5 Memorable Moments During British Coronations

Sarah Heath

5 Memorable Moments During British Coronations

Britain’s history is rich in royal traditions and ceremonies; pomp and circumstance. The unique take the country has on royal pageantry is never apparent than during the Coronation of a new king or Queen. These events take years to plan and are meticulous in their detail and organisation. An English Coronation offers the perfect chance for the country to show itself off at its best, as well as formally anoint a new monarch. British Coronation history is well documented, right down to full descriptions and images of British Coronation medals.

Every Coronation has been different, reflecting the personalities and wishes of the monarch being crowned. So, instead of asking how many Coronations have there been, or how old is the Coronation ceremony, it might be more interesting to look at what makes each one unique. Here are five of the most memorable moments to occur during the Coronations of British monarchs over the centuries.


It takes two?

King William and Queen Mary

In 1689, two monarchs were jointly crowned for the first and only time in British Coronation history. King William and Queen Mary served as reigning monarchs together and led several important developments in parliamentary democracy. During the joint Coronation ceremony, the two were crowned by The Bishop of London, Henry Compton. 

A special second throne was commissioned for the occasion for Mary, while her husband sat in the traditional King Edward’s Chair that was also used at the Coronation of King Charles III earlier this year. Queen Mary’s throne is now preserved in Westminster Abbey’s Museum.

Discover the Medallions: 1689 William and Mary Coronation Historical Medallion by R Arondeaux & 1689 William & Mary Coronation Historical Medallion by G Hautsch

A special sedan

Queen Anne's Special Low Sedan Chair

Queen Anne suffered from poor health throughout her life. Despite only being 37 years old when she was crowned in 1702, she was in great pain from gout, among other conditions. A special low sedan chair was constructed to carry her to the Coronation., It has an open back to allow her Coronation robes to flow out behind her.

Despite suffering from poor health, Queen Anne was determined to serve her subjects well, saying during her first speech to Parliament: “I can very sincerely assure you there is not anything you can expect or desire from me which I will not be ready to do for the happiness and prosperity of England”.

Discover the Medallion: 1702 The Coronation of Queen Anne Historical Medallion by J Croker


Thank you for the music

King George II and His Wife Queen Caroline

King George II wanted a different approach to his own Coronation in 1727 than that of his unpopular father, King George I. He placed a greater emphasis on music in the ceremony than ever before, tasking composer George Frideric Handel to write not one, but four new Coronation anthems. The first Coronation anthem, I Was Glad, by Hubert Parry, had been written for King Charles I’s Coronation in 1626.

Discover the Medallions: 1633 Charles I - Return to London After Scottish Coronation Historical Medallion by N Briot & 1626 Coronation of Charles I Historical Medal by N Briot

Handel’s four new pieces included Zadok the Priest, which has been sung at British Coronations ever since. The other three anthems were Let Thy Hand Be strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart is Inditing. The latter piece was played during the crowning of King George II’s wife, Queen Caroline.

Discover the Medallion: 1727 Coronation of Queen Caroline Historical Medallion by J Croker


Break out the bling

The Coronation of King George IV 1821

King George IV was also keen to make his mark on the history of British Coronations. He planned an opulent, extravagant ceremony in 1821 that cost more than £230,000. His crown was newly commissioned for the occasion and contained more than 12,000 diamonds. He wore thick, velvet British Coronation robes and a long, curly wig, while carrying 19 handkerchiefs to help wipe the sweat from his royal brow during the service.

Discover the Medallion: 1821 George IV Coronation Historical Medallion by B Pistrucci

Such luxury was, however, not afforded to his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick. She was banned from attending his Coronation. Despite this, she tried several times to gain entry to Westminster Abbey but was thwarted by guards at each entrance.


A wing and a prayer

Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1838

Despite the assumption that a royal ceremony would be planned and rehearsed down to the last second, this did not appear to be the case for Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1838. Several things did not go according to plan. During the proceedings, one peer fell down the stairs when walking to pay homage to the new Queen and had to be helped away. The ring was forced onto the wrong finger, hurting Queen Victoria’s hand. A bishop then told her the service was over, but had to call her back again when it was discovered that there was, in fact more to go. 

The whole event lasted five hours and Queen Victoria described it in her diary as the proudest day of her life. Queen Victoria went on to reign for over 63 years. She was Britain’s longest reigning monarch until the record was broken by her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for a little over 70 years until her death in 2022.

Discover the Medallions: 1838 Victoria Coronation Historical Medallion by J Davis1887 Art Union Jubilee Medal - Victoria Historical Medallion by A Gilbert & 1887 Golden Jubilee - The Queens Medal by A Kirkwood & Sons


Lights, camera, action

Queen Elizabeth II made history right from the start of her reign when she became the first monarch to be crowned on live television in 1953. More than 8,000 guests attended the service in Westminster Abbey, while millions more people watched the Coronation via television around the UK and the rest of the world. 

It was Prince Phillip who suggested inviting cameras into the service in a bid to modernise the royal family and make them more accessible to the general public. On the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, news came through that the first successful ascent of Mount Everest had been achieved by a British expedition team led by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Discover the Medallion: 1702 The Coronation of Queen Anne Historical Medallion by J Croker

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