Coronation of Queen Victoria, 1838

The Coronation of Queen Victoria at Westminster Abbey on this day in 1838, with grand processions to and from Buckingham Palace. The poorly planned five hour ceremony involved numerous incidents, including the Archbishop of Canterbury ramming the ring on the wrong finger. The Queen arrived wearing the George IV State Diadem and was crowned with the Imperial State Crown. 

The Duchess of Kent (mother), the Prince of Leiningen (brother), the Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (sister), the Duke of Sussex (uncle), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (uncle and aunt, wearing the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara), Princess Augusta Sophia (aunt), the Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh (aunt), the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (uncle), the Kazakh Khan, Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, the Duke of Nassau, the Duke of Nemours, Prince Ernest Frederick of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld, the Prince of Ligne, the Count Grigory Alexandrovich Stroganov, and Ahmed Fethi Pasha. The Duchess of Sutherland (wearing the Sutherland Diamond Rivière) served as the Queen’s Mistress of the Robes while the Marchioness of Lansdowne was the First Lady Bedchamber. 

Queen Victoria wrote in her Diary: 

I was awoke at four o’clock by the guns in the Park, and could not get much sleep afterwards on account of the noise of the people, bands, etc. Got up at 7 feeling strong and well; the Park presented a curious spectacle; crowds of people up to Constitution Hill, soldiers, bands, etc. I dressed, having taken a little breakfast before I dressed, and a little after. At half past 9 I went into the next room dressed exactly in my House of Lords costume … At 10 I got into the State Coach with the Duchess of Sutherland and Lord Albemarle, and we began our Progress.

It was a fine day, and the crowds of people exceeded what I have ever seen; many as there were the day I went to the City, it was nothing – nothing to the multitudes, the millions of my loyal subjects who were assembled in every spot to witness the Procession. Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything, and I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a Nation. I was alarmed at times for fear that the people would be crushed and squeezed on account of the tremendous rush and pressure.

I reached the Abbey (Westminster) amid deafening cheers at a little after half past 11; I first went into a robing-room quite close to the entrance, where I found my eight Train-bearers – all dressed alike and beautifully, in white satin and silver tissue, with wreaths of silver corn-ears in front, and a small one of pink roses round the plait behind, and pink roses in the trimming of the dresses. After putting on my Mantle, and the young ladies having properly got hold of it, and Lord Conyngham holding the end of it, I left the robing-room and the Procession began. The sight was splendid; the bank of Peeresses quite beautiful, all in their robes, and the Peers on the other side. My young Train-bearers were always near me, and helped me whenever I wanted anything. The Bishop of Durham stood on one side near me.

At the beginning of the Anthem … I retired to St Edward’s Chapel, a small dark place immediately behind the Altar, with my Ladies and Train-bearers; took off my crimson robe and kirtle and put on the Supertunica of Cloth of Gold, also in the shape of a kirtle, which was put over a singular sort of little gown of linen trimmed with lace; I also took off my circlet of diamonds, and then proceeded bare-headed into the Abbey; I was then seated upon St Edward’s chair where the Dalmatic robe was clasped round me by the Lord Great Chamberlain. Then followed all the various things; and last (of those things) the Crown being placed on my head; – which was, I must own, a most beautiful impressive moment; all the Peers and Peeresses put on their Coronets at the same instant … The shouts, which were very great, the drums, the trumpets, the firing of the guns, all at the same instant, rendered the spectacle most imposing.

The Enthronization and the Homage of, first all the Bishops, then my Uncles, and lastly of all the Peers, in their respective order, was very fine. The Duke of Norfolk (holding for me the Sceptre with a Cross) with Lord Melbourne, stood close to me on my right, and the Duke of Richmond with the other Sceptre on my left. All my Train-bearers standing behind the Throne. Poor old Lord Rolle, who is 82 and dreadfully infirm, in attempting to ascend the steps, fell and rolled quite down, but was not the least hurt; when he attempted to reascend them I got up and advanced to the end of the steps, in order to prevent another fall … When Lord Melbourne’s turn to do Homage came, there was loud cheering; they also cheered Lord Grey and the Duke of Wellington; it’s a pretty ceremony; they first all touch the Crown, and then kiss my hand. When my good Lord Melbourne knelt down and kissed my hand, he pressed my hand and I grasped his with all my heart, at which he looked up with his eyes filled with tears and seemed much touched, as he was, I observed, throughout the whole ceremony.

After the Homage was concluded I left the Throne, took off my Crown and received the Sacrament; I then put on my Crown again, and re-ascended the Throne, leaning on Lord Melbourne’s arm; at the commencement of the Anthem I descended from the Throne, and went into St Edward’s Chapel … where I took off the Dalmatic robe, Supertunica, and put on the Purple Velvet Kirtle and Mantle, and proceeded again to the Throne, which I ascended leaning on Lord Melbourne’s hand … I then again descended from the Throne, and repaired with all the Peers bearing the Regalia, my Ladies and Trainbearers, to St Edward’s Chapel, as it is called; but which, as Lord Melbourne said, was more unlike a Chapel than anything he had ever seen; for, what was called an Altar was covered with sandwiches, bottles of wine etc. The Archbishop came in and ought to have delivered the Orb to me, but I had already got it. There we waited for some minutes … the Procession being formed, I replaced my Crown (which I had taken off for a few minutes), took the Orb in my left hand and the Sceptre in my right, and thus loaded proceeded through the Abbey, which resounded with cheers, to the first Robing-room … And here we waited for at least an hour, with all my ladies and Train-bearers; the Princesses went away about half an hour before I did; the Archbishop had put the ring on the wrong finger, and the consequence was that I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, – which I at last did with great pain. At about half past 4 I re-entered my carriage, the Crown on my head and Sceptre and Orb in my hand, and we proceeded the same way as we came – the crowds if possible having increased. The enthusiasm, affection and loyalty was really touching, and I shall ever remember this day as the proudest of my life. I came home at a little after 6, – really not feeling tired.

At 8 we dined. My kind Lord Melbourne was much affected in speaking of the whole ceremony. He asked kindly if I was tired; said the Sword he carried (the first, the Sword of State) was excessively heavy. I said that the Crown hurt me a good deal. He was much amused at Uncle Ernest’s being astonished at our still having the Litany; we agreed that the whole thing was a very fine sight. He thought the robes, and particularly the Dalmatic, “looked remarkably well” … The Archbishop’s and the Dean’s Copes (which were remarkably handsome) were from James I’s time; the very same that were worn at his Coronation, Lord Melbourne told me.

After dinner, before we sat down, we … spoke of the numbers of Peers at the Coronation, which Lord Melbourne said was unprecedented. I observed that there were very few Viscounts; he said “there are very few Viscounts”; that they were an odd sort of title, and not really English; that they came from Vice-Comités; that Dukes and Barons were the only real English titles; that Marquises were likewise not English; and that they made people Marquises when they did not wish to make them Dukes … I then sat on the sofa for a little while … Mamma … remained to see the Illuminations, and only came in later … I said to Lord Melbourne when I first sat down, I felt a little tired on my feet … Spoke of the weight of the robes etc..and he turned round to me and said so kindly, “And you did it beautifully, – every part of it, with so much taste; it’s a thing that you can’t give a person advice upon; it must be left to a person.” To hear this from this kind impartial friend, gave me great and real pleasure … Spoke of my intending to go to bed; he said, “You may depend upon it, you are more tired than you think you are.” I said I had slept badly the night before; he said that was my mind, and that nothing kept people more awake than any consciousness of a great event going to take place and being agitated … Stayed in the drawing-room till 20 minutes past 11, but remained till 12 o’clock on Mamma’s balcony looking at the fireworks in Green Park, which were quite beautiful.


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