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Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3


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As the procession moved on to the abbey, the crowd was dazzled with its splendour. Various personages were the objects of cheers or hisses, according as they were acceptable or not to the parties of the king or queen. At length his majesty appeared in the distance. The crowd were then silent, and all eyes were fixed intently on that figure, the most showy and gorgeous impersonation of royalty, perhaps, that ever the people of any European nation had beheld. The following is a lively description of the scene within the abbey, by one who had the privilege of witnessing it: - "The herbwoman with her maids, and the sergeant-porter, remained at the entrance within the west door; the drums and trumpets filed off to the gallery over the entrance door. The abbey at this moment began rapidly to fill. The peeresses - their natural attractions heightened by every aid which art or fancy could supply, their dresses sparkling with jewels, and their white feathers waving in the wind - thronged into the seats appointed for them immediately below the choir, and ranged in rows, to the number of one hundred and fifty- five, without a single creature of the grosser sex to disturb the uniformity or break the delicacy of the scene; with robes of every colour, various as the rainbow, and plumes of hues almost as many, their box showed like a bed of summer flowers, in which the rose, the tulip and the violet, the snowdrop and the bright blue-bell displayed, contending each in its pride of beauty, and all insisting on pre-eminence. The procession continuing its course - the choirs of the chapel royal and of Westminster, with his. majesty's band, to the organ gallery - some little confusion occurred in the filing off of the different bands; but the difficulty was quickly at an end, and upon the entrance of the king into the aisle, a hundred instruments and twice a hundred voices rang out their notes at once, and the loud anthem, attended with the applauding shouts of the spectators, echoed to the very roof of the abbey."

The procession seems to have been too much for the strength of the king. When he arrived at his chair of state opposite the altar, where he first knelt in private devotion, he appeared distressed almost to fainting. It was with uneven steps, and evident difficulty, that he made his way up the aisle. The heat was so great that a lady in one of the galleries swooned, and had to be removed from the building. The king was enormously over-dressed; and we are told that the weight of the state cloak alone, though it had seven supporters, might have overpowered a man in the most vigorous bodily health. The important business of the day was now to be transacted. After the singing of an anthem, and the sounding of trumpets, the ceremony of recognition was proceeded with. The archbishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, the lord great chamberlain, the lord high constable, and the earl marshal went each to a different point of the. compass, east, south, west, and north, and addressed the people in a loud voice, the king at the same time standing by his chair and showing himself to each side of the theatre, while the archbishop spoke as follows: - " Sirs, I here present unto you king George IV., the undoubted king of this realm: wherefore all you that come this day to do your homage, are ye willing to do the same? " This was answered by loud and repeated acclamations, with cries of u God save king George IV.! "

The trumpets then sounded, another anthem was sung, and the king proceeded to make his first oblation upon the altar, kneeling and uncovered, and being supported in his passage thither by two bishops, the lords carrying the regalia before him. The treasurer of the household then delivered a wedge of gold, a pound weight, to the great chamberlain, which he, kneeling, delivered to the archbishop, and the archbishop to the king, who laid it on the altar. An appropriate prayer was then offered by the archbishop, the communion service was read, with the Nicene creed; then followed a sermon by the archbishop of York, in which, among other good things, he said " that it behoved royalty to be strenuous in giving examples of purity in its own person; that the king should never forget that his virtues form the strongest ties between him and his people. Every page in history proved that people were neither regardless of the character of their sovereign nor blind to his merits." One might suppose from the foregoing remarks that the most reverend preacher meant to be personal, and that he took that solemn occasion to rebuke the king for his vices. But he had no idea of the kind j on the contrary, he poured out the fragrant oil of flattery very copiously. He said, " Our prudence, our morality, were proverbial amongst other nations, and the virtues of our present king seemed to secure a permanency of that feeling!" After some general reflections on the duties of sovereigns, and praise of the house of Hanover, the archbishop said, " It was a consolation to see the son and worthy successor of George III. treading in the same steps; and, indeed, the past conduct of his majesty had given every reason to hope the best from him for the future!" Then the archbishop administered the coronation oath, and the ceremony of anointing followed, preceded by the singing of an anthem and prayer.

The investiture now commenced, when his majesty was girt with the sword of state, the armill, or emblem of mercy, and royal robe. The royal or purple robe of state, furred with ermine, was then put on, also the annulus, or ring, the ensign of kingly dignity, and of the defence of the catholic faith. A pair of gloves were next put on his majesty, and the archbishop delivered him the sceptre and the rod of mercy. The crowning here took place. While his majesty sat in king Edward's chair, the dean of Westminster brought the crown from the altar, and the archbishop reverently placed it on the king's head.

At the sight of this the people, with loud and repeated shouts, cried, "God save the king!" The trumpets sounded, and the great guns from the Tower responded. When the noise ceased, the archbishop addressed to the king a brief exhortation, and an anthem was sung. The archbishop and the other prelates then approached the king, and delivered him the Bible, with the exhortation to do the things contained therein.

And now, the king having been thus anointed and crowned, and having received all the ensigns of royalty, the archbishop solemnly blessed him; all the bishops standing about him, with the rest of the peers, adding a loud and hearty " Amen."

The blessing being thus given, the king sat down in his chair, and kissed the archbishop and bishops assisting at his coronation, they kneeling before him one after another. Then the choir began to sing the Te Deum, and the king went up to the dais on which the throne is placed, all the bishops, great officers, and other peers attending him, while he sat down and reposed himself in his chair below the throne. Another anthem having been sung, his majesty was enthronised, holding the sceptre in his right hand, and the orb in his left, all the great officers, those that bore the swords and the sceptres, standing round, while the archbishop offered up another exhortation and prayer. This being ended, all the peers did homage formally and solemnly. In the meantime the treasurer of the household threw among the people medals of gold and silver, as the king's largess, or donation. The archbishop and bishops first, and then the peers, according to their rank, did homage kneeling, and repeating the oath of allegiance. The communion followed, for which the king offered bread and wine brought to him from king Edward's chapel. He made a second oblation, consisting of a mark weight of gold, which the archbishop received in a basin.

The whole coronation service being concluded, at length the king, attended and accompanied as before, descended from the throne, crowned, carrying the sceptre and rod in his hands, and passed into king Edward's chapel, where he was disrobed and again arrayed with his robe of purple velvet and another crown. During his absence in St. Edward's chapel, which lasted about ten minutes, the abbey became literally deserted. The peeresses rushed out of the church, the box of the foreign ministers was emptied in a moment, the musicians and principal singers abruptly left the choir, and when the king returned, he beheld on the one hand empty benches, covered with litter, and on the other the backs of his courtiers, making their exit with the most undignified haste. His majesty bore this seeming want of respect with great good humour.

During the proceedings in the abbey, Westminster Hall was being prepared for the banquet. There were three tables on each side, each table having covers for fifty-six persons, and each person having before him a silver plate. The other plate was entirely of gold. The dishes served up were all cold, consisting of fowls, tongues, pies, and a profusion of sweetmeats, with conserves and fruit of every kind. At twenty minutes to four o'clock the gates were thrown open to admit the procession on its return. Seen from the opposite end of the hall, the effect was magnificent, as the procession passed under the triumphal arch. On the entrance of the king he was received with loud and continued acclamations. His majesty being seated at the banquet, the first course came with a grand procession, which the king seemed to regard with great satisfaction. The duke of Wellington, as lord high constable, the marquis of Anglesey, as lord high steward, and the deputy earl marshal, lord Howard of Effingham, mounted on horses, and attended by their pages and grooms, advanced to the foot of the platform; the horsemen stopped while the clerks of the kitchen advanced to the royal table, and took the dishes from the gentlemen pensioners. Then the whole procession moved back, the horsemen backing their chargers with the greatest precision, amidst loud applause.

The first course having been removed, a flourish of trumpets was heard at the bottom of the hall, the great gates were instantly thrown wide open, and the champion, Mr. Dymoke, made his appearance under the gothic archway, mounted on his piebald charger, accompanied on the right by the duke of Wellington, and on the left by lord Howard of Effingham, and attended by trumpeters and an esquire. The first challenge was given at the entrance of the hall, in the following terms: - " If any person, of what degree soever, high or low, shall deny or gainsay our sovereign lord king George IV., of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, defender of the faith, son and next heir to our sovereign lord king George III., the last king deceased, to be right heir to the imperial crown of this United Kingdom, or that he ought not to enjoy the same, here is his champion, who saith that he lieth, and he is a false traitor; being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him, on what day soever he shall be appointed." After a pause of a few minutes, the champion flung his gauntlet on the floor. The herald took it up and returned it, as no one appeared to accept the challenge. It was repeated when the cavalcade arrived half way up the hall, and a third time at the top of the first flight of steps, amidst loud applause and shouts of " Long live the king! " His majesty, evidently pleased with his knightly bearing, drank the champion's health in a flowing goblet. The champion, on his part, having received the cup, drank to the king, "Long live his majesty, king George IV.!" He then gave the cup to one of his pages, who bore it away as the perquisite of his master. Immediately after, Garter, attended by the king of arms, proclaimed his majesty's titles in Latin, French, and English, three several times, from the Uppermost step of the elevated platform, then in the middle of the hall, and then at the bottom. Some other ceremonies having been gone through, the king's health was proposed by one of the peers, and drank with acclamation. The national anthem was then sung, after which the king rose and said, "The king thanks his peers for drinking his health, and does them the honour of drinking their health and that of his good people." Shortly after, his majesty quitted the hall and returned to his palace in his private carriage, attended by his usual body guard.

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. A scene followed the king's departure which seems almost incredible. After the service of the second course, the numerous attendants, singers, and even ladies and gentlemen began to press round the royal table, as if prepared for a scramble to possess its contents. The crowd of spectators pressed nearer and nearer. For a moment only covetous eyes were cast on the spoils, as if each were afraid to begin the plunder; but, at last, a rude hand having been thrust through the first ranks, and a golden fork having been seized, this operated as a signal to all, and was followed by a "general snatch." In a short time all the small portable articles were transferred to the pockets of the multitude. The lord high chamberlain, hearing of the attack, hastened to the rescue, and with the greatest difficulty saved the more important articles of plate, and had them conveyed to Carlton Garden. Then followed a scene unparalleled in the annals of coronations. The crowds in the galleries had beheld with envy the operations at the banquet. They were very hungry, and very thirsty, and seeing now that Westminster Hall was " liberty hall," they rushed down different stairs and passages, and attacked the viands and the wine. A raging thirst was the first thing to be satisfied, and in a few minutes every bottle on the table was emptied. A fresh supply was soon obtained from the cellarettes. " From liquids the operators proceeded to solids, and here the work of destruction was equally fierce. Sweetmeats, pastry, and confectionery of all sorts vanished with the rapidity of lightning." When the ravening selfishness of the hungry crowd was satisfied, the gentlemen recovered their politeness, and began to think of the ladies. Groups of beautiful women then found their way to the tables, and every effort was made to afford them the refreshment of which they stood so much in need. In the meantime, the plunderers took advantage of the confusion to enrich themselves with trophies, breaking and destroying the table ornaments to obtain fragments of things too cumbrous to carry away. Thus, baskets, flower-pots, vases, and figures were everywhere disappearing, and these were followed by glasses, knives, forks, salt-spoons, and, finally, the plates and dishes. The last were engraved with the royal arms and the letters u Geo. IV.," and were therefore specially coveted as memorials. The dirty state of the articles, however, was rather out of keeping with the costly dresses; but the ladies and gentlemen got over the difficulty by wrapping up the articles in their pocket- handkerchiefs. Having thus secured all the spoils they could, they made all possible haste to their carriages. At a subsequent period, it was with the greatest difficulty that the royal plate could be kept from being carried away by the multitude outside, when the barriers were removed.

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Pictures for Chapter V, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 7 page 3

The Regalia of England
The Regalia of England >>>>
Marquis of Anglesey
Marquis of Anglesey >>>>
Coronation of George IV
Coronation of George IV >>>>

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