Riots, crown jewel mishaps and a banned queen among coronation troubles

- Advertisement -

Monarchs have faced their fair share of mishaps, setbacks and scandals at historic British coronations.

Queen Victoria was left in agony when the coronation ring was squeezed onto her wrong finger by mistake, while Edward VII had to postpone his ceremony with just days to go when he fell dangerously ill.

Even William the Conqueror’s Christmas Day coronation in 1066 sparked rioting amid fears an assassination attempt was under way.

An illustration showing the crowning of William the Conqueror as a fire rages outside smoke fills the building
An illustration showing the crowning of William the Conqueror as a fire rages outside smoke fills the building (Alamy/PA)

Smoke filled the church, the congregation fled and riots broke out. William and the officiating clergy still managed to complete the service despite the mayhem.

There were also riots in response to George I’s coronation more than 300 years ago, with protesters showing their displeasure in 20 towns across the south and west of England.

It was 1714 and the rioters objected to having the German-born monarch as the new sovereign.

Under the terms of the Act of Settlement 1701, Queen Anne, who had no surviving children, had to be succeeded by a protestant.

Her uncharismatic German second cousin George, who was frequently absent in his beloved native Hanover, became king despite there being more than 50 Roman Catholic relatives with stronger claims to the throne.

A Jacobean rebellion was also started in Scotland by supporters of the Catholic James Stuart.

Portrait of George I dressed in his coronation robe
Portrait of George I dressed in his coronation robe (Artokoloro/Alamy/PA)

George I spoke very little English, so the ceremony itself was conducted mostly in Latin, and he had little idea of what was going on.

The frugal king rented the jewels that adorned his coronation crown.

At George III’s coronation in 1761, there was chaos when horse-drawn carriages crashed into one another in the struggle to get to the Abbey.

Members of the congregation sat in a box in the church began to eat a meal during the sermon after finding they could not hear what was being said, and the clattering of their knives, forks, plates and glasses echoed around, causing bursts of laughter among the guests.

King George III in coronation robes
George III in his coronation robes (Niday Picture Librar/Alamy Stock Photo/PA)

It had been delayed for almost a year after his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, returned from Europe to claim her right as Queen Consort.

George IV had needed a wife after his father refused to help settle his mounting debts unless he married his cousin Caroline, but the two despised each other and they separated after having their only child Princess Charlotte.

On the day of his coronation, George IV refused to allow Caroline into the Abbey and ordered those guarding the church to prevent her from entering.

She was forced to go round to every door demanding admission. She finally admitted defeat and left, and went on to die three weeks later.

Queen Caroline demanding entry to the Abbey at the coronation of George IV
Queen Caroline demanding entry to the Abbey at the coronation of George IV (Encyclopedia/Alamy Stock Photo/PA)

George IV’s successor, William IV, had to be persuaded to have a coronation at all in 1831 and spent so little money that it became known as “the Penny Coronation”.

It did establish much of the format that remains for British coronations today with a procession in the Gold State Coach to the Abbey, but he refused to have a coronation banquet as he considered it too expensive.

Queen Victoria’s coronation festivities in 1838 were a much grander affair with three state balls, two court receptions, a drawing room and state concert, and a public procession to the Abbey.

Parliament spent £69,000 (£6.2 million in today’s money) on the 19-year-old’s celebrations, compared to William IV’s £43,000 (£3.6 million).

But the service itself was under-rehearsed, lasted five hours, and many of the clergy involved had no idea what they were meant to be doing.

Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation in 1838
Queen Victoria receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation in 1838 (Painters/Alamy Stock Photo/PA)

There were further mishaps when the Archbishop of Canterbury shoved the ruby coronation ring onto Victoria’s fourth finger causing her great pain. It had been made to fit her fifth.

He also tried to hand her the orb after she had already been presented with it and completed that part of the ceremony.

At one point, a bishop told the queen the service was over when it was still ongoing, and she had to be brought back from St Edward’s Chapel, where she had retired, to continue the proceedings.

Queen Victoria in her coronation dress
Queen Victoria in her coronation dress (Alamy/PA)

Victoria’s son Edward VII faced a major upset with his coronation plans in 1902.

His ceremony was set for June and guests were invited from all over the world.

But the King suffered appendicitis and developed peritonitis a few days beforehand, and had to have an operation immediately for fear he would die.

The coronation of Edward VII
The coronation of Edward VII (Painters/Alamy Stock Photo/PA)

But during his service, the ageing and almost blind Archbishop of Canterbury, who had the prayers printed in large letters on card, mis-read some of the words and at the moment of crowning – after he appeared to drop the crown – placed it on the king’s head the wrong way round.

Edward VIII’s coronation was due to take place on May 12, 1937 – but never happened.

He abdicated five months beforehand over his love for American divorcee Wallis Simpson and was never crowned.

Royalty – Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Paris (PA)

Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor, did not attend the 1937 service and he was also not invited to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953

He watched that service on television from Paris.

Coronation of King George VI – London
King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth after the coronation in 1937 (PA)

The procession of his consort Queen Elizabeth had to be halted when a chaplain fainted, the King nearly put his Colobium Sindonis garment on inside out, the Archbishop’s thumb covered the words of the oath he had to read, and a Bishop stood on the King’s robe, nearly causing him to fall.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.