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Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2


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The morning of the coronation day was ushered in by discharges of artillery from the park and the river. The throng of carriages at six o'clock was so great that there was a stoppage for a considerable time. The company, impatient of the delay thus occasioned, got out of their carriages and hurried to their places of destination. The crowd thus advancing shone resplendent with gorgeous costumes, glittering diamonds, and waving plumes, while the figures of some of the nobility walking in their coronation robes and coronets rendered the whole effect of the picture singularly striking and brilliant. The antique and grotesque dresses of some of the performers excited the admiration of the multitude. Nothing could be more impressive than the order and quiet which everywhere prevailed in that assemblage of beauty, of fashion, wealth, and grandeur. No other country in the world could have presented such a spectacle. In Westminster Hall, as early as four o'clock, before the rising sun had lighted the building, the gothic gloom was relieved by the splendour of the dresses of the ladies in the galleries, who " made the temple bright by the display of their beauty and the brilliancy of their decorations."

The first of the official personages who entered in form were the barons of the Cinque Ports, with their canopy borne by eight gentlemen in full dress. It was of straw- coloured silk, richly embroidered with gold, the frame studded with silver ornaments, and the supporting rods of silver, richly embossed. The barons were attired in richly- embroidered dresses. The members of the corporations of London, Oxford, and Dublin, who had mustered at Black- friars Bridge, came up the river in a state barge, manned by watermen in scarlet liveries, with silver badges and velvet caps. The lord mayor of London was attended by the sword-bearer with the city sword, the common crier who bore the city mace, the water bailiff, and his lordship's chaplain, acting as the "common hunt" - an obsolete office, once of great importance in the city. These four officers were attired in new state robes, and attended the lord mayor as his esquires, the two sheriffs following. The aldermen wore full embroidered court dresses, with scarlet robes and gold chains, and black velvet caps surmounted with plumes of three ostrich feathers. The recorder and remembrancer were also present, together with twelve citizens, who attended as masters of the twelve companies of the livery.

The king's heart no doubt swelled with pride as his attendants reported to him the state of things outside, the unparalleled magnificence and grandeur of which he was the centre, representing the majesty of England. Let us leave him admiring his coronation robes, rehearsing his part, and practising his attitudes, and turn to the queen.

At an early hour, a crowd was assembled at her residence in South Audley Street. The wall opposite, in Hill Street, was soon covered with spectators, who announced to the throng below the progress of the preparations: - " The horses are to." " Everything is quite ready." " The queen has entered the coach." Lady Anne Hamilton, "ever faithful found among the faithless," arrived a few minutes before five o'clock, and was most cordially and respectfully greeted. Soon after, the gate was thrown open, and a shout was raised, " The queen! The queen! " She immediately appeared in her state coach, drawn by six bays, attended by lady Hood and lady Anne Hamilton, lord Hood following in his own carriage. The queen looked remarkably well, and acknowledged with composure and dignity the gratulations of the people. The course taken was through Great Stanhope Street, Park Lane, Hyde Park Corner, the Green Park, St. James's Park, Birdcage Walk, and by Storey's Gate along Princes Street to Dean's Yard. The soldiers everywhere presented arms with the utmost promptitude and respect, and the multitude cheered and shouted, " The queen for ever! " Having arrived at Dean's Yard Gate, it was found that the entrance for persons of rank was Poet's Corner; thither the coachman went, but there he found there was no thoroughfare. The coachman next drove to Westminster Hall gate, and there stopped. Lord Hood alighted, and found an open gate leading to the speaker's house, where the king was at the time. The queen alighted from her carriage, a good deal agitated, and proceeded, leaning upon lord Hood's-arm. Having reached the door, the royal party discovered that they had gone the wrong way, and returned to the steps by which persons having peers' tickets were permitted to enter. She instantly ascended those steps, but on reaching the platform, they found the passage barred by soldiers, and an officer advanced and asked for their tickets. Lord Hood said he had authority to be there, and on presenting a paper, the party were allowed to pass. When they descended on the other side they found the gate shut. Lord Hood then stated that her majesty did not wish to go into the hall, but into the abbey. She was then conducted back to the Poet's Corner, and arriving at the place where the tickets were received, lord Hood demanded admission for the queen. The doorkeeper said that his instructions were to admit no person without a peer's ticket. Lord Hood asked, " Did you ever hear of a queen being asked for a ticket before? This is your queen. I present to you your queen. Do you refuse her admission? " She also said that she was his queen, and desired permission to pass. The doorkeeper answered that his orders were peremptory. Lord Hood then tendered one ticket which he had, and asked the queen whether she would enter alone. After a short consultation she declined, and it was resolved that, having been refused admission to the cathedral church of Westminster, she should return to her carriage. As she quitted the spot, some persons in the doorway laughed derisively, and were rebuked by lord Hood for their unmannerly and unmanly conduct. She passed out through a group of ladies advancing with their tickets for the abbey, who did not deign to take the slightest notice of her. She was received by the crowd with mingled cheers and hisses, some approving and others disapproving of 'her conduct. Lady Hamilton and lady Hood seemed to participate in all the feelings of her majesty, as her ears were assailed with the rude cries of " Shame! Shame! " " Off! off! " met by the preponderating cries of " The queen for ever! " kept up with great enthusiasm.

It was a melancholy thing to see the queen of England bandied about from door to door, in the throng of curious and anxious spectators; cheered by some, laughed at by others, and an object of pity to her friends, making vain efforts to obtain admission to witness the glory of her worthless husband, repulsed at every point by the lowest officials, and compelled to return home discomfited and humiliated. By indiscreet and foolish acts like this she injured her position, and degraded herself to an extent that her husband, powerful and malignant as he was, never could have done. She and her friends counted upon the devotion of the people to her cause, which they hoped would have borne down all impediments and broken through all barriers.

But it was felt that in attempting to intrude herself in that way at the risk of marring a great national festival, and causing tumult and possibly bloodshed, she had forgotten her own dignity; her conduct shocked the public sense of propriety, and went far to forfeit popular sympathy. She became deeply sensible of this fact while waiting for admission, and with all her attempts at hilarity, her laughter and gaiety of manner ill concealed the deep, self-inflicted wounds of her spirit, which were never healed. The internal spring that had sustained her through so many trials was now broken, and her heart sunk within her as she returned home to ruminate on her position. Now completely disenchanted, robbed of the fond illusion which had hitherto affected her perception of things, and viewing her situation in the cold morning light of stern reality, a chill of despondency came over her, and thenceforth settled heavily upon her spirit.

As to the people, their minds were full of the grand spectacle of the coronation. It was to all ranks and classes a novel and interesting exhibition, producing a new and deep sensation, surpassing on the real theatre of life the grandest scenic display they had ever witnessed on any stage. The king had done his utmost as an artist to gratify their taste. His forte lay in matters of costume and decoration, in tailoring and upholstery, and lie put forth all his resources in this ceremonial. He had spent many anxious days and nights in company with persons who had most knowledge of such matters, discussing questions of costume, colours, styles, and pictorial effects. The result in this case was what would be pronounced in our day " a great success." The effect of the tout ensemble in Westminster Hall was so grand and dazzling, that the king himself seemed disconcerted by it when he entered and saw it for the first time. It was a great treat for those who were in early to watch the progress of the magnificent picture, as one great personage after another entered, and feature after feature, and colour after colour, were added, till all the details were filled up, as if by the magic touches of an unseen artist.

At a quarter past eight o'clock the doors were closed. The canopy bearers were arranged at the foot of the royal platform; and the heralds commenced their arrangements for marshalling the procession in the hall. The king's sergeants entered first in their scarlet robes; the knights and the knight commanders of the Bath followed, in the collars and habits of their order; the judges entered next, and took their places; then privy councillors who were not peers; then the barons; next came the bishops, fifteen in number; after these the viscounts, and then in succession the earls, the marquises, the dukes, the great officers of state, the archbishops, and the members of the royal family. On the royal platform were the dukes of York, Clarence, Sussex, Cambridge, and Gloucester, and prince Leopold, in their full robes, as knights of the Garter. The duke of Wellington, with his gold staff, as lord high constable, stood near the table in front of the throne, the lord chancellor, the master of the horse, the lord chamberlain, the president of the council, and the lord privy seal being arranged round the same table. The names of the peers assembled in the hall were called over by two heralds, and everything was arranged for the procession.

At ten o'clock precisely the king entered the hall, preceded by the great officers of state, and took his seat at the head of the royal table, robed in a style of surpassing splendour, his hair falling in thick curls over his forehead, and wearing ostrich feathers, surmounted by a black heron's plume. He seemed for a moment nervous, and advanced to his seat with a hurried step, but soon recovered his self- possession, bowing with great affability to the peers around. him, and assuming an air of majesty worthy of the great occasion. All the spectators in the gallery rose as he entered, and kept standing while he remained in the hall, the royal band meanwhile playing, "God save the king," and the guns without announcing to the metropolis the commencement of the grand solemnity. The sword of state, the sword of mercy, and the two swords of justice were drawn from their scabbards, and laid upon the table before the king. The gold spurs were also delivered in the same manner. Then entered the dean and chapter of Westminster, in their surplices and rich copes, walking up from the bottom of the hall, preceded by the sergeant of the vestry, in a scarlet mantle; the children of the king's chapel, in scarlet mantles; and the children of the choir, in surplices; the gentlemen of the king's chapel, in scarlet mantles; the choir of Westminster, in surplices, all four abreast. Then came the sub-dean of the chapel royal; two pursuivants of arms; two heralds; the two provincial kings of arms; the dean of Westminster, carrying Stę Edward's crown on a cushion of cloth of gold; first prebendary of Westminster, carrying the orb; second prebendary, carrying the sceptre with the dove; third prebendary, carrying the sceptre with the cross; fourth prebendary, carrying St. Edward's staff; fifth prebendary, carrying the chalice and patina; sixth prebendary, carrying the Bible. Having made their reverences repeatedly in different parts of the hall, the dean presented the crown to the lord high constable, who delivered it to the deputy lord great chamberlain, and by him it was placed on the table before the king. The rest of the regalia were severally delivered by each prebendary on his knee to the dean, and by him passed in the same way to the table. The king having commanded the deputy garter to summon the noblemen and bishops who were to bear the regalia, the deputy lord great chamberlain took them up, and placed them in the hands of those by whom they were to be carried. Then the procession commenced with the anthem, " O Lord, grant the king a long life," which was sung in parts, the royal band at the same time playing, the trumpets sounding, and the drums beating till they arrived in the abbey.

The procession was at length formed. It was a curious and instructive exhibition, as bringing out in one view all the costly belongings of royalty which could be grouped together in-doors. The king, who was supported on one side by the bishop of Oxford, on the other by the bishop of Lincoln, wore a cap of state adorned with jewels, under a canopy of cloth of gold, borne by sixteen barons of the Cinque Ports. His train was borne by eight eldest sons of peers, assisted by the master and the groom of the robes, with twenty gentlemen pensioners on each side. The numerous officers of state who took part in the procession were clothed in costumes of endless variety, in every imaginable style of decoration, and the most brilliant and striking colours, the fantastic and grotesque reproduction of the magnificent royalty of olden times, when English kings were men of might, who could wield their heavy broadswords, and lead gallant charges on the battle-field. George IV. had not been distinguished in any such way. He had never been anything higher in the army than a colonel, and had never seen any service; but he was pre-eminently qualified to be the principal figure in a royal pageant, and on this day he did all in his power to prove to the nation that he was the right man in the right place. In contemplating what followed when the heads of the church bestowed their benedictions upon him, and anointed him, we could wish to eliminate his moral character, to forget all about his manner of life, the women he ruined, and the wife he persecuted. A mind that could see through all the imposing pomp and grandeur might have conceived a procession of a different kind - a long train of female victims, abandoned, heart-broken, sunk in poverty and infamy, whom this illustrious prince, with his minions, had made it the chief business of his life to corrupt and ruin. But these were all now forgotten; even the wronged and degraded wife was not allowed a place in the background of the picture.

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Pictures for Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 2

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