Coronation of Queen Victoria

The coronation of Queen Victoria took place on 28 June 1838, just over a year after Queen Victoria succeeded to the throne at the age of 18. The procession to and from the ceremony at Westminster Abbey was witnessed by unprecedentedly huge crowds, as the new railways made it easier for an estimated 400,000 to come to London from the rest of the country.

The ceremony cost £79,000, exceeding the £30,000 spent on that of her uncle and predecessor, William IV, in 1831, but was far less than the £240,000 paid for the grandiose coronation of his brother George IV in 1821. William IV's coronation had established much of what remains today the pageantry of the event, which had previously involved ceremonies in Westminster Hall (now attached to the Houses of Parliament) before a procession on foot across the road to the Abbey. This form was replaced with a procession through the streets with the new monarch in the Gold State Coach or Coronation Coach, dating to 1762 and still used in coronations, with many other coaches and a cavalry escort.

The procession by coach of 1831 was again adopted in 1838, and has been followed in all subsequent coronations. The road route was extended to allow for more spectators, taking a nearly circular route from the Queen's new home at the just-completed Buckingham Palace via Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly, St James's Street, Pall Mall, Charing Cross and Whitehall. The budget stressed the procession and there was no coronation banquet; according to The Gentleman's Magazine it was the longest coronation procession since that of Charles II in 1660. The weather was fine and the day was generally considered a great success by the press and wider public, though those inside the Abbey witnessed a good deal of mishaps and confusion, and there was Radical opposition, especially in northern England.

According to the historian Roy Strong, "the ceremony of 1838 was the last of the botched coronations", before Victorian historians put together a programme more typical of medieval coronations, and which has been used since that of Edward VII in 1902. The picturesque ritual of the Queen's Champion riding through Westminster Hall in full armour and issuing his challenge was omitted and has never been revived; the Champion, Henry Dymoke, was made a baronet instead. There was very little rehearsal, although the Queen was persuaded by Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, to visit the Abbey the evening before. Several of the congregation reported that, in the words of Benjamin Disraeli, those with parts to play "were always in doubt as to what came next, and you saw the want of rehearsal".

As was usual, special seating galleries had been erected to accommodate guests, and the music came from an orchestra of 80 players, a total of 157 singers, and the various military bands in the processions to and from the Abbey.

The whole coronation service lasted five hours and involved two changes of dress for the Queen. At points in the service when they were not needed at the Coronation Theatre (composed of the pavement fronting the main altar and the crossing), the royal party retreated to "St. Edward's Chapel, as it is called; but which as Ld Melbourne said, was more unlike a Chapel, than anything he had ever seen, for what was called an altar, was covered with plates of sandwiches, bottles of wine, &c."

This page was last edited on 4 February 2018, at 19:24.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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