The Coronation

The coronation was fixed for June 28, 1838 a little more than a year from

the accession.

The, Queen had been slightly troubled at the thought of some of the

antiquated forms of that grand and complicated ceremony--for instance,

the homage of the Peers, spiritual and temporal. As the rule stood, they

were all required after kneeling to her, and pledging their allegiance,

to rise and kiss her on the left ch
ek. She might be able to bear up

under the salutes of those holy old gentlemen, the archbishops and

bishops--but the anticipation of the kisses of all the temporal Peers,

old and young, was enough to appall her--there were six hundred of them.

So she issued a proclamation excusing the noble gentlemen from that

onerous duty, and at the coronation only the Royal Dukes, Sussex and

Cambridge, kissed the Queen's rosy cheek, by special kinship privilege.

The others had to be content with her hand. The other omitted ceremony

was one which formerly took place in Westminster Hall--consisting chiefly

of the appearance of a knight armed, mailed and mounted, who as Royal

Champion proceeded to challenge the enemies of the new Sovereign to

mortal combat. This, which had appeared ridiculous in the case of the

burly George IV., would have been something pretty and poetic in that of

the young maiden-Queen, but she doubtless felt that as every Englishman

was disposed to be her champion, the old form would be the idlest,

melodramatic bravado.

The crown which had fitted George and William was too big and heavy for

their niece--so it was taken to pieces, and the jewels re-set in a way to

greatly reduce the size and weight. A description now before me, of the

new crown is too dazzling for me to transcribe. I must keep my eyes for

plainer work; but I can give the value of the bauble--£112,760!--and this

was before the acquisition of the koh-i-noor.

Of the coronation I will try to give a clear, if not a full account.

It was a wonderful time in London when that day of days was ushered in,

by the roar of cannon from the grim old Tower, answered by a battery in

St. James' Park. Such a world of people everywhere! All Great Britain and

much of the Continent seemed to have emptied themselves into this

metropolis, which overflowed with a surging, murmuring tide of humanity.

Ah me, how much of that eager, noisy life is silent and forgotten now!

There may have before been coronations surpassing that of Victoria in

scenic splendor, if not in solid magnificence-that of the first Napoleon

and his Empress, perhaps-but there has been nothing so grand as a royal

pageant seen since, until the crowning of the present Russian Emperor at

Moscow, where the almost intolerable splendor was seen against a dark

background of tragic possibilities. This English coronation was less

brilliant, perhaps, but also less barbaric than that august, overpowering

ceremony over which it seemed there might hover "perturbed spirits" of

men slain in mad revolts against tyranny--of youths and women done to

death on the red scaffold, in dungeons, in midnight mines, and Siberian

snows; and about which there surely lurked the fiends of dynamite. But

this pure young girl, trusting implicitly in the loving loyalty of her

subjects--relying on Heaven for help and guidance, lifted to the throne

by the Constitution and the will of a free people, as conquerors have

been upborne on shields, what had she to fear? A very different and un-

nihilistic "cloud of witnesses" was hers, we may believe. If ever there

was a mortal state-occasion for the immortals to be abroad, it was this.

The great procession started from Buckingham Palace at about 10 o'clock.

The first two state carriages, each drawn by six horses, held the Duchess

of Kent and her attendants. The Queen's mother, regally attired, was

enthusiastically cheered all along the way. The Queen was, of course, in

the grand state coach, which is mostly gilding and glass--a prodigiously

imposing affair. It was drawn by eight cream-colored horses--great

stately creatures--with white flowing manes, and tails like mountain

cascades. Many battalions and military bands were stationed along the

line, presenting arms and playing the National Anthem, "And the People, O

the People!" Every window, balcony, and door-step was swarming, every

foot of standing room occupied--even on roofs and chimneys. Ladies and

children waved handkerchiefs and dropped flowers from balconies, and the

shouts from below and the shouts from above seemed to meet and break into

joyous storm-bursts in the air. Accounts state that Her Majesty "looked

exceedingly well, and that she seemed in excellent spirits, and highly

delighted with the imposing scene and the enthusiasm of her subjects."

One would think she might have been.

She had a great deal to go through with that day. She must have rehearsed

well, or she would have been confused by the multiform ceremonials of

that grand spectacular performance. The scene, as she entered Westminster

Abbey, might well have startled her out of her serene calm, but it

didn't. On each side of the nave, reaching from the western door to the

organ screen, were the galleries, erected for the spectators. These were

all covered with crimson cloth fringed with gold. Underneath them were

lines of foot-guards, very martial-looking, fellows. The old stone floor,

worn with the tread of Kings' coronations and funeral processions, was

covered with matting, and purple and crimson cloth. Immediately under the

central tower of the Abbey, inside the choir, five steps from the floor,

on a carpet of purple and gold, was a platform covered with cloth of

gold, and on it was the golden "Chair of Homage." Within the chancel,

near the altar, stood the stiff, quaint old chair in I which all the

sovereigns of England since Edward the Confessor have been crowned. Cloth

of gold quite concealed the "chunk of old red sandstone," called the

"stone of Scone," on which the ancient Scottish Kings were crowned, and

which the English seem to keep and use for luck. There were galleries on

galleries upholstered in crimson cloth, and splendid tapestries, wherein

sat members of Parliament and foreign Princes and Embassadors. In the

organ loft were singers in white, and instrumental performers in scarlet

--all looking very fine and festive; and up very high was a band of

trumpeters, whose music, pealing over the heads of the people, produced,

at times, a wonderful effect.

Fashionable people had got up early for once. Many were at the Abbey

doors long before 5 o'clock, and when the Queen arrived at 11:30,

hundreds of delicate ladies in full evening-dress, had been waiting for

her for seven long hours. The foreign Princes and Embassadors were in

gorgeous costumes; and there was the Lord Mayor in all his glory,

blinding to behold. His most formidable rival was Prince Esterhazy, who

sparkled with costly jewels from his head down to his boots-looking as

though he had been snowed upon with pearls, and had also been caught out

in a rain of diamonds, and had come in dripping. All these grand

personages and the Peers and Peeresses were so placed as to have a

perfect view of the part of the minster in which the coronation took

place-called, in the programme, "the Theatre."

The Queen came in about the middle of the splendid procession. In her

royal robe of crimson velvet, furred with ermine, and trimmed with gold

lace, wearing the collars of her orders, and on her head a circlet of

gold-her immense train borne by eight very noble young ladies, she is

said to have looked "truly royal," though so young, and only four feet

eight inches in height. As she entered the Abbey, the orchestra and choir

broke out into the National Anthem. They performed bravely, but were

scarcely heard for the mighty cheers which went up from the great

assembly, making the old minster resound in all its aisles and arches and

ancient chapels. Then, as she advanced slowly towards the choir, the

anthem, "I was glad" was sung, and after that, the sweet-voiced

choir-boys of Westminster chanted like so many white-gowned, sleek-headed

angels, "Vivat Victoria Regina!" Ah, then she felt very solemnly

that she was Queen; and moving softly to a chair placed between the Chair

of Homage and the altar, she knelt down on the "faldstool" before it, and

meekly said her prayers.

When the boys had finished their glad anthem, the Archbishop of

Canterbury, with several high officers of state, moved to the east side

of the theatre, when the Primate, in a loud voice, said: "I here present

unto you Queen Victoria, the undoubted Queen of this realm, wherefore all

you who are come this day to your homage, are you willing to do the


It seems a little confused, but the people understood it, and shouted,

"God save Queen Victoria!" This "recognition," as it was called, was

repeated at the south, west, and north sides of the "theatre," and every

time was answered by that joyous shout, and by the pealing of trumpets

and the beating of drums. The Queen stood throughout this ceremony, each

time turning her head towards the point from which the recognition came.

One may almost wonder if all those loyal shouts and triumphant

trumpetings and drum-beatings did not trouble somewhat the long quiet of

death in the dusky old chapels in which sleep the fair Queen Eleanor, and

the gracious Philippa, and valiant Elizabeth, and hapless Mary Stuart.

Then followed a great many curious rites and ceremonies of receiving and

presenting offerings; and many prayers and the reading of the Litany, and

the preaching of the sermon, in which the poor Queen was exhorted to

"follow in the footsteps of her predecessor"--which would have been to

walk "sailor-fashion" morally. Then came the administration of the oath.

After having been catechised by the Archbishop in regard to the

Established Church, Her Majesty was conducted to the altar, where

kneeling, and laying her hand on the Gospels in the great Bible, she

said, in clear tones, silvery yet solemn: "The things which I have here

before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God!"

She then kissed the book, and after that the hymn, "Come, Holy Ghost,

our souls inspire" was sung by the choir, the Queen still kneeling.

I read the other day that the Duke of Connaught (Prince Arthur), on

visiting Norwich Cathedral, was shown the very Bible on which his mother

took her well-kept coronation oath, forty-five years ago. It was a most

solemn pledge, and yet it was all comprehended in the little girl

Victoria's promise to her governess, "I will be good."

Her Majesty next seated herself in St. Edward's chair; a rich cloth of

gold was held over her head, and the Archbishop anointed her with holy

oil, in the form of a cross. Then followed more prayers, more forms and

ceremonies, the presentation of swords and spurs, and such like little

feminine adornments, the investing with the Imperial robe, the sceptre

and the ring, the consecration and blessing of the new crown, and at last

the crowning. In this august ceremony three Archbishops, two Bishops, a

Dean, and several other clergymen were somehow employed. The task was

most religiously performed. It was the Primate of all England who

reverently placed the crown on that reverent young head. The moment this

was done all the Peers and Peeresses, who, with their coronets in their

hands, or borne by pages at their sides, had been intently watching the

proceedings, crowned themselves, shouting, "God save the Queen!" while

again trumpets pealed forth, and drums sounded, and the far-off Tower and

Park guns, fired by signal, boomed over the glad Capital.

It is stated that the most magically beautiful effect of all was produced

by the Peeresses, in suddenly and simultaneously donning their coronets.

It was as though the stars had somehow kept back their radiance till the

young moon revealed herself in all her silver splendor.

Then came the exhortation, an anthem, and a benediction, and after a few

more forms and pomps, the Queen was conducted to the Chair of Homage.

Before the next long ceremony began, the Queen handed her two sceptres to

two of the lords in attendance, to keep for her, as quietly as any other

girl might hand over to a couple of dangling young gentlemen her fan and

bouquet to hold for her, while she drew on her gloves.

The Lords Spiritual, headed by the Primate, began the homage by kneeling,

and kissing the Queen's hand. Then came the Dukes of Sussex and

Cambridge, who, removing their coronets, and touching them to the Crown,

solemnly pledged their allegiance, and kissed their niece on the left

cheek. Her manner to them was observed to be very affectionate. Then the

other Dukes, and Peers on Peers did homage by kneeling, touching coronet

to crown, and kissing that little white hand. When the turn of the Duke

of Wellington came, the entire assembly broke into applause; and yet he

was not the hero of the day, but an older and far more infirm Peer, Lord

Rolle, who mounted the steps with difficulty, and stumbling at the top,

fell, and rolled all the way back to the floor, where "he lay at the

bottom of the steps, coiled up in his robes." At sight of the accident

the Queen rose from her throne, and held out her hands as though to help

him. It was a pretty incident, not for the poor Peer, but as showing Her

Majesty's impulsive kindness of heart. The old nobleman was not hurt, but

quickly unwound himself, rose, mounted the steps, and tried again and

again to touch the crown with the coronet in his weak, uncertain hand,

every plucky effort being hailed with cheers. At length the Queen,

smiling, gave him her hand to kiss, dispensing with the form of touching

her crown. Miss Martineau, who witnessed the scene, states that a

foreigner who was present was made to believe by a wag that this

ludicrous tumble was a part of the regular programme, and that the Lords

Rolle held their title on condition of performing that feat at every

coronation, Rolle meaning roll.

This most tedious ceremony over, finishing up with more anthems,

trumpets, drums, and shouts, the Sacrament was administered to the Queen

--she discrowning herself, and kneeling while she partook of the holy

elements. Then a re-crowning, a re-enthronement, more anthems, and the

blessed release of the final benediction. Passing into King Edward's

chapel, the Queen changed the Imperial for the Royal robe of purple

velvet, and passed out of the Abbey, wearing her crown, bearing the

sceptre in her right hand, and the orb in her left, and so got into her

carriage, and drove home through the shouting multitude. It is stated

that Her Majesty did not seem exhausted, though she was observed to put

her hand to her head frequently, as though the crown was not, after all,

a very comfortable fit.

After reigning more than a year, she had been obliged to spend nearly

five fatiguing hours in being finished as a Queen. How strange it all

seems to us American Republicans, who make and unmake our rulers with

such expedition and scant ceremony.