royal banquets, costly armour and robes and ornaments of precious stones; the early Kings often carried these valuables about with them; hence the story (now doubted) that King John lost the Regalia with his baggage in the Wash between Lincolnshire and Norfolk in 1216.

Edward III is said to have frequently pledged the Regalia with Flemish bankers in order to raise money for the French wars; these jewels were also pawned by Richard II and Henry V—the latter monarch also lost much of the Regalia at Agincourt, which misfortune was the cause of a lawsuit with the Frenchman who found some of the jewels.

In the reign of Richard II the abbots and monks of Westminster had charge of the Regalia; the rule was that every sovereign should be buried in full splendour, but this proved too costly and the Kings and Queens were usually interred in cheap robes and counterfeit jewels; it is said that the crown worn in the grave by Henry II (1189) was a piece of fringe cut from a lady's petticoat.

After the reign of Henry VIII the Regalia were moved to the King's treasury in the Tower; many articles more curious than valuable were then included among the royal insignia—the sceptre of Moses, the sword with which Athelstan cut a rock at Dunbar, the "holy cross," the dagger that wounded Edward I at Acre, and the war gauntlet worn by King John of France when he was taken prisoner at Poitiers. At the accession of Charles I, the royal treasury was magnificently furnished, but the King sold many of these heirlooms in the Netherlands in 1625. What was left of the royal treasure was seized by the Commonwealth Government, melted down and sold. In the inventory made in 1649, the total value of the Regalia, including the royal robes, is given as £612 19s. 8d. for the articles found in the Abbey and for those taken from the Tower, under £2000; so it would seem as if Charles I had left little of any great value behind. The items on this list are very curious; the first is:

The Imperial Crown of massy gold—£1,110; the last: An old comb of horn worth nothing.

A crown of filigree work with bells, supposed to have belonged to Alfred, was in this list. If this crown was really that of Alfred it must have also been that used by St. Edward.

At the Restoration a committee was formed to order new Regalia; these were made by the royal goldsmith—Sir Henry Viner—and cost nearly £32,000. They were kept in the Tower and exposed to public view; and soon after, Col. Blood and Parrot made their notorious and unsuccessful attempt to steal the Regalia.

A fire in the Round Tower in 1841 put the Regalia in peril, and the precious jewels were removed to a new treasure house especially built. These Regalia consist of St. Edward's Crown, the Imperial Crown, the Prince of Wales' Coronet, the Queen Consort's Crown and the Queen's Diadem, St. Edward's Staff, the Sceptre with the Cross, the Sceptre with the Dove, the Queen's Sceptre, the Ivory Sceptre, the Sceptre of Mary II, the Swords, the Bracelets and Spurs, the Ampulla and Spoon, with a salt-cellar, font and service of sacramental plate for use at coronations.

The following is a description of the articles that will be used for the coronation of George VI.


The most precious object in the ancient Regalia was the crown which was believed to have been worn by Edward the Confessor; since this was destroyed by the Republicans, another, "to be called St. Edward's crown," was made by order of Charles II; this was found to have been despoiled of jewels on the accession of William and Mary and was then richly reset with gems. This crown is symbolic of the sovereign's claim to the throne by descent from St. Edward and of the link between the ancient royal line of England and the present British Empire.

The Imperial crowns of England were varied, splendid and numerous, the earlier ones being exquisite works of art; perhaps the most superb example is that worn by Henry IV in his effigy at Canterbury Cathedral, a rich, elegant design of strawberry (or vine?) leaves, fleurs de lis and pearls; it is thought that this was the celebrated "Harry" crown, broken up and sold by Henry V. The crown of Edward VI was valued at nearly £400; Queen Mary I used three especially made crowns, Elizabeth had two; in one of the fleur de lis on the crown of Charles I was an engraving of the Virgin Mary. In a portrait of Charles I in the Museum, New York, is a representation of a closed crown very similar to that worn by George V, also the orb and sceptre.


(a) The Imperial Crown. (b) St Edward's Crown.
(c) The Golden Spurs and Ring. (d)The Ampulla and Spoon.

The two Imperial crowns made for Charles II were very rich and costly; they were several times altered for his successors. An entirely new crown was made for George IV in which were set a ruby, said to have belonged to the Black Prince, and a sapphire that was unique for size and colour. This crown, valued at £150,000, was the work of Messrs. Rundell and Bridge; it was too heavy for the King to wear long, and a light crown, broken up soon after, was worn by His Majesty during the State banquet. The same jewellers made Queen Victoria's crown; it has, with alterations, been used by her successors; it is an Imperial crown, arched, surmounted by a cross and set over a cap of velvet with an ermine border; the open crown was the sign of an elected monarch. The Imperial crown of India was made for George V.


This is placed in the sovereign's right hand; it is of gold wreathed with jewels in the design of the rose, the shamrock and the thistle. At the top is an amethyst in the form of a globe encircled with diamonds and surmounted by a cross pattée of jewels.


This is of gold with a fillet of diamonds on the shaft, a mound (globe) on top with a cross and Dove (for the Holy Ghost) enamelled white.


This, borne in front of the monarch, is of gold, with a steel foot, and a globe and cross at the top.


The vessel that holds the anointing oil; it is of gold in shape of an eagle. The head screws off, the oil goes into the neck, then is poured into the spoon through the beak. This ampulla is very ancient and is thought to be with the spoon the part of the original Regalia that escaped the attention of the Commonwealth.


This is also believed to be the original spoon; it is at least very old; of silver gilt with pearls and worn thin with age.


This is placed first in the sovereign's right hand; then, when he takes the sceptre, it is placed in his left hand. It is a golden ball with a fillet of precious stones; surmounted by a cross on a jewelled foot. This mound ("monde" world) was copied by the Saxon Kings from the orb of the Emperors of Rome or the Emperors of the East. The symbolism is Temporal Power.


Curtana (from curtus, Lat. short—cut short) is the blunt sword of Mercy; the original Curtana belonged to St. Edward the Confessor. The Sword of State is two-handed and has the royal badges on the scabbard; with this sword the sovereign is girt. The Sword of Justice to the Spirituality is slightly obtuse at the point.

The Sword of Justice to the Temporality is sharp pointed. All these swords are sumptuously embellished with gems and have rich scabbards.


These are of gold, edged with pearls and hinged to clasp on the arms; these armillae are a very ancient symbol of royalty; they are mentioned in the Bible.


An emblem of knighthood; they are "prick spurs" without rowels, of gold, with fine straps added by George IV; the spurs themselves were made for Charles II.


"The wedding ring of England," emblematic of the union of King and country, originally plain gold, set with a large ruby; the legend is that this ring was given as alms to two pilgrims by St. Edward; afterwards, when they were in the Holy Land, the palmers met St. John the Evangelist who bade them take the ring back to the Confessor; this they did, and it was kept at his shrine ever afterwards.

Another story is that this ring was sent by Mary, Queen of Scots, before her execution, to her son James (who became James VI of Scotland and James I of England). It was afterwards given on the scaffold by Charles I to Bishop Juxon for Charles II. It was among the relics of the last of the royal Stewarts, Cardinal York, and eventually bought by George IV. The present ring is formed of rubies, a sapphire and diamonds.

The magnificent Regalia of Scotland are kept in Edinburgh Castle; they were last used when Charles II was crowned at Scone, January 1st, 1661.


The British coronation robes, like those of all Western monarchs, follow the design of those worn by the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. They resemble the Imperial royal robes of Byzantium, the Eastern Empire. Charlemagne was crowned by Leo II in Rome, A.D. 799, and the robes that he is supposed to have worn on this occasion were the models for all subsequent Imperial vestments. Charlemagne, however, never wore the gorgeous Imperial garments with which he is depicted in so many pictures and statues. He wore but a simple mantle and tunic. When his tomb in Aix-la-Chapelle was opened in 1165, Charlemagne was found, the story goes, seated on a throne, wearing the Imperial robes, with the Bible on his knee; and the details of his attire were carefully noted and copied.

The royal robes of England were varied in colour and detail by different sovereigns and according to the fashions of various periods, but the main garments have remained traditional, these are:

The Dalmatica, a knee-length undergarment with long sleeves, usually violet coloured and embroidered with gems. The name is from Dalmatia, where this garment was supposed to have originated.

The Alba, named from its white colour; a silk surplice with pointed sleeves, worn over the Dalmatica and tied with gold cords at the neck.

The Stola, a strip of violet silk studded with gems, with tasselled ends, worn round the neck and crossed over the breast. No special meaning—from a Greek word—to equip.

The Pallium or mantle. Cut like a cape, the half of a circle of velvet lined with silk or fur, with a clasp at the neck and jewel braidings. The ancient imperial way of wearing this garment, that reached to the feet, was with one straight edge on the left shoulder, then placed round the neck and pinned on the right shoulder. The imperial vestments included gloves knitted in purple silk with precious stones, stockings of red silk, purple shoes or sandals, and two elaborate girdles of silk and gold. The Saxon Kings used purple colour for their coronation robes; that of Henry III was of "the best purple samite, embroidered with three little leopards in front and three behind." When the tomb of Edward I in Westminster Abbey was opened in 1774, the King was found wearing his royal robes of traditional form, dalmatic, tunic and stole; these were of red silk damask.

The tunic is the shirt; tunica means undergarment.

The picture of the child King Richard II in the Liber Regalis shows his robe as gold with pink and blue flowers; in the contemporary account of the crowning of Henry VII, minever fur and ermine are mentioned as lining the purple velvet robes of State. Minever is little vair, from old French vairé, mingled azure and silver, an heraldic term meaning varied; the reference is probably to the bloom on sable; but there seems no certainty as to what kind of fur is meant by vair or minever, and it may have been ermine and sable; ermine is now generally used in place of minever.

Mary and Elizabeth wore crimson and purple mantles with ermine and minever. A completely new set of regal vestments was made for Charles II; those sold by the Commonwealth were valued at £4 1Os. 6d.; it seems probable that the more valuable portion of the royal wardrobe had been sold by Charles I.


William IV in His Coronation Robes, 1831


This was made to the order of Edward I, to accommodate the "holy stone" beneath the seat; the stone was an offering from the King at the shrine of Edward the Confessor; the chair is of wood and cost, with the lions and step, about eight pounds; on the occasion of coronations it is covered with brocade or damask; the present lions are modern. The famous Stone of Scone, the "stone of destiny," the focus of so many legends is of red sandstone, probably from a Dundee quarry.

All the sovereigns of Great Britain since Edward I have been consecrated on this chair, save Mary I, who had, according to tradition, a chair especially blessed sent from Rome.


This used to be a very popular feature of the coronation festivities; it proceeded from the Tower, the royal residence, to the Abbey, then back again. It was discontinued by James II and never revived; but George IV robed in Westminster Hall and there was a short procession to the Abbey.

The earlier processions, notably that of Richard II, were costly and elaborate pageants; the streets being sumptuously decorated and crowded with spectators. From early times it has been customary to erect stands along the royal route and to charge for seats thereon; the prices varied from about one farthing for Edward I to thirty shillings for Queen Victoria.


This usually took place in Westminster Hall and was a very magnificent affair; the sheriffs of the different counties used to contribute meat and fowls to the feast. The entry of the Champion was the great feature of the banquet, the fare was costly and varied, served on gold plate. For the banquet of Henry VI, the ingenious cook prepared a red soup with white lions in it, a gold leopard in a custard, chickens "powdered with gilt lozenges," "fritters like the sun," and a haunch of venison inscribed Te Deum Laudamus.

When the Court had retired, the people were allowed in to "scramble" for the remnants of the food; after the banquet of George IV, the crowd broke in too soon, and "scrambled away" the gold plate that the lackeys had not had time to remove; some of this was not recovered in the unseemly fight that followed. This was the last of the public banquets.


The coronation of Richard II is the first occasion on which there is a detailed record of the Court of Claims that sits to decide the merits of the claims to perform some service at the coronation, in return for honours or rewards.


This consists of three Kings-of-Arms—Garter, Clarencieux and Norroy; of six Heralds—Windsor, Chester, Lancaster, Somerset, York and Richmond; and four Pursuivants—Rouge Croix, Rouge Dragon, Blue Mantle and Portcullis.

The head of the College of Arms is the Earl Marshal of England. This office is hereditary in the family of the Duke of Norfolk; part of the duties of the College of Arms is the direction of royal ceremonials and pageants, so that the arrangements for the coronation come directly under the jurisdiction of the Earl Marshal. The gorgeous attire of the Kings-of-Arms is a notable feature of the coronation; they have crowns of gold oak-leaves set upright over caps of crimson satin, a tabard of the royal arms embroidered on velvet and collars of S.S. with two portcullises of silver gilt as badges of office. Garter Principal King-of-Arms, who is the Chief, has a crimson satin mantle and a white rod of office; he serves especially the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

The other Kings-of-Arms are allotted to different parts of England: Clarencieux (named after the Duke of Clarence) to the south of the Trent, and Norroy (North Roy—North King) to the north of the Trent.

For Scotland there is Lyon King-of-Arms; for Ireland, Ulster King-of-Arms; for Wales, Bath King-of-Arms.

The College of Arms received their Charter from Richard III.

The formal solemnity of a coronation is the occasion above all others when the impressive and symbolic pomp of ancient heraldry is seen to greatest advantage; and immense labour occupying months of careful work devolves on the Earl Marshal and the College of Arms in the preparation of this gorgeous pageant, which must be perfect in every detail and worthy of the gathering together of a commonwealth of nations.


For a Duke, eight gold strawberry leaves.

A Marquess, four gold strawberry leaves, four balls alternately.

An Earl, eight silver balls, raised on points, gold strawberry leaves between the points.

A Viscount, sixteen silver balls.

A Baron, six silver balls.

They are worn round crimson velvet caps turned up with ermine.


The robes are of crimson velvet; the mantle has a cape, lined minever and "powdered" with ermine; four rows for a Duke, three and a half rows for a Marquess, three rows for an Earl, two and a half rows for a Viscount, two rows for a Baron.


The Oath is an integral part of the coronation ceremony; the Anglo-Saxons regarded it as a compact between King and people, and it still retains that meaning.

St. Dunstan administered an oath to Ethelred at Kingston in 978.

The present coronation oath dates from the accession of William and Mary, 1689, and has been but little altered since; it is too long to be quoted here; the sum of it is the sovereign's undertaking to maintain the laws and "the Protestant Reformed Religion." The oath is written on vellum, attached to a roll on which are described particulars of the coronation ceremony and deposited among the Records in the Court of Chancery. This collection of rolls, with the exception of those of Charles I and George III, is complete from James I.


The coronation robes are arranged for convenience during the anointing. When this is done the Chrism—oil mixed with balm—is consecrated by a bishop. It is then poured from the ampulla into the spoon, then placed on the sovereign's head, breast and arms. Since the oil was supposed to be of divine origin this was considered the most important part of the ceremony; "the Lord's anointed" was the most sacred title that could be given the King. The Chrism gave the gift of healing and touched the kingship with divinity.

The English anointing ceremonial follows those of ancient times; all sovereigns were anointed; the pouring of "a vial of oil" on the King's head is mentioned in the Bible, and the Hebrews are thought to have derived the custom from Egypt.


MANY of the British coronations are associated with extraordinary or romantic incidents quite apart from the intrinsic splendour of the pageantry and the momentous solemnity of the ceremonial; the following are a few of the most dramatic and interesting.

When St. Dunstan crowned Ethelred II, he said: "If you have obtained the Kingdom through the death of your brother the sword shall not depart from your House till it has cut it off, and the Crown shall pass to one of another race and language."

Ethelred had obtained the crown by the murder of his brother Edward, and the prophecy was, like most old prophecies, fulfilled—in the establishment first of the Danish and then of the Norman Kings. Edward the Confessor was crowned at Winchester, Harold, crowned 1066 in St. Paul's, it is supposed, was slain October 14th of the same year.

The Archbishops were preparing for the coronation of Edgar the Atheling when they heard that William the Norman was advancing on London, and believing the cause of the English to be hopeless they made their submission to the Conqueror, whom, with deputies from London, they hastened to meet.

The Conqueror chose Christmas Day for his crowning; there were sounds of popular discontent from without the newly built church of St. Peter or Abbey of Westminster; the Norman soldiery seized the opportunity to lay wait to plunder the neighbouring houses, and the King himself rushed out with his drawn sword in his hand.

The most hurried of coronations was that of Henry I, who rode post haste to London after finding his brother William Rufus murdered in the New Forest in order to outdo Robert, the rightful heir, then in Normandy. This bold move was successful; the elder brother was never able to make headway against the anointed King.

A splendid coronation that took place in dramatic circumstances was that of Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, in Winchester Cathedral in 1141, after her rival, Stephen, had been made prisoner, and in the midst of civil war. Matilda was de jure, at least, an Empress as well as Queen of England. Lady of England and Normandy the Council at Winchester termed her, and she had been crowned at Mainz with her husband Henry V; this Matilda was the third of her name—spelt also Maud, Mold, Asliz and Aethelic—to be Queen of England.

The gentle Consort of the Conqueror was crowned with him at Westminster (he had been already crowned, but chose to share his elevation), and so was the first wife of Henry I, that Scottish Princess, grand-daughter of Edmund Ironside, who brought the ancient royal British blood to mingle with that of the Normans. Some historians think that the first crowning of a queen consort with her husband was that of Eleanor, wife of Henry I, 1134. Henry II had his son, Prince Henry, twice crowned as King; first at Westminster, 1170, then at Winchester, 1172, during his own lifetime in order to secure the succession.

Henry II, we are told, was consecrated "several times," though by its nature this sacring can only take place once; he appeared at his crowning in the Angevin mantle that gave him the name of "short mantle."

Richard I was crowned at Westminster, 1189, and again at Winchester on his return from captivity, in order to efface the stain of imprisonment.

The unfortunate John was crowned on Ascension Day, 1199, and refused to communicate—an ill omen amply fulfilled. He was not the rightful heir and seems to have considered himself an elected sovereign. His son Henry III, after a hasty crowning at Gloucester, 1216, was enthroned again in Westminster, 1220.

A year elapsed between the accession of Edward I and his coronation; at the time of his father's death he was in the Holy Land on a Crusade. This Edward was termed "the first King of the English," as not since the Conquest had the sovereign authority of the King been recognised throughout the realm. This gorgeous ceremonial, of which there are detailed records, was carried out with extraordinary pomp on 19th August, 1274. The young King was a magnificent soldier, a fine statesman, an attractive personality and extremely popular; he was crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury together with his Queen, Eleanor, a good and beautiful woman. There was a glittering gathering of all the great men of the realm, including the King's two brothers-in-law, Alexander, King of Scotland, and John, Duke of Brittany.

The festivities continued for a fortnight and the feast was of a magnificence that was spoken of for years afterwards; some of the provisions ordered included 380 head of cattle, 430 sheep, 450 pigs, 18 wild boars, 279 flitches of bacon and nearly 20,000 fowls. Temporary wooden buildings were erected round the fields of Westminster for the accommodation of the guests; the narrow, crooked, winding streets of London were hung with tapestries that dangled from balconies and windows. Conduits flowed with wine; those who could afford to do so threw handfuls of silver to the common people.

A touch of magnificence that was much admired was that, when the King was seated on his throne, King Alexander of Scotland came to do him homage with a hundred mounted knights—"and when they had alighted off their horses, they let the horses go whither they would; they that could catch them had them for their own." Edmund, the King's brother, the Earl of Gloucester, the Earl of Pembroke and the Earl of Warrenne, each with a hundred knights in attendance, also let their horses go, and allowed the steeds to run loose for the spectators to catch.

This was the beginning of King Edward's active and splendid reign. Diplomacy as well as a love of display was behind these opulent shows; nothing put the people in such a good humour as these parades and this bountiful largess. They were often allowed to enter the halls after the King and his peers had risen from the banquet and "scramble away" the remnants of the food. Moreover, it was wise, in the days before the invention of printing or when it was difficult to spread abroad "news," to let as many people as possible see an historic event.

An example of this was the dramatic abdication of Richard II and the crowning of Henry IV, 1399. Henry Bolingbroke was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the throne then raised in Westminster Hall and covered with cloth of gold. Richard II stepped down from it after his resignation was read out, so that the representatives of the people could actually see the King leave the throne. Henry IV was crowned in Westminster Abbey shortly after.

Henry V was twice crowned, as King of England 1413, and as King of France; his son was also crowned twice as a child, at Westminster and at Notre Dame, Paris.

Edward IV, 1461, was anointed with traditional splendour; and the superb coronation of Richard III, of which a full account is extant, was remarkable for its extreme magnificence, and the King and Queen walked barefooted to the shrine of St. Edward.

Henry VII was first crowned on the battlefield with the circlet found in the baggage of Richard III, or, according to tradition, taken from the boughs of a thorn bush, where it was supposed to be hanging. Richard would obviously not have worn the royal crown into battle, but some coronet from his helm may have been used. Henry Tudor was crowned by Cardinal Bourchier who had performed this service for two other kings, 1485.

The coronation of Henry VIII was an extremely splendid affair and filled everyone with delirious joy and excitement after the long economies and drab dullness of his father's useful, but austere rule. Henry VIII's reign saw the crowning of two Queens—four of his wives were never crowned.

Catherine of Aragon shared her husband's splendid coronation of "boundless expenditure," and that of Anne Boleyn was emotionally, sentimentally and politically so important that it attracted a great deal of attention.

Anne Boleyn was not popular, first, because she was an upstart who had displaced a respected Queen, secondly, because she was believed to be a wanton woman who had been the King's mistress for several years; but the splendour of her crowning attracted unwilling admiration.

Immense sums were spent on the glorification of this daughter of a country squire; the tissue hangings of the Abbey were of pure gold, and the Queen was drawn in a gold-hung litter wearing the crown jewels scattered in her dark locks—"sitting in her hair" a contemporary describes her. The fascinating Anne was not accounted beautiful, but she had magnificent black eyes and tresses. Three years after her crowning Anne perished by the sword of the French executioner especially sent to London to behead a Queen.


At the coronation of Edward VI the service was shortened in consideration for a delicate child of ten years of age; Richard II, crowned at about the same age, fainted from fatigue; the Kings had to fast in preparation for Holy Communion. For the first time at the installation of Edward VI a Bible was presented to the Sovereign.


Mary I restored, with anxious care, all the details of the ancient ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. Queen Mary was crowned by Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, as Cranmer, the Archbishop, was a prisoner in the Tower. Magnificent shows and pageantry celebrated the elevation of this Queen whose reign was to be so short, sad and sombre both for herself and for her subjects; she was the first of the two Queens regnant who were crowned as unmarried women and the first woman crowned in her own right since Matilda.

The City of London excelled itself in loyal demonstrations on this occasion, among which was the following curious display. A Dutchman named Peter stood on the weathercock of St. Paul's Cathedral holding a streamer five yards in length and waving it; he sometimes stood on one foot and shook the other, and then kneeled down. The spectators highly appreciated this extraordinary show. The Dutchman had two scaffolds beneath him, "one above the Cross having torches and streamers on it, and one on the ball of the Cross, likewise set with streamers and torches, which could not burn, the wind was so great." For this valiant and ingenious display the Dutchman received from the City of London £16 13s., given him, as Holinshed says: "for his care and pains and all his stuff."


The coronation of Queen Elizabeth, 1559, was not as splendid as some of the other shows that she had during her long and sumptuous reign, but it was remarkable for the effusion of affection and loyalty shown by the people. The date, January 15th, was chosen for her by her astrologer, Dr. Dee. The Archbishop of Canterbury refused to officiate and the Bishop of Carlisle crowned the Queen, the streets were gravelled and laid with "blue cloth" for the procession.


Elizabeth, Queen of England,
In the superb dress in which she went to St. Paul's


The crowning of James, first of the House of Stewart to reign over the United Kingdom, was intended to be especially gorgeous and large sums were spent on preparing the pageantry, but the plague broke out and therefore the people were forbidden to come to Westminster; despite these precautions hundreds died during the week of the festivities.


Whenever a King's reign has been unfortunate it has been discovered afterwards that there were gloomy portents at his crowning. Thus in the case of Charles I it was remembered afterwards that, contrary to precedent, the King was robed in white during the ceremony in the Abbey. When a few faithful servitors took his headless body to the vault at Windsor a heavy snowstorm covered the modest coffin with a white pall, so that the wise men remarked that "in white the unhappy King had come to his throne and in white he left it."

Charles I was termed "the White King" or "dead man" during the Civil War; white was considered unlucky for England; it was a white garment that victims, prepared for sacrifice, wore in early Britain, and for this and other obscure reasons white was avoided. The reason given for the King's unlucky choice is curious; it is said that there was not enough crimson or violet velvet in London for the robes, nor time to send to Genoa for a supply of this costly material; and so in face of tradition and popular feeling, white stuff, of which there was a plentiful supply, was employed. Another account is that Charles had a personal wish to wear white; the effect with the jewels, crimson shirt and golden crown, must have been magnificent. Charles I was crowned again at Scone, as King of Scotland; his Roman Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria, refused to take part in either ceremony—at both of which "many ill omens were observed."


Charles II had an uneasy coronation at Scone in 1651; after nine years of exile he was crowned at Westminster.

A touch of unearthly pomp was given to this coronation by a thunderstorm breaking over Westminster, so that, as Audley remarked, "the cannons and the thunder played together."


The coronation of James II was the first to omit the procession from the Tower. The King was not popular, and the Londoners, missing their familiar treat, grumbled loudly. Nor did this coronation lack its ill-omens; the story went that the crown slipped off the King's head immediately after it had been placed there.


The next coronation was unique in ceremonial and dramatic in circumstances. Two thrones and other Regalia had to be provided, as Mary, daughter of James II, was a Queen regnant, not a Queen consort, and held equal rights with her husband, William III.

There was much that was unfortunate in this double coronation. The day, 11th of April, was Ash Wednesday, which gave offence to many purists; Sancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, refused to officiate, and in his stead was chosen Mary's own Governor, Compton, Bishop of London. It was he who drew up a revised and modified form of the old coronation service that has been used ever since. In this form Compton changed the words, the undoubted King of the realm, for the rightful inheritor of the crown of this realm. The words in which the Coronation Oath were administered were on this occasion debated long in the House of Commons; here the oath "to maintain the Protestant form of religion as established by law" was introduced; so was the ceremony of the presentation of the Bible as an emblem of the Protestant religion.

The time of their coronation was one of the greatest vexations and difficulties for the new sovereigns—Mary especially was in an agitated, emotional state, torn between her loyalty and intense love for her husband and her distress at occupying her father's throne. Her consenting to her coronation had indeed caused the greatest indignation to James, who wrote to her two days before the ceremony saying he had been willing to make excuses for her considering that her obedience to her husband and compliance to the nation might account for her conduct, but that her crowning was in her own power, and if she did it while he and the Prince of Wales were living, "the curses of an angry father would fall on her as well as of a God who commanded obedience to parents."

News had recently come through that James II had landed in Ireland, and this in itself added to the Queen's terrible agitation. Her sister Anne refused to appear at the ceremony, being tortured by "pangs of conscience" as she declared; but her action was more likely inspired by spite.


William III
From the painting by Sir Peter Lely


Mary II
From the painting by William Wissing (1685)

Mary, who was intensely religious, objected to the noise, excitement, gaiety and pageantry of the coronation ceremony and composed a prayer for her own use on this occasion. She did not wish to receive the Sacrament at the same time as the crown; she argued that there was so much pomp and vanity in all the ceremonies that little time was left for devotion.

The King and Queen went separately to this remarkable function. William, soon after ten in the morning, travelled by barge from Whitehall to Westminster Hall; Mary started three-quarters of an hour later in a sedan chair. When they were seated in Westminster Hall they were presented by the Keeper of the Crown Jewels with the Sword of State. There was some delay because the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl Marshal, had forgotten to summon the Dean and Chapter. When this difficulty was got over a procession started at one o'clock towards the Abbey; there were further delays and it was not until four o'clock that the King and Queen, having performed their private devotions, were ready for the ceremony of the coronation to begin.

When the moment came for William to make the customary offering of the pound of gold, the value of a roll of silk, it was found that his purse had either been stolen on the way to the Abbey, which seemed unlikely, or he had forgotten it, and Lord Danby had to lend His Majesty twenty guineas. Gilbert Burnet preached a fanatical sermon, which lasted half an hour. When the long ritual was at length over the Treasurer threw about coronation medals, "for which everyone scrambled." The ceremony concluded with Holy Communion; then the King and Queen, again clad in the purple velvet and ermine robes in which they had set out, returned to Westminster Hall where a great dinner was held with much pomp.

Here was another odd incident—the Earl Marshal, preceding the entrance of the first dishes with much parade, fell from his frightened horse. During the second course of the banquet Sir Charles Dymoke, the Royal Champion, entered on horseback and offered the challenge. Lady Russell commented that this coronation was "much finer and in better order than the last; though the numbers of ladies and attendants were fewer, they looked more cheerful than they had done when attending on Mary of Modena." John Evelyn noted that "the feast was magnificent."

There was, however, an undignified quarrel between the Barons of the Cinque Ports and the Bishops as to the places they should have at the table. The Commons had two feasts and each of them received a gold coronation medal worth five-and-forty shillings. In the evening there was a Court at Whitehall; Lady Cavendish went to this Court to kiss the hands of the King and Queen: "There was a world of bonfires, and candles almost in every house, which looked extremely pretty." This lady noted the beauty of the Queen: "She was really altogether very handsome; her face is very agreeable and her shape and motions extremely graceful and fine. She is tall, but not so fine as the last Queen. Her room was mighty full of company, as you guess."


Anne was the only married woman to be crowned by herself as Queen regnant. Her elevation was more of a triumph for the Marlboroughs than it was for Anne Stewart, who, ill, weak-minded and tortured by conscience, would without much persuasion have resigned her Crown to her brother, Prince James.


A strong element of doubt and suspicion clouded the coronation of George I. It was known that the Jacobites were raising a rebellion, and it was "touch and go" whether George Louis would be able to hold a Throne he did not want in a country where he was disliked.

There was much suspicion, ill-will and doubt among the people who went to see the Elector of Hanover crowned; only the common sense of the British middle-class and the financial interests of the City saved George his Crown. An added gloom to this ceremony was the fact that the King had no Queen, his divorced wife, Sophia Dorothea of Zell, then termed Duchess of Ahlden, being a prisoner in Germany. She never came to England, but her sad story was well-known among her former husband's new subjects and not considered to his credit since he was believed to have ordered the murder of Philip von Koenigsmark, Sophia Dorothea's lover.


The coronation of George III, who was young, handsome and considered "a true-born Englishman," was a very popular event and the occasion of much rejoicing. Allan Ramsay's coronation portrait of this King is very attractive; the Regalia were sent to the painter's studio for this picture. The coronation took place after the wedding of the young sovereign with the Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The Queen was plain, but of impeccable behaviour, and, at first, popular; she scrupulously wore clothes and ornaments of British manufacture, but she tried to alter some of the English fashions and appeared at her coronation with her hair dressed low; this caused much comment, but "the ladies of Great Britain continued to wear a high 'topee.'"


George IV took immense personal pains to ensure the accuracy and splendour of his coronation, but this was marred by the attempt of his repudiated Queen to enter the Abbey, by the weight of the crown and by the disorders at the banquet.


The Coronation of King George the Fourth, 1821


The coronation of William IV was modest, a mere pageant, somewhat meanly devised.


That of Queen Victoria was remarkable for the display of popular enthusiasm and loyalty and for the richness and variety of the carefully arranged spectacle.

In 1877 Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India, therefore King Edward VII was the first King Emperor; George V was solemnly inaugurated into the Imperial dignity at a superb coronation Durbar held at Delhi in 1911.

Among the many remarkable incidents told of foreign coronations was that which occurred at the coronation of Marie de' Medici, when the repudiated wife of the King was present together with his Queen. Henry had been divorced from Marguerite de Valois, daughter of Catherine de' Medici, who, though recognised as Queen of Navarre, had never been crowned as Queen of France, and she consented to be present at the coronation of his second wife Marie de' Medici, which took place with gorgeous pomp. Marguerite was one of the most beautiful, witty and accomplished Princesses of her age; she took her place at this ceremony behind the King's sister. Her exquisite, wistful face looking over her shoulder at the spectators can be seen in the huge canvas in the Luxembourg, painted by Rubens to celebrate this sumptuous coronation. It was also remarkable for new fashions it introduced into France.

The young Italian Queen wore the Tuscan style—the Medici collar of lace supported with wire which rose behind the neck to the height of nearly twelve inches; even the luxurious Parisians were astonished at the magnificence displayed on this occasion—precious tissues, cloths of gold and silver, velvet and ermine, were the materials of which the dresses of the ladies who waited on the young Queen were composed.

The bold and warlike Henry of Navarre had always been himself most luxurious in his dress; for public occasions he had a superb suit of cloth of gold embroidered or almost totally covered with pearls which cost three hundred thousand crowns; it was considered then that fifty pounds' weight of pearls was necessary to cover a man's dress. At his wedding with Marie de' Medici, Henry wore white satin embroidered with silk and gold, a black cape and the little Italian toque that he had introduced into France out of compliment to his new wife. The King's mistress, Gabrielle d'Estrées, whom he would like to have seen crowned, boasted a dress equal in splendour to that displayed by the Queen when she attended the ceremony of a christening; it is said that the fair Gabrielle was so loaded with diamonds and pearls that she was scarcely able to stand and that she had a handkerchief valued at nine hundred and fifty gold crowns, ready money. Henry's dress at the coronation of his second Queen was of grey velvet shot with gold; he wore a grey taffeta hat and a white ostrich feather.


One of the most dramatic of coronations was that of a dead woman, Inez de Castro, who was descended from the royal line of Castile and who married Pedro, son of Afonso IV, King of Portugal; she was murdered by order of her father-in-law at the Convent of St. Clara in Coimbra where she had taken refuge with her children. When, seven years later, her husband came to the throne, he not only executed all her murderers, but had her body disinterred from her modest tomb, exhibited in public the papal documents that gave consent to his marriage, and had the full coronation ceremonial gone through with his dead wife on a throne, with the diadem on her head and the royal robes wrapped round her; the nobility were required to kiss the hem of her garment. This dead Queen's coronation and funeral procession were one; she was carried with the greatest pomp and ceremony to Alcobaça, where a monument of white marble was erected, on which was placed her statue with the royal crown on her head.


A country girl, Martha, widow of a Swedish foot soldier, was secretly married for many years to Peter the Great. But the year before his death he announced that Catherine (as she became on being received into the Greek Church) was his wife, and he crowned her with his own hands. On his death she became Empress of All the Russias. She ruled with great judgment and humanity until her death at the age of thirty-eight years.


The next coronation of an Empress of All the Russias was that of Catherine II, Sophia, daughter of the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst. It took place under very different circumstances and after two murders, that of the Empress's husband and that of Ivan, the rightful heir to the throne.


The Tomb of Dom Pedro at Alcobaça


The Tomb of Dona Inez at Alcobaça

"None but fools are irresolute," said Catherine, and her coronation ceremony was of emphatic pomp and magnificence and adorned by that blaze of Eastern splendour that the Greek Church had inherited from Byzantinism; the Russian ceremonies, for sheer opulence and pomp, outshone any Western splendour.


Amid the glittering magnificence of the coronation of Peter the Second and that of the Empress Anne, a sad and curious personality was conspicuous, the Empress Eudocia, first wife of Peter I and mother of the wretched Alexis. Eudocia had been chosen from among a hundred fair daughters of the aristocracy as a bride for the young Czar, but after a few years she was divorced and compelled to enter a convent that she afterwards exchanged for a cell in the fortress of Schlüsselburg; from this gloomy prison she emerged to see her grandson crowned.

Few more melancholy living reminders of "the pomps and vanities of this wicked world" can ever have been present at a coronation than this Empress who had spent all her youth and prime in dismal seclusion or amid the rigours of a prison.

On a day in mid-June, 1837, a fair young girl appeared on a balcony overlooking the courtyard of St. James's Palace, London. She wore a black silk dress, a crape scarf over a white tippet and a small black chip bonnet, and as she listened to the shouts of the people she wept into her small cambric handkerchief; this childish figure was Princess Alexandria Victoria and the occasion was that of her Proclamation as "Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and all its Dependencies."

The coronation of the great Queen was unique in many respects, in the sex and youth of the Sovereign, in the great spontaneous outbursts of loyalty towards the throne—when the applauding people, in Lord Brougham's phrase, "took counsel with hope rather than experience"—and the unusual pomp of the ceremonial which concluded "with a gorgeous cavalcade from Buckingham Palace, up Constitution Hill, along Piccadilly and Pall Mall to Westminster," where many thousands of Londoners had the opportunity of seeing the young Queen, who went through the long strain of the fatiguing ceremony with a touching dignity and sincerity, thus happily inaugurating one of the longest, most remarkable reigns in any history.


THERE was always a great eagerness shown in the crowning of a child or an infant as King or Queen in order to secure his or her rights, for it was early recognised that the awe in which a Sovereign was held and the loyalty with which he was regarded largely depended on whether or not the coronation ceremony had been performed. It was much easier to raise a rebellion against a Pretender than against a crowned King. For this reason even the youngest infants, instead of waiting until they were of an age to understand the obligations they were assuming and the responsibilities they were accepting, were admitted to the elaborate ceremonial of the coronation which made them the chosen leader of their people and God's Vice-gerent on earth.

The first boy King of England, 978, was crowned under gloomy circumstances. Elfreda had caused the rightful heir, Edward, to be stabbed to death at Corfe Castle, that her own son Ethelred II, might be King. When St. Dunstan placed the crown on the boy's forehead he uttered over it: "Innocent head"—before he added the curse, that owing to his mother's crime the boy's crown should pass to one of another race and language.

The coronation of the next boy King of England, Henry III, was also sombre and troubled; he was crowned when nine years old, a delicate shrinking child with a curious paralysis in one eyelid which caused it to droop heavily. This lad was one of our few Kings who were not crowned at Westminster—London was then in the hands of the Barons and the child's coronation took place at Gloucester. The royal diadem was also in the capital and the Bishop of Gloucester obtained a plain gold hoop, probably off the helmet of some noble knight, that was hastily beaten into a small size for the child's head.

Edward VI was nine years old when crowned, a delicate, precocious boy reputed to be a finished Greek, Latin and French scholar, a lutanist and amateur astronomer. A Princess to whom for a short time Edward VI was betrothed, Mary, Queen of Scotland, was crowned as an infant of a year old; she had been proclaimed soon after her birth, for her father had died of a broken heart it was said soon after the defeat of the Scots by the English at Solway Moss. The royal child was held by Cardinal Beaton during the ceremony, and the crown was passed over her head. Mary was crowned Queen of France at Rheims in 1559; all the ladies were in mourning for Henry II, save herself.

The crown was held over the Sovereign's head at the crowning of Mary's son, James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. He was later crowned at Stirling as an infant of a year old during his mother's lifetime as a result of her forced abdication of the throne. Here we have an instance of the importance attached to the ceremony of a coronation; as soon as the Scots Lords had obtained Mary's signature to the act of abdication, they had her young son crowned—he was thereafter regarded by the majority of the nation as the rightful King of Scotland.

James had the unusual experience of being crowned twice, as an infant at Stirling and as a middle-aged man crowned in Westminster Abbey as King of England.

The unhappy Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV, and her supporters attached immense importance to the ceremonial of the coronation; it was felt that the King's wife was not to be considered rightfully Queen until she had been crowned. This good-natured, but indiscreet and reckless Princess, had been most unhappily married; her life was one long recital of misfortune. Deserted by her husband after the birth of her child, Princess Charlotte Augusta, in 1796, the Princess of Wales as she was then—retired into private life and lived at Shooter's Hill and Blackheath. When her husband became Regent in 1811, she was denied access to her child and given no status in the country.

Finally, as a means of getting rid of her, she was allowed to travel abroad, and left England in 1813. When she heard of the death of her father-in-law, George III, and of her husband's accession, and that her name had been omitted from the State papers, she decided to come home and claim her right as Queen of Great Britain. An offer of a handsome settlement was sent her on condition of her living abroad and not claiming the title of Queen. She continued on her way, however, rejecting this proposal, and entered London in June, 1820.

The Queen and her cause were very popular with the people. She was adopted by the Reform Party; and William Cobbett became her personal friend and wrote the letters that she sent to the King in her name, but that were, however, returned unanswered. A Bill was promoted in the Lords for divorcing her, but abandoned from fear of a revolution after a most scandalous exposure of the King's and Queen's private lives. It is really amazing that the dignity of the Crown survived this ordeal and says much for the respect with which George III had been able to inspire his subjects that they tolerated such conduct on the part of his son and daughter-in-law.

The wretched Queen's position remained miserably ambiguous. She was denied a palace and any semblance of state; but, about a year after her arrival in England, urged on by enthusiastic and wrong-headed supporters, she decided to force her way into the Abbey on the coronation day, July 29th, 1821. Without state or pageantry, but with a noisy band of supporters, who were joined by most of the London mob as she proceeded on her way, Queen Caroline endeavoured to enter the Abbey, and while the solemn ceremonial of placing the crown of Great Britain on her husband's head was taking place within, the Queen's party was battering upon the hastily shut doors while the mob were throwing stones at the windows and fighting the soldiery.


Queen Caroline of Brunswick
From the painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Repulsed from the doors of the Abbey and having obtained nothing by her desperate effort, but further loss of dignity and another scandal to the crown, the Queen and her motley procession turned and tried to enter Westminster Hall during the banquet. This festival, the last of its kind ever held, was interrupted by the fierce street fighting outside. At last the Queen retired, repulsed and exhausted. It is possible that, the state of the country being as it was, the question of Queen Caroline might have been a match to the tinder and have caused a revolution had she not died heart-broken, the same year as that which saw her humiliation before Westminster Abbey. She was a woman of nearly sixty years of age who had long been in doubtful health and had endured a series of almost unexampled misfortunes and humiliations. She had shown little pride or dignity during her life, but directed that "Queen of England" should be placed on her tomb. When told she was dying, she uttered her own bitter epitaph: "It does not matter."

One of the most dramatic coronations on record was that of Charles VII of France at Rheims. The tremendous importance attached to the coronation ceremony in France is shown by the fact that it was Joan of Arc's divine mission to see the King "crowned," that is, consecrated and anointed in Rheims Cathedral. The Saints whom Joan saw in her vision gave her the direct command to relieve the city of Orleans and to crown the Dauphin; after she had, in a manner that seemed both to her countrymen and to the English miraculous, accomplished the first part of her mission and relieved Orleans, "the sorceress", as the English termed her, hastened to Tours where Charles the Dauphin was then in residence and urged him at once "to go to Rheims to be crowned."

Charles hesitated and urged Joan first to reduce the fort of Patay that the English held under Talbot; this she did, and gained a victory in which the English general was taken prisoner and upwards of two thousand English killed.

Again Joan urged the King to be crowned; only in this way did she believe that he would become the symbol of the nation and of the Divine wish that France should be liberated from the enemy, and only by the actual crowning of the King could she fulfil the commands divinely laid upon her. Charles was sluggish, incredulous, fearful; but his counsellors and soldiers, inspired to enthusiasm by the successes of the Maid, the fire and wonder of her presence, persuaded the Dauphin to follow Joan's advice.

With her weak and starveling army the Maid attacked Troyes, which fell, and only three months after her appearance at the Court of Charles she stood beside the altar in the ancient Cathedral on the spot consecrated to the sacred anointing of the Kings of France. This ceremony accomplished, to which she attached much importance, Joan wished to return to her sheep-keeping, but was tragically dissuaded.

Joan thus fulfilled the prophecy that "France lost by a woman (Isabel of Bavaria) should be saved by a virgin from the frontiers of Lorraine." This coronation must have been the most remarkable ever to take place in the old city of Rheims.

St. Joan knelt before the King and exclaimed: "Sweet King, now is consummated the good pleasure of God, who willed you should come to Rheims to receive your worthy coronation, thereby to show that you are truly King."

Jean Fouquet's portrait of Charles VII, the hero of this remarkable scene, shows him to have been one of the plainest of a plain family, but he had some kingly qualities and was the father of a great man, Louis XI, who did for France what St. Joan would have wished to see done.

This King also was triumphantly crowned at Rheims; the French monarchy was then at the beginning of its splendour and lustre and the sense of its "divinity" keenly felt; it had already endured the stress and tumult of hundreds of years, from the Merovingian and Carolingian Kings to the Capetians and the House of Valois.

A Burgundian chronicler, Georges Chastellain, has left an eye-witness's account of the crowning of Louis XI, one of the makers of modern France. This ceremony took place with traditional splendour; for once the King went gorgeously in crimson and white satin with a velvet bonnet to the Cathedral. After the anointing in the shape of a cross with the sacred oil, Louis was attired in a rose-coloured silk shirt, a habit of regal blue, then the azure robes sprinkled with the golden lilies. Philip the Good, of Burgundy, his arch enemy, as first peer of France crowned the King; when the diadem was placed on Louis' brows the silver trumpets sounded and the crowds shouted: "Vive le roy! Noël! Noël!"

The High Mass of coronation followed, then the banquet, for which the Duke of Burgundy lent the opulent gold and silver plate; Louis XI left Rheims the next day already resolved on the destruction of the dazzling Burgundian Prince who had held the crown over his own clever head.

A ghastly mock coronation was invented by the ingenuity of the cruel French Princess, Marguerite of Anjou, when she caused the Pretender to the throne, Richard, Duke of York, to be beheaded and then had his head crowned with paper and set on the rampart of his city, York, while her drunken soldiery did mock obeisance before the ghastly trophy. It is possible that Marguerite was not wholly responsible for this outrage, but was merely unable to restrain her brutal followers; but "la louve" seems to have been worthy of her name.

The head of the Yorkist Prince was afterwards sent to London still crowned in mockery with paper spikes, and offered to the jibes of the populace; neither the city of York nor the family of the Duke ever forgave this atrocious deed; it was probably responsible for much of the fury with which the war of the Roses was subsequently conducted. The mock coronation was more resented by the Yorkists than the murder of Rutland, the Duke's young son, or the slaughter of the prisoners after the battle.

During the war of the Austrian succession, the rival claimants made strenuous efforts to be crowned at Frankfort-on-the-Maine with the ancient ceremonial of the Emperors of the West; and the French did succeed in thus crowning their Pretender, the son of the Elector of Bavaria, a youth of eighteen; but though he received with full pomp all the insignia of Imperial rank he never reigned, never possessed a rood of land, is scarcely a name in history, and died soon after his coronation, obscure and neglected.

The successful claimant in this long and costly dispute was Maria Theresa, daughter of the Emperor Charles VI, usually acknowledged as the finest ruler that the House of Habsburg has produced; yet though her claim to rule alone was admitted by virtue of the Pragmatic Sanction, and guaranteed by all the powers of Europe save the Bourbons, she resigned her Imperial throne first to her husband, Francis of Lorraine, with whom she was deeply in love, then to her son, the Emperor Joseph, and both these Princes were crowned with full ceremonial at Frankfort-on-the-Maine; the glory of the Caesars was merely shared by the woman who might justly have claimed it entirely. The Empress remained, however, by sheer force of character the principal influence in the State, and this despite the cares of a large family—sixteen children in twenty years—and the most ambitious plans for the advancement of the House of Habsburg.

In amusing contrast to the almost fabulous splendours of the Imperial coronations was that of a very extraordinary personage, Theodore von Neuhof, King of Corsica. This adventurer was a Westphalian nobleman, an eighteenth century soldier of fortune and a friend of John Law, the Scottish financier; Von Neuhof made considerable sums out of the South Sea Bubble and Law's schemes for paper money.

Soon after this fraud was exploded Von Neuhof left Paris, and after wandering about Europe and engaging in several adventures, now obscure, arrived at Leghorn to hear that the isle of Corsica was endeavouring to throw off the rule of Genoa; Von Neuhof then determined to make a throw for sovereignty.

In common with some other bold spirits he got together money, arms and ammunition and sailed for Corsica with a suite of two officers, a secretary, a chaplain, a chamberlain, a head cook, three maids and four lackeys. He landed in Corsica ten cannon, above seven thousand guns, two thousand pairs of shoes, a large quantity of all sorts of stores, as well as sundry chests of gold and silver pieces.

The leaders of the Corsican rebellion received him warmly and conducted him at once to the Bishop's palace in Campo Loro, which was guarded by four hundred men and two cannon. Thus installed, Von Neuhof placed himself at the head of the Corsican rebellion and declared war against the Republic of Genoa. Soon afterwards, on April 15th, he was elected King of Corsica by a large popular "assembly" consisting of all ranks of Corsicans.

The coronation took place in an open field and consisted of a garland of leaves being placed on Theodore's peruke that was composed, according to an odd fashion of the time, of loops of grey velvet. For the rest His Majesty was dressed in a long scarlet wadded coat and carried a hat under his arm, a stick and a sword. Soon after this ceremony King Theodore organised his Court and his State and struck gold, silver and copper coinage which displayed on the obverse his bust and on the reverse a crown and three palm trees; there was a Latin legend, together with the arms of the Neuhof family.

Though for a while successful, Theodore was soon forced to fly Corsica and the rest of his life is a record of misery; he ended by reaching London in 1749, having been led by the British Government to expect some help from them to expel the French from Corsica. They, however, ignored the penniless adventurer and the manufacturers of arms and munitions to whom he owed money had him arrested for debt. It is said that the unfortunate King, in an attempt to compound with these creditors, received them in his Soho garret, enthroned on a broken chair placed on a bed beneath a ragged tester to give himself a semblance of royalty.

He passed several years in the utmost misery in the King's Bench prison; then several people took compassion on him and Garrick had a play performed for his benefit. But in 1755, when the Act of Parliament was passed by which all insolvent debtors were set at liberty, Neuhof was turned adrift to starve. He made an appeal in the public papers for charity and small sums were sent him, but when he died in 1756 he was buried by the Parish of St. Anne's, Soho. This unfortunate King was married to a daughter of Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, and his wife, Honor de Burgh, afterwards became Duchess of Berwick. It was at the Spanish Court that Theodore met his wife, who, however, did not share his odd coronation, for he had long before spent her fortune and forsaken her person.

The exiled Princes of the House of Stewart, son and grandsons of James II, were never crowned; and they owed much of the uncertainty of their position to this fact. Had Prince Charles Edward been King de jure instead of Prince of Wales de jure, in 1745-6, he would probably have been crowned while he was victorious in Scotland and thus added greatly to his prestige and authority.

"Uncrowned Queens" are numerous in history. The most powerful was probably Madame de Maintenon, the second wife of Louis XV, who exercised a vast influence over her husband. Mrs. Fitzherbert was married to George IV by Protestant rites that were recognised by her Church, that of Rome. Among "Queens of the Left Hand" may be mentioned the good and beautiful Agnes Sorel; the wicked and beautiful Barbara Palmer; Madame du Barry, the gambler's decoy who called Louis XIV "La France," and treated him as her lackey; and the Duchess of Portsmouth, agent of the Bourbons at the Court of Charles II. All these women had the magnificence and the influence of any wedded wife or crowned Queen; royal consorts were often a negligible quantity, scarcely noticed after the pomp of their coronations.

Among notable "pretenders" who were never crowned was Henry V of France known as the Comte de Chambord, who died in exile despite the heroic efforts of his mother, the Duchesse de Berri, to place him on the throne that was legitimately his; his rival, the little Duke of Orleans, was taken to the Senate during the revolution of 1849, Louis Philippe, his grandfather, having abdicated in his favour; the child, led by his widowed mother, was proclaimed by the senators as King of the French; at the same moment the mob broke in and amid shrieks of "Down with the Monarchy!" the chamber hastily emptied and the Duchess of Orleans and her son retreated forever into exile. This one minute's reign may be considered the shortest on record.

The last coronations to take place in France were those of the Prince-President Napoleon III as Emperor of the French, and that which shortly afterwards followed, the crowning of his beautiful wife, the Empress Eugenie; the two ceremonies were performed with ostentatious splendour, but largely ignored by the old nobility of France. Through the Dukes of Alba and Berwick, Eugenie de Montijos was descended from Arabella Churchill and James II; no more elegant and exquisite creature ever wore a crown. The city of Paris voted her as a coronation present six hundred thousand francs with which to buy a parure of diamonds, but the Empress devoted the money to "the education and maintenance of sixty working-class girls."

Among the curiosities connected with coronations may be mentioned the mourning coronation of Louis XIII who was installed at Rheims, 1610, after the murder of his father Henry IV. The child's royal robe was plain violet serge, he rode a white horse with purple trappings and all the Court wore black. Another oddity was the crowning of the Duke of Warwick as King of the Isle of Wight, an act performed by Henry VI with his own hand.

After the discovery of the Canaries, known then as the Fortunate Isles, in 1344, Don Luis, son of the King of Castile, was crowned as "King of the Fortunate Isles" by Pope Clement VII at Avignon; Luis never saw his kingdom and his title remained purely nominal.

Lambert Simnel was crowned in Dublin with due pomp with a diadem taken from a statue of the Virgin Mary; this impostor claimed to be the Yorkist heir, son of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, and he took the title of Edward VI; he was captured at Stoke-on-Trent, but pardoned by Henry VII and sent to work in the royal kitchens.

Another adventurer, Cola di Rienzi, was crowned with great pomp in 1347 at Rome, with seven crowns each of different design in precious metals to symbolise the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. Touches of comedy have not been wholly lacking at some coronations and there is humour in the tale of the faithful hound belonging to Frederic IV of Denmark, who, allowed into the church during the coronation, broke loose and tried to fell the Bishop who, so the beast thought, was trying to maltreat his master, "and stood ready to devour the Bishop at the first movement made to continue the ceremony."

Amusing too is the story of the Greek Emperor John Ducas Vataces, who, by careful attention to the Imperial farms was able to present his Empress with a crown of diamonds and pearls purchased with the profits made from selling eggs.


If we glance at the various places and cities connected with the solemnities of "the crowning of the King," we shall find ourselves travelling in imagination, even if we take Europe only, to widely scattered spots in widely different countries, each hallowed by long association with the aspirations to grandeur, the pride and power of different peoples.

The earliest Kings who had any pretensions to be considered Sovereigns of the entire island of Britain were crowned at Kingston-on-Thames upon a stone that, until lately, stood in the centre of the town.

It is known that Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, was crowned there as King of All Britain with great festival and solemnity in the year of Our Lord 925. Athelstan's proper title was King of the West Saxons and Mercians, but he boasted to be King of all the English. He was buried in Malmesbury Abbey, far from the resting-place of his long line of successors. This great King obtained the homage of the Welsh princes and broke the power of Scotland at the battle of Brunaburgh, so that it may be justly claimed that he was indeed, as he boasted, King of All Britain.

His famous grandfather, Alfred, to whom is due the germ of the idea of the unity of the Kingdom of Great Britain, was hallowed at Rome by Pope Leo IV in 853 as King of English or West Saxons; the little King being then five years old.

Within a hundred years of the crowning of Athelstan, the Church or Abbey of St. Peter was founded in Thorney Island also on the Thames and not many miles from Kingston, which must, from its name, have then been a small village that owed its entire fame to the crowning of the King taking place there.

Rude blocks of stone were usually employed by Celtic people for the elevation of their King; the legend being they were the stones on which Jacob had slept while he dreamt of the angels ascending into Heaven. The Irish coronation stone was placed at Tara, in the green hills in Meath, where you may still see the raths or furrows where the halls of the ancient Irish Kings stood. This stone was supposed to utter a musical sound when the Monarch stepped on it; the idea of the stone was obviously to elevate the King above his people and was the first crude idea of a throne; the inaugural chair that all ancient peoples used for the crowning of their sovereigns appears to have been of stone; some antiquaries think that they may have been meteors, and, falling from Heaven, easily have acquired a miraculous character. But such as have survived, or of which there are records, seem to have been taken from quarries in the locality of the place where they were set. Kingston-on-Thames takes its name from the royal stone on which at least eight Anglo-Saxon monarchs were crowned, 927-1016.

For nearly five centuries Winchester disputed with London the honour of being the capital of England; it was first an early settlement, then a Roman city containing temples to Apollo and to Concord. It is claimed that the first Christian Church was built there in A.D. 169. Alfred the Great was educated at Winchester and during a large portion of his glorious reign resided there. A rich and fantastic Saxon Church was built there and destroyed by the Normans, who raised on the site the superb Cathedral completed many years later by the magnificent Cardinal Beaufort. The celebrated college was founded by Wykeham in 1369. Several of the early English Kings were crowned at Winchester; the first coronation seems to have been that of Alfred in 871. The succeeding Kings were crowned at Kingston or Bath until 1041, when St. Edward was crowned at Winchester.

Henry I removed the royal treasure from Winchester in 1100; the "young King," Henry, son of Henry II, was twice crowned, once at Winchester; and in that city Richard was crowned again, after his return from captivity.

Henry III was called Henry of Winchester, but he was crowned at Gloucester and Westminster. From this period Westminster, especially built for the purpose by Edward the Confessor, was the only place where Kings of England were crowned. Winchester remained a superb city, with cathedral, castle and college as priceless relics of her ancient splendour. At the time of the founding of Westminster Abbey, the site of the city of Westminster was a large mash where the Thames divided into two branches; the piece of ground in the middle was called Thorney Isle from the number of thorn trees and brambles that covered the higher levels of the swamp.

The story went that somewhere early in the seventh century a venerable traveller asked two fishermen who were rowing in a rude skiff over the Thames to take him to the island. They did so, and when the stranger landed he declared himself to be St. Peter and that it was his wish that a church should be built in his honour on this unlikely spot. Therefore, the Saxon King, Ecgberht, erected a plain church to St. Peter on Thorney Island; this had small high-set windows and a tower; a Benedictine monastery was soon attached to it and it became a Collegiate Church.

Higher up the river, near where the Mint afterwards stood, was another monastery called East Minster, so that the one on Thorney Island came to be known as West Minster. When the Danes burnt London they partly destroyed the old church, but it was rebuilt by Edgar in 985, who re-roofed and patched up the ruins of the original building.

When Edward the Confessor was exiled in Normandy he vowed that if he should come to the throne of his father he would make a pilgrimage to Rome, where were the tombs of the Apostles. But when he became King he found that it was impossible to go to Rome, so he compromised by refounding the Abbey of Westminster. This building, which was undertaken on a grand scale, was finished at Christmas, 1066; the Confessor held his Court in the palace that had been built adjoining the sacred building, and on Holy Innocents' Day the church was dedicated to St. Peter. In the first week of the new year the King was dead and buried in the vaults of the great church, that was ultimately completely rebuilt by Henry III and Edward I.

This thirteenth century church was, however, never completed; a mighty central and two western towers were part of the original design; the eastern end which had a number of chapels round it was pulled down by Henry VII when he added the incomparable chapel that still goes by his name.

The early Norman Kings were all, save Henry III and Matilda, crowned at Westminster Abbey on the spot where St. Peter told the fishermen to found his church among the thorn trees and brambles.

The Abbot of Westminster was the custodian of the Regalia and royal robes and was entrusted with all the details of the coronation ceremony; the Dean and Chapter of Westminster afterwards succeeded to these privileges and therefore claim the right to instruct the Sovereign in the coronation rites and to assist the Primate in the service together with several other honours and duties; their fees consisted of robes for themselves, the floor-cloth of the church, the other furnishing of the Abbey on this occasion and many other rich perquisites. Westminster was for long divided by fields from London; the Abbey church, the palace attached to it, the right of sanctuary, the hall in which the Parliament met and where State trials were held, gave it a unique importance in England and English history. The ancient college of the Benedictines survives in the famous school refounded by Queen Elizabeth and situated in buildings attached to the Abbey, some of which were the dormitories of the monks.

Scone was the ancient royal seat of Scotland. This town, on the left bank of the Tay in Perthshire, was capital of Pictavia as early as A.D. 710 and the coronation place of the Scottish Kings from 1153 to 1488. "The stone of destiny" was removed by Edward I in 1296 and the last Scottish King to stand upon the throne to be acclaimed by his people was Alexander III, who was installed in 1249 with all the old Celtic ceremonies.

It is notable that a King in exile, Prince James, the "old Pretender"—or James III according to the Jacobites—was at Scone for three weeks in 1716; and his son, Prince Charles Edward, was there in 1745. Both these disinherited Princes, who made such gallant but hopeless attempts to regain their hereditary throne, must have experienced poignant sensations at being on the spot where the ancient Kings of Scotland had been crowned with such solemn ritual.


The Kaiser-Dom at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle)

The two Stewart Princes stayed in the palace of the Viscount Stormont, which was on the site of an old Augustinian Abbey destroyed by the Calvinistic mob in 1559.

An even older city than Scone is Rheims on the Vesle. This was the capital of the Remi, and under its Latin name is mentioned by Julius Caesar. It was the scene of the baptism of Clovis I, the Frankish Conqueror, who laid the foundations of modern France in 496; this gave it a peculiar importance in the history of Christianity and of the French people, and by the eighth century, when it became a bishopric, the city had acquired a quasi-sacred character. Philip Augustus, great engineer and splendid soldier, was crowned at Rheims in 1179, and from then until the nineteenth century the only Kings of France not crowned and sanctified at Rheims were Henry IV, Napoleon I and Louis XVIII.

The cathedral of Rheims, which had been the scene of so many coronations, was sacked in 1793 and the Sainte Ampoule, the vessel in the shape of a dove that held the Holy Oil—supposed to have been brought by a dove from Heaven for the sacring of Clovis—was smashed by a rioter; in 1830 the elaborate ceremony of the coronation was abolished. The cathedral, partly destroyed in the last European war and restored with exquisite skill, is one of the most splendid churches in the world. It was built between 1212 and 1380. St. Remy, who baptised and crowned Clovis and who received the dove sent with the Chrism, also has a Romanesque church in Rheims; this city has always been famous for a trade in wine and wool.

More ancient still, going back beyond Christian history, is the place that was for long the scene of the coronations of the Kings of the Swedes, Goths and Vandals; this is Upsala in Sweden, which stands on a little stream that runs to Lake Malar. It was the last stronghold of heathenism in Europe. It is mentioned in the old Viking sagas and is supposed to have been the abode of the earliest Viking kings who were named Ynglings, descendants of one of the gods—Yngvi.

In Upsala was a great temple covered with gilding in which stood colossal statues of the three great Gods—Thor, Odin, Fricco; every nine years a magnificent pagan festival was celebrated at Upsala, to which all the tribes of Scandinavia contributed; this heathen temple was standing in A.D. 1070. Human beings, even kings and chieftains, were sometimes sacrificed at Upsala to appease the gods; the bodies of these victims were hung in a great grove near the temple.

A historian, writing in 1220, speaks of Upsala as being "the King's Seat and the Archbishop's See"—it was then called "the wealth of Upsala." From this famous spot the law was given out, and it was known as "Upsala Law." A Norwegian Embassy went to Upsala in the mid-winter of 1018 to ask for the hand of the daughter of the Swedish King for the King of Norway, who is described as seated on a throne in the open before the temple, his court about him in a circle. Many tumuli of these old Gothic kings have been found at Old Upsala; the heathen gods were at last driven out, their temple razed down and a brick cathedral built at Upsala by 1589; a university was afterwards founded and Gustavus Vasa built a castle on this famous spot.

The Scandinavian Kings in the heroic age were crowned at the funerals of their predecessors at Upsala; we are in the fascinating realm of legend with Eric Lugersoll, the last heathen king in Sweden and a notable magician; he broke open the tomb of the Viking, Svenken, at Upsala and found a gold tablet on which was three times nine crowns on one side and three times seven crowns on the other; these symbolised all the Christian monarchs who were to rule over Scandinavia.

The Kings of Denmark are crowned in the royal chapel of the Castle of Fredericsberg. The Danish Regalia comprise crowns of exquisite workmanship, in particular that of Christian IV; but the most famous emblems of Danish sovereignty are the celebrated three silver lions, which formed part of all the regal ceremonies in this country from coronations to funerals.

Turning from the Celtic twilight of the far north to the sombre magnificence of the south, we come to Toledo on the north bank of the Tagus, for long the capital of Spain and the place where the Kings were crowned. The gates and towers of Toledo were built by King Wamba in the seventh century and added to and beautified by Alfonso VI in 1109. The cathedral is on the site of a mosque and was building from 1227 to 1493; it was long regarded as one of the most magnificent in the world. On the Zocodover, the great square of Toledo, took place many pageants, from burning of heretics to bull-fights.

The Alcazár, an ancient Moorish fortress, was enlarged by the Kings of Spain and at one time commanded by the Cid, the famous hero of Spanish story; the city was further glorified by the residence of El Greco and by the manufacture of the most famous sword blades in the world and of costly gold and silver embroideries.

Toledo, once the city of the Goths, is in the very heart of Spain, and even in its hey-day seems to have been regarded by the foreigner as gloomy, forbidding and sombre. Alfonso VII was one of the first Princes to hold a great Cortes at Toledo; it was attended by vassal princes, prelates and noblemen; the people were allowed to be present at this council, but only in the part of an admiring chorus—"to see, to hear, to pray to God." Toledo was the scene of the imprisonment of that unhappy Queen, Blanche of Castile, who was shut up by her husband in the Alcazár; also of the massacre by her husband, Pedro the Cruel, of all the noblemen who supported his half-brother Don Enrique.

Avila was the scene of an extraordinary Spanish coronation. In the year 1465 a dummy representing King Enrique was placed on a scaffold in the centre of the town, adorned with a crown, a sceptre and a sword. Then a herald rose and declared the King to be deprived of royal dignity, of the administration of justice, of the government of the realm, of the throne and of the title of King. The Archbishop of Toledo and three noblemen removed severally the crown, the sword, the sceptre and the effigy itself; this last was kicked from the throne and tossed to the crowd, who savagely tore it to pieces. The young Prince Alfonso, the son of the King who had been thus strangely degraded, was then elevated to the Chair of State on the scaffold and solemnly crowned King by the Archbishop.

Buda, that stands on the vine-clad slopes of the left bank of the Danube, is on the site of a Roman colony, and in the thirteenth century was a German town called Old Buda. It was destroyed by the Mongols in 1247, but soon rebuilt; it was the capital of Hungary from the middle of the twelfth century till its capture by the Turks in 1527. It was then besieged half a dozen times by the Imperialists and taken, after many feats of arms on both sides, in 1686. Buda was called "the boss on the shield of Europe," owing to its being the scene of this constant warfare with the Turks.

The citadel was the scene of the coronation of the ancient Kings of Hungary, who were elevated in the chapel of St. Sigismund, where the Regalia of Hungary and the hand of St. Stephen are still kept and regarded with the greatest reverence and awe. The Magyar Sovereigns, when they were crowned, used to point with their swords to the four corners of the compass, making four several oaths to protect the frontiers of the Kingdom—east, west, south and north. The crown of St. Stephen consists of one of Byzantine design and one of Roman shape, joined together; it has a romantic history and was used for the crowning of Stanislaus (1439) when, at four months of age he lay in the lap of his mother Elizabeth, who kept the sacred crown in her own chamber. A rebellion forcing the Queen to fly to Vienna, she took the crown with her sewn up in a velvet cushion. This crown was pawned and taken out of Hungary several times; it was restored to the Magyars in 1784, but in 1849 Kossuth, the dictator of Hungary, took it by force; he planned to send it to London, but the crown was discovered hidden in a field and finally restored to Buda.


The Emperor Maximilian
From the painting by Peter Paul Reubens (1618)

The first Emperors of the West were crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) in the Rhineland. This town first emerges from the obscurity of legend in the time of Charlemagne, who was buried in the great church there in 814. He rebuilt the Imperial Palace, his chapel was destroyed by the Normans and another erected by Otto III, 983. In 1165 Frederic Barbarossa, after opening the tomb of Charlemagne, had a shrine made to contain all the relics of the mighty Emperor. Thirty-five Emperors and eleven Empresses were crowned in Aix-la-Chapelle and held their banquets in the hall that was a hundred and two feet long and sixty feet wide in the Town hall—from Louis the Pious (813) to Ferdinand III (1637). Seventeen Imperial Diets and eleven Provincial Councils also were held in this superb chamber; in the Middle Ages, Aix-la-Chapelle was a powerful free city; on its detachment from the Empire its Imperial state vanished and the Emperors ceased to hold their state, and the councils and Diets their debates and elections there.

The Emperors of the West (or the Holy Roman Emperors) should have been crowned at Rome (caput mundi) by the Pope. Their title really depended on this ceremony, but as the later Emperors were unable to make the journey to Rome, and as Aix-la-Chapelle was lost, some of them (among them the great Emperor Maximilian) were never crowned at all, which gave their enemies the chance to call their titles in question; Maximilian may be seen, however, in many portraits with the complete Imperial Regalia, wearing a gorgeous diadem.

It became the custom from 1711 for the Emperors to be crowned at the old free city of Frankfort-on-the-Maine, which was chosen also as the place of the election of the Emperors. In the Roemer or town-hall, an interesting Gothic building of 1406, is the Kaisersaal where the Emperor held his coronation banquet. The coronation itself took place in the cathedral of St. Bartholomew, erected from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries; this also contains the chapel where the electors voted.

Frankfort-on-the-Maine was from early times considered a most important city; Charlemagne declared it to be the capital of the Eastern Frankish Kingdom. It was the first free city of the German Empire in 1255, and as early as 1356 had been selected by the Golden Bull of Charles IV as the place for the Diet to sit. Frankfort was famous for its fairs, where the first printed book was sold, and for the freedom it offered to the persecuted during periods of religious intolerance.

There is, perhaps, no place so remarkable for coronations as the Kremlin in Moscow on the Moska. This Kremlin or citadel has eighteen towers and five gates. It contains three cathedrals—that of the Assumption, that of the Annunciation and that of the Archangel—several other churches, monasteries, four palaces, an Arsenal, halls and libraries, together with many other buildings. The whole is decorated with Asiatic splendour, with gilded cupolas, fantastic carvings, and interiors blazing with mosaic, and with barbaric colours.

It was in the Cathedral of the Assumption that the Czars and the Metropolitans of the Greek Church were consecrated. This cathedral was built between 1326 and 1496 and was regarded as the most sacred spot of the sacred Kremlin, the heart of the Empire. The city itself dates from the twelfth century; it was sacked by the Mongols and refounded and restored by Ivan III in the fifteenth century, who assumed the title of Czar of All the Russias.

Even after the founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great, Moscow the Holy was regarded by all true Russians as the very soul of the country. Not even the coronations of the Emperors of the West at Rome or of the Emperors of the East in Byzantium surpassed in splendour that of the Czars of All the Russias that took place with Eastern pomp and Christian ritual in the Cathedral of the Assumption in this city within a city—the Kremlin in Moscow. All the ambassadors received by the Czars of Muscovy were amazed at the splendour of the Kremlin, the "throne of Solomon" with its roaring lions, the Imperial bodyguard clothed in white and armed with silver hatchets.

A grim coronation was that of Nicolas in 1826; a revolt had broken out in the capital and the Czar had narrowly escaped assassination; there were, in consequence, no festivities, a reign of terror set in, and when the Emperor left the Cathedral of the Assumption, robed and crowned, "his face looked as hard as Siberian ice and the people were too frightened to cheer, they dropped on their knees, with their faces in the dust."

Many of the places that we have briefly considered will never again, it seems, see "the crowning of the King." This fact makes even more impressive the continuity of our own royal line and gives an added importance to the approaching ceremonial in Westminster Abbey, when the King Emperor will receive his diadem from the altar that is the Shrine of St. Edward, who founded this church for the inauguration of the Sovereigns of England into their sacred office. Many high virtues, faith, mercy, justice, piety, loyalty, reverence, are honoured in the symbolism attendant on a coronation that is so much more than a remarkable pageant. In setting up a chosen and anointed King, a nation sets up its own ideals of strength, compassion, dignity and spirituality.

The coronation of George VI will have a unique significance in that the Sovereign is the head of a great commonwealth of nations, all of whom, whatever their individual governments, recognise and pay homage to the ideals of Kingship, which is interpreted to the eye and ear in the ancient and beautiful rites that celebrate the installation of the British Sovereign.


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