A Coronation for the Ages: 1821

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence

George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Mrs Daffodil is delighted and honoured to welcome a distinguished guest blogger to these pages and joins the entire Empire in applauding Catherine Curzon, royal historian, author of the new book, Life in the Georgian Court, and Madame Gilflurt at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life. Her theme to-day is the coronation of George IV.

A Coronation for the Ages

Few kings of the long 18th century are as fabulously divisive as George IV, as I discovered whilst researching Life in the Georgian Court. A spendthrift, gambler, womaniser and lifelong spoiled brat, when it came to flamboyance, nobody could beat him. His finest moment was surely his 1821 coronation, a riot of cash, ceremony and jewels!

For years the new king had been planning this moment, determined that when his day finally came, it would be the greatest Europe had ever seen. He envisioned a themed event with guests dressed in Elizabethan or Jacobean costume and true to form, there was to be no expense spared. After all, the world needed to know that nobody did good old showing off anything like as well as him. Parliament stumped up over £100,000 for the festivities, adding a further £138,000 received from France under the terms of a financial indemnity[1] and across the country, a day of celebrations was declared.

“[George wore] a black hat with a monstrous plume of ostrich feathers, out of the midst of which rose a black heron’s plume. His Majesty seemed very much oppressed with the weight of his robes. The train was of enormous length and breadth. It was of crimson velvet adorned with large golden stars, and a broad golden border.”[2]

Ever fabulous, George’s togs cost £24,000, the train stretching for twenty seven feet and requiring the attention of eight pages just to lift it. Never one to shirk on luxury, he commissioned a new crown containing over 12,000 diamonds that were on hire from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. Unfortunately, George grew somewhat fond of his rented diamonds and did his best to hang onto them, only returning them to the jewellers once Parliament rejected his requests for the country to purchase them on his behalf[3].

At the head of the Coronation procession came Miss Fellowes, the King’s herbwoman, and her six attendants, scattering flowers and sweet-smelling herbs in a traditional ceremony to ward off plague and pestilence. The procession that followed included the Officers of State who carried the iconic orb, sceptre, crown and sword, bishops bearing chalice, bible and paten and, of course, the star of the show. George made a splendid sight in his robes, followed by the Barons of the Cinque Ports who carried the Coronation Canopy. Bringing up the considerable rear were the assembled peers of the realm and other dignitaries, with hired prizefighters playing the role of pages throughout the procession just in case trouble came calling.

The monumental procession eventually wound its way through the crowds to Westminster Abbey where George was subject to the traditional and ancient ceremony. The summer day was stifling and George wilted under the weight of his robes, appearing “distressed almost to fainting”[4]. When the crown was placed on his head, Britain could finally celebrate the coronation of George IV, with the Abbey erupting in a spontaneous huzzah that both surprised and delighted the king.

The procession then made it way back to Westminster Hall amid cheering crowds. We all know that George liked his food and the coronation banquet was testament to this, consisting as it did of well over a thousand dishes and tens of thousands of pounds of meat alone. The king thanked the assembled guests and did them “the honour of drinking their health and that of his good people”[5]. It was a night to remember as hundreds of male guests tucked into a vast array of delicacies, whilst the ladies and children were herded into viewing galleries to watch the fun!

Finally the newly-crowned George IV departed for Carlton House with the people of London joining a fête in Hyde Park, where fireworks were let off throughout the evening. The day had been a flamboyant, excessive triumph and parties went on late into the summer night as the people of the realm celebrated the crowning of the new monarch.

Life in the Georgian Court by Catherine Curzon of the famed blog: A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life.

Life in the Georgian Court by Catherine Curzon of the famed blog: A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

About the Author

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian and blogs on all matters 18th century at A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.

Her work has featured by publications including BBC History ExtraAll About History, History of Royals, Explore History and Jane Austens Regency World. She has also provided additional material for the sell-out theatrical show, An Evening with Jane Austen, will she will introduce at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, in September (tickets are available here).

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Her book, Life in the Georgian Court, is available now from Amazon UK, Amazon US, Book Depository and all good bookshops!

About Life in the Georgian Court

As the glittering Hanoverian court gives birth to the British Georgian era, a golden age of royalty dawns in Europe. Houses rise and fall, births, marriages and scandals change the course of history and in France, Revolution stalks the land.

Peep behind the shutters of the opulent court of the doomed Bourbons, the absolutist powerhouse of Romanov Russia and the epoch-defining family whose kings gave their name to the era, the House of Hanover.

Behind the pomp and ceremony were men and women born into worlds of immense privilege, yet beneath the powdered wigs and robes of state were real people living lives of romance, tragedy, intrigue and eccentricity. Take a journey into the private lives of very public figures and learn of arranged marriages that turned to love or hate and scandals that rocked polite society.

Here the former wife of a king spends three decades in lonely captivity, Prinny makes scandalous eyes at the toast of the London stage and Marie Antoinette begins her last, terrible journey through Paris as her son sits alone in a forgotten prison cell.

Life in the Georgian Court is a privileged peek into the glamorous, tragic and iconic courts of the Georgian world, where even a king could take nothing for granted.

Bibliography

Anonymous. George III: His Court and Family, Vol I. London: Henry Colburn and Co, 1821.

Baker, Kenneth. George IV: A Life in Caricature. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Black, Jeremy. The Hanoverians: The History of a Dynasty. London: Hambledon and London, 2007.

David, Saul. Prince of Pleasure. New York: Grove Press, 2000.

Hadlow, Janice. The Strangest Family: The Private Lives of George III, Queen Charlotte and the Hanoverians. London: William Collins, 2014.

Hetherington Fitzgerald, Percy. The Life of George the Fourth. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1881.

Huish, Robert. Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, 1830.

Irvine, Valerie. The Kings Wife: George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert. London: Hambledon, 2007.

Lloyd, Hannibal Evans. George IV: Memoirs of His Life and Reign, Interspersed with Numerous Personal Anecdotes. London: Treuttel and Würtz, 1830.

Smith, EA. George IV. Bury St Edmunds: St Edmundsbury Press, 1999.

Spencer, Sarah. Correspondence of Sarah Spencer Lady Lyttelton 1787-1870. London: John Murray, 1912.

[1] This is the equivalent of £9.5million in modern money.

[2] Gossip, Giles (1828). Coronation Anecdotes. London: Robert Jennings, pp.291-2.

[3] George had to make do with a gilt bronze cast of his sumptuous new crown, acquired at a cost of £38.

[4] Huish, Robert (1830). Memoirs of George the Fourth: Vol I. London: Thomas Kelly, p.216.

[5] La Belle Assemblée: Vol XXIV, 1821. London: J Green, p.45.

Many thanks, Catherine—and Mrs Daffodil’s best congratulations on your new book! Do be careful of those Furies…

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2 thoughts on “A Coronation for the Ages: 1821

    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Many, many thanks for sharing your delightful and informative post about the excesses of George IV and his coronation! And heartiest congratulations on your new book!
      Best wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil

      Reply

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