George IV (1762-1830) entered Westminster Hall at 10.30am on Thursday 19 July 1821, almost half an hour late, to join the assembled court. From here there was a large procession to Westminster Abbey, with George arriving at the West Door at 11.00am. The coronation service lasted 5 hours and afterwards the procession led back to Westminster Hall for the last coronation banquet held in England.
After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Great Britain had arguably become the most powerful nation in Europe. Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor of France on 2 December 1804 had been a lavish affair and George was determined that his coronation should outshine that of the deposed emperor. Parliament had voted £100,000 for the costs in 1820, which was supplemented by a further sum of £138,238.0s.2d paid ‘out of Money received from France on Account of pecuniary Indemnity, under Treaty, Anno 1815’, making this the most expensive coronation ever held in Britain costing over £9.5 million in today’s money.
One of the most notable aspects of the coronation were the costumes worn by the participants in the procession. George had taken the idea for an ensemble approach to the costumes from Napoleon’s coronation, but looked to an earlier historical source for the designs. Inspiration came from the costumes worn at the Tudor and Stuart courts of the late 16th and 17th centuries. The Annual Register 1821 reports that members of the procession wore,
“… splendid, and in some instances grotesque dresses … Of the latter description were the dresses of the pursuivants, gentlemen pensioners, the attendants of the lords spiritual, and many others, which were fashioned after the model of the earliest times”.
The costumes worn by the participants in the procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey were one of its most notable aspects of George IV’s coronation. George, with his personal interest in costume, assisted with the design of some of the outfits, which were loosely based on the clothing of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods.
Brighton & Hove City Museums’ Royal Pavilion & Museums’ collections contain several pieces relating to George IV’s coronation. These include:
-Outfits from the coronation
-Preparatory watercolour sketches by James Stephanoff for the engravings in Sir George Nayler’s commemorative book, The Coronation of George IV, 1821
-Sir George Nayler’s commemorative book, The Coronation of George IV, 1823
Herbwoman and her six attendants
Miss Fellowes and her companions led the coronation procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey scattering flowers, supplied by Mr Jenkinson of Maryle-Bone Nursery, according to ancient tradition to ward off pestilence and disease. Mary Raymer was the official Herb Strewer, appointed in 1793 until her death in 1836, but she was replaced by Miss Fellowes for George IV’s coronation, when it was decided that the role required a woman of fashion.
Henry Rivington Hill, who with a companion had seats in a pavilion overlooking the procession route, reported in a letter to his sister Hannah Maria Hill in Exmouth, that:
“In a few minutes the herb-women turned the corner by the Champion’s Stables. Miss Fellows [sic] is a woman about 50 but a fine tall figure. Accompanied by six very good-looking young ladies, three of them handsome”
Benjamin Robert Haydon remarked on their entrance to Westminster Hall after the coronation that:
“The grace of their action, their slow movement, their white dresses, were indescribably touching, … Their light, milky colour contrasted with the dark shadow of the archway, which, though dark, was full of rich crimson dresses that gave the shadow a tone as of deep blood”.
Miss Sarah Ann Walker (b.1804) acted as one of the six attendants to Miss Fellowes.
She was given 10 guineas for her dress made from cream silk gauze woven with a crepe appearance. It has a wide neckline with a gathered bodice and high neo-classical waistline.
The dress is trimmed with a cream silk net and satin ribbon around the neckline and cuffs. Pink cotton and silk roses with green foliage decorate the hem and garland. Originally a cream Jacobean-style ruff stood around the back of the neck.
A letter written by one of Sarah’s sisters, Frances Foxcroft Walker, aged 13, states;
“Saturday 30th. Miss Fellows came and said she would be most happy to have such a nice young lady as Sarah for one of her maidens”.
Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber
Knights of the Order of the Bath
The Order of the Bath was founded by George I (1714-1727) in 1725 as a revival of the traditional medieval knighthood ceremony that included a ritual bathing as a sign of purification. The order was later expanded in 1815 to three ranks: Companion (CB) , Knight Commander (KCB) and Knight Grand Cross (GCB).
The outfits worn by all members of the Order of the Bath at George IV’s coronation consisted of a white silk satin doublet (jacket and hose (breeches). The style and length of the red mantle worn over the top and insignia, including crosses on sashes or chains, differed according to the rank of the wearer.
There were twenty-seven Privy Councillors – who were not peers – in the coronation procession. Each was dressed in a blue satin silk suit consisting of doublet (jacket) and hose (breeches), with a blue cloak over.
Emily Cowper wrote that the sight of the Privy Councillors in costume would be expected;
“… to convulse the whole of Westminster Abbey with laughter”.
“Separately so gay a garb had an odd effect on the persons of elderly or ill-made men … But when the whole was thrown into one general body all these discrepancies disappeared”.
Heralds, Knights of the Garter, Treasurer
New tabards for the Heralds were made for George IV’s coronation at a cost of approximately £54 each. They were made by the tailors Baker and Son from silk damask lined with red silk. The most expensive part was the embroidery by George D’Almaine in a design of the Royal Coat of Arms with quarterings of England, Scotland and Ireland with the crowned Coat of Arms of Hanover in the centre.
The Quarterings of England of Crimson Silk Damask embroidered on Yellow Satin partially enriched with Gold Bullion Wire edged and ornaments with Yellow cord and Gold Twist.
The Quarterings of Scotland, Yellow Satin embroidered on Crimson Satin partially enriched with Gold Bullion Wire, edged with Yellow Silk Cord and Gold Twist. The Quarterings bordered with Crimson Silk Cord and Floss Silk ornaments edged with Yellow Silk Cord and Gold Twist.
The Quarterings of Ireland on Blue Watered Damask Silk, embroidered on Yellow Satin partially enriched with Gold Bullion Wire, edged and ornamented with Yellow Cord and Gold Twist, the Strings of the Harp of White Silk Cord with Silver Twist.
The English, later British, coat of arms has constantly changed according to the claims of the Royal Family from both the paternal and maternal sides of the monarch’s family.
The first known arms for an English monarch were created for Henry II (1154-1189) who used a single golden lion on a red ground – gules a lion rampant or. This later changed to three golden lions – gules three lions passant guardant – which are said to represent England, Normandy and Aquitaine, as a result of Henry II’s marriage to Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine.
The first inclusion of the Scottish and Irish coats of arms occurred when James IV of Scotland was created James I of England in 1603. The Scottish arms show a red lion against a golden ground surrounded by a red border – or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counterflory gules. The Irish arms show a gold harp with silver strings against a blue ground – azure a harp or stringed argent.
The Hanover arms were first introduced in 1714 when George I became King. The Coat of Arms for Hanover consists of three sections in the background: two golden lions on a red ground, a blue lion surrounded by red hearts on a gold ground and a silver horse on a red ground. In the centre is a shield with the gold crown of Charlemagne on a red ground. Tierced per pale per chevron: gules two lions passant guardant or, or semy of hearts gules a lion rampant azure, and gules a horse courant argent. Overall an escutcheon of pretence gules charged with the Crown of Charlemagne.
The arms seen on the Heralds’ tabards at George IV’s coronation show the arms of England in the first and fourth quarter, Scotland in the second, Ireland in the third and Hanover in the centre. During George III’s reign the arms of Hanover were surmounted by the electoral bonnet. When Hanover became a kingdom in 1816 George IV, then Regent, replaced the bonnet with a Royal Crown.
The Knights of the Garter appeared wearing the robes of the Order of the Garter. This is the oldest British Order of Chivalry founded by Edward III (1327-1377) in 1348.
The origin of the order is thought to be an incident that occurred when the King was dancing with the Countess of Salisbury. Her garter fell off during the dance and was picked up by Edward III, who tied it around his leg. Amused bystanders were silenced when the King turned and said Honi soit qui mal y pense (‘Shame on him who evil thinks’ in Norman French).
This has since become the motto of the Order of the Garter and a blue garter, together with a star-shaped badge, is worn by as part of the Garter Robes by the King and Knights of the Order. George IV left fifty-five different style Garter badges when he died in 1830.
Standards of Scotland, Ireland and England
The story of St. George has been known in England since the 8th century. During the Crusades he was said to have appeared to the Christian army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098. He subsequently became the patron saint of soldiers. When Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) fought in Palestine he placed his army under the protection of St. George and adopted the saint’s banner – the red cross of a martyr against a white background – for the soldiers’ uniforms.
When the military Order of the Garter was founded by Edward III (1327-1377) in 1348, St. George was adopted as its patron saint. It was also Edward III who declared St. George patron saint of England and his banner the English flag.
Officer of the Jewel House and Lord Chancellor
Lord Mayor of London
The Lord Mayor of London’s outfit was one of the exceptions in the procession. Instead of consisting of a Jacobean-style doublet (jacket) and breeches worn by the majority of the participants, he wore a late-18th century formal suit. This consisted of blue silk coat and breeches with a white silk satin floral embroidered waistcoat. Whilst this style of suit was no longer fashionable – pantaloons and trousers had begun to replace breeches and coats were now cut in a different style – this earlier form of suit was still favoured on formal court and state occasions.
The pencil notes on Stephanoff’s sketch describe the Lord Mayor’s outfit and mace in further detail:
‘Lace frill, coat & breeches blue silk, cut steel buttons, waistcoat white satin flowered with gold ornate gilt buttons. Robe red velvet with gold & ermine & lined with white satin, white ribbon knee strings & white stockings, white kid shoes, white ribbons. Lord Mayor’s mace – pearl – pearl – cristal – cristal – pearl – pearls – cristal’
Prince Leopold, Duke of Clarence
Prince Leopold (the widower of George IV’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, who tragically died in 1817) appeared in full Garter Robes. Prince Leopold, as a foreign prince, was not entitled to wear any British Robes of Estate.
Henry Rivington Hill, who watched the procession to the Abbey, wrote that:
“With the exception of the King, Lord Londonderry and Prince Leopold were the most conspicuous figures in the procession. They were the only two habited in the full dress of a Knight of the Garter, the other Knights of that Order being also Peers and dressed accordingly. Lord Londondarry, not being a peer (of Great Britain), walked alone, carrying in his hand a black velvet Spanish hat with an immense plume of white ostrich feathers …”
The Duke of Clarence (later William IV) wore as a Peer of the Realm his Robes of Estate including a duke’s coronet and red velvet mantle trimmed with ermine.
The Marquis of Anglesey and the Duke of Devonshire
George IV’s coronation robes cost over £24,000 – equivalent to £960,000 today. His red velvet train measured 6.4 metres (27 feet) and was decorated with embroidered gold stars. It was so long that it was carried by eight pages, rather than the customary six, to whom George was overheard saying “Hold it wider”. Underneath he wore a suit made of cloth-of-sliver, which was lavishly trimmed with gold lace and braid.
Benjamin Robert Haydn wrote of George’s arrival in Westminster Hall before the procession to the Abbey;
“Something rustles, and a being buried in satin, feathers and diamonds rolls gracefully into his seat. The room rises with a sort of feathere, silken thunder. Plumes wave, eyes sparkle, glasses are out, mouths smile and one man becomes the prime object of attraction to thousands… As he looked towards the Peeresses and Foreign Ambassadors, he showed like some gorgeous bird of the east”.
Henry Rivington Hill, who watched the procession to the abbey, wrote to his sister Hannah stating that:
“I discovered the King from his height which exceeded that of anyone near him by about four inches. He wore a hat like Lord Londonderry except with more diamonds and the feathers not so high, and he had long ringlets hanging down the back of his neck. More of his dress I cannot describe as my eyes and those of my companions were riveted to the face of our august monarch. He had no colour but his complexion was clear and healthy and seemed to cast reproach upon the Queen’s painted cheeks, showing that he disdained to have recourse to such expedients. He walked firm and majestically and his countenance was the picture of happiness and good humour, bowing on all sides in return for the enthusiastic almost stunning shouts of applause which rent the air from all quarters”.
The long red coronation cloak was later purchased in 1830 by Madame Tussaud for use in her coronation tableaux of George IV. After the anointing ceremony the cloak was replaced with the coronation mantle. Traditionally each monarch had a new coronation mantle, which after the ceremony was presented to the Dean of Westminster Abbey to be made into copes. However George IV’s mantle was sold after the coronation. Since Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 it has become customary for the coronation robes to be reused. George IV’s coronation mantle was discovered in the early 20th century and has subsequently been used at the coronations of George V through to Elizabeth II.
Barons of the Cinque Ports
A canopy was first carried by the Barons of the Cinque Ports over the head of the monarch at the coronation of Richard the Lionheart in 1189.
The Customal of Rye states that,
“… of all the [Cinque] ports there must come thirty two barons all in one clothing, and they shall bear the cloth over the king and over the queen, with four spears, of the colour silver, and four little bells gilt, having about the cloth, which is called the fall, and shall come from the King’s Treasury”.
This tradition continued until the coronation of George IV when the canopy was carried behind instead of over George. Henry Rivington Hill wrote,
“His Majesty’s Reason for walking before the canopy appears to have been that the people at the top of the houses might be able to see him, as he frequently looked up almost perpendicularly”.
However this approach may not have been the wisest, as an anonymous account reports,
“At first all seems to have gone well, but on returning to Westminster Hall, the elderly bearers began to tire at their task, causing the canopy to sway from side to side. The King feeling nervous that it would descend on his head, thought it safer to walk slightly in front of it. This however, did not suit the stout hearts, though weak bodies, of the Barons, whose privilege and duty it was to bear the canopy exactly over the king, so they hastened their steps, the canopy swaying more and more with the increased pace. The King now became genuinely alarmed, and though of portly habits quickened his pace, and, as the canopy surged after him, as last broke into a somewhat unseemly jog trot, and in this manner they all arrived at Westminster Hall”
The Barons were dressed in Jacobean-style blue and red silk satin doublets (jackets), breeches and sur-coats, worn with red stockings, white kid shoes and a black hat trimmed with red and white ostrich feathers. The outfit worn by Thomas Lamb, Lord Mayor of Rye in 1808 survives in the collection at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.
Although the Barons were not present at the coronations of William IV and Queen Victoria, both of which had much less extravagent coronations than George IV, they participated in coronations since Edward VII, but have ceased to carry a canopy.