Episode 109: Coronations: a Short History

Welcome to the London History podcast, where we explore the fascinating world of British royal coronations. The coronation ceremony is a deeply symbolic event that has evolved over time, reflecting the changing political and cultural landscape of Britain. From the anointing of the monarch with holy oil to the crowning with the St Edward’s Crown, every aspect of the ceremony is steeped in tradition and symbolism, emphasizing the monarch’s duty to serve and protect their subjects.

Throughout British history, there have been numerous memorable coronations that have left their mark. From the grandiose coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 to the televised coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, each ceremony has been unique and reflective of its time. The location of Westminster Abbey has been the site of almost every coronation since William the Conqueror’s in 1066, making it an essential part of the British coronation tradition to this day. Join us on the London History podcast as we delve into the rich history and symbolism of British royal coronations.

Welcome to the London History podcast, I’m your host, Hazel Baker. In today’s episode, we’re delving into the fascinating world of British royal coronations. These ceremonies have been a significant part of British royal tradition, symbolizing the formal investiture of a new monarch and the continuity of the British monarchy. So let’s embark on a journey through time to explore the history, key elements, and notable coronations that have shaped the British monarchy.

British royal coronations have evolved over centuries, incorporating religious, cultural, and political elements that reflect the nation’s changing landscape.

The Origins and Evolution of Coronations

Ancient and medieval origins of coronation ceremonies

The concept of coronations can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, who held ceremonies to symbolize the divine authority of their pharaohs. These ancient ceremonies often involved rituals and regalia to convey the pharaoh’s status and power. In medieval Europe, coronations were used to mark the ascension of a new monarch and provide legitimacy to their rule. The ceremony was steeped in religious symbolism and tradition, reflecting the close relationship between the monarchy and the Church.

There are three main components of a Coronation:

  1. The Procession
  2. The Ceremony
  3. The Banquet


The Early Days of Coronation Processions

Coronation processions have been an integral part of the British monarchy since the Middle Ages. These events allowed the newly crowned monarch to be presented to the people, reinforcing the bond between the sovereign and their subjects. In the early days, processions would typically begin from the Tower of London, where the monarch would reside in the days leading up to the coronation. The procession would then make its way through the streets of London towards Westminster Abbey, the site of the coronation ceremony.

The Role of Pageantry and Symbolism

Throughout history, pageantry and symbolism have played a significant role in coronation processions. Monarchs would often ride on horseback or be carried in elaborate carriages, such as the Gold State Coach, which was first used for King George III’s coronation in 1761. The procession would also include various elements that symbolized the monarch’s power and authority, such as military regiments, heralds, and members of the nobility. The public would often line the streets, cheering and celebrating as the procession passed by.

London locations where monarchs stayed the night before their coronation.

King William III and Queen Mary II (1689): Whitehall Palace

Queen Anne (1702): St. James’s Palace

King George I (1714): St. James’s Palace

King George II (1727): St. James’s Palace

King George III (1761): St. James’s Palace

King George IV (1821): Carlton House

King William IV (1831): St. James’s Palace

Queen Victoria (1838): Buckingham Palace

King Edward VII (1902): Buckingham Palace

King George V (1911): Buckingham Palace

King George VI (1937): Buckingham Palace

Queen Elizabeth II (1953): Buckingham Palace

Coronation Processions in Modern Times

 In more recent history, coronation processions have continued to evolve, reflecting the changing nature of the British monarchy. For instance, during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the procession included representatives from the Commonwealth nations, highlighting the Queen’s role as the head of a global family of nations. Additionally, the advent of modern technology has allowed these events to be broadcast on television and radio, reaching a far wider audience than ever before.


The Cultural Significance of Coronation Processions

Coronation processions remain a significant aspect of British royal tradition, serving as a reminder of the monarchy’s long and storied history. These events provide a rare opportunity for the public to engage with the monarchy, fostering a sense of unity and national pride. As we look forward to future coronations, we can only imagine the new ways in which these processions will continue to evolve and adapt to the times.

Development of the coronation ceremony in England

In England, the coronation ceremony has undergone various changes, reflecting the religious, political, and cultural contexts of different historical periods. The Norman Conquest in 1066 marked a turning point for English coronations, as William the Conqueror’s coronation ceremony borrowed elements from both Anglo-Saxon and continental European traditions. This blending of customs would continue to influence the development of English coronations over time.

William the Conqueror’s coronation was not only a pivotal moment in his life but also a turning point in British history. His successful conquest of England brought about the unification of the country under one ruler, forever altering its political landscape. As the first Norman king of England, William’s reign introduced a new era of governance and culture, which would go on to shape the nation’s identity for generations to come.

The coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey, which has been the setting for almost every British coronation since William’s, symbolizes the transfer of power and authority from one monarch to the next. It serves as a reminder of the monarchy’s enduring presence and the nation’s unwavering allegiance to its sovereign.

As the years have passed, the coronation ceremony has evolved, incorporating new elements and adapting to the changing times. Yet, at its core, it remains a celebration of British history and the continuity of the monarchy. The anointing with holy oil and the crowning of the monarch continues to be central aspects of the ceremony, reflecting the divine approval and the sovereign’s authority. A little more about that later on.

William the Conqueror’s coronation at Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1066 is the first coronation which can be proved to have been held at Westminster and set a precedent for future kings and queens of England, establishing a tradition that has been carried on for nearly a millennium. Today, it remains a symbol of British history, pride, and the enduring legacy of the monarchy. As we look back on this pivotal moment, we are reminded of the significance of these ceremonies and the role they play in preserving and celebrating our nation’s heritage.

During the medieval period, the English coronation ceremony became more elaborate, incorporating additional rituals and symbols of power. The anointing of the monarch with holy oil, for example, was introduced in the 12th century to emphasize the divine nature of the monarchy. Over time, the regalia used in coronations also grew more sophisticated, with crowns, sceptres, and other symbols of authority becoming increasingly ornate.

The Reformation in the 16th century had a significant impact on the coronation ceremony, as England broke away from the Catholic Church and established the Church of England. The religious aspects of the ceremony were altered to reflect the new Anglican faith, with some Catholic elements removed or modified.

Significance of Westminster Abbey in British Coronations

Westminster Abbey has been the traditional site for British coronations since 1066. The abbey’s long association with the monarchy has given it a special status as a symbol of the British nation and its history.

The central space within Westminster Abbey, known as the Sanctuary, is where the most important rituals of the coronation take place. Here, the monarch is anointed with holy oil, crowned, and invested with the regalia, all under the watchful gaze of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the gathered audience. The Sanctuary’s sacred atmosphere and grand architecture contribute to the solemnity and importance of these rituals.

Within the Abbey is the historic Coronation Chair, also known as King Edward’s Chair. This ancient chair, which has been used for English coronations since the 14th century, serves as the monarch’s seat during the ceremony. By sitting upon this chair, the monarch is symbolically connecting themselves to the long line of their predecessors who have also taken their place upon this throne.

In addition to coronations, Westminster Abbey has served as the backdrop for countless other significant royal events. Its majestic architecture and hallowed halls have witnessed the joy of royal weddings, the solemnity of funerals, and the eternal rest of monarchs, all of which have contributed to its unique position at the heart of Britain’s heritage.

Royal weddings are a particularly notable part of Westminster Abbey’s history. Its sacred and grand setting has made it the venue of choice for many memorable royal nuptials, including those of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1947, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, and Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011. These joyous occasions have been celebrated not only by the royal family and their guests, but also by the entire nation, as the people of Britain come together in a spirit of unity and happiness.

The Abbey has also borne witness to the sombre moments of royal funerals, offering a place for the nation to mourn and pay their respects to beloved members of the royal family. The funerals of King George VI in 1952, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 2002, and Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997 are just a few examples of the solemn ceremonies held within its walls.

Westminster Abbey’s role as a royal mausoleum has further solidified its place in the nation’s history. The burial site of 17 English and British monarchs, the Abbey serves as the final resting place for some of the most influential figures in the country’s past, from Edward the Confessor to Elizabeth I.

The Background of Charles II’s Coronation

The splendid coronation procession of King Charles II, a significant event that marked not only the beginning of his reign, but also the restoration of the monarchy after a period of republican rule. So, let’s travel back to the 17th century and relive the vibrant and jubilant atmosphere of Charles II’s coronation procession.

To truly appreciate the importance of Charles II’s coronation procession, we need to understand the historical context. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, during a period known as the Interregnum. However, when Cromwell died in 1658 and his son Richard proved to be an ineffective leader, the monarchy was restored, and Charles II was invited to return from exile in 1660.

The Coronation Procession

The coronation procession of Charles II took place on April 23, 1661, following his coronation at Westminster Abbey. The procession was a grand affair, with the streets of London lined with cheering crowds, eager to welcome their new king. The route of the procession began at the Tower of London and continued through the City of London, passing by significant landmarks such as the Guildhall, St. Paul’s Cathedral. After the ceremony had taken place at Westminster Abbey, the procession finally ended at Westminster Hall, where a grand banquet had been prepared.

The Participants

The procession featured a diverse array of participants, from the highest-ranking nobles and members of the clergy to the humblest of tradesmen. Charles II himself was dressed in resplendent royal attire, riding on a magnificent horse and accompanied by his personal guard, the Life Guards. In addition to the nobility, various London guilds and livery companies also took part in the procession, showcasing their trades and professions through elaborate pageantry.

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere during Charles II’s coronation procession was one of excitement and celebration. After years of civil war, the restoration of the monarchy symbolized a return to stability and prosperity for the nation. The streets were filled with music, as trumpets and drums accompanied the procession, and people waved flags and threw flowers before the king as he passed. The spectacle was a vivid display of the nation’s joy and support for their restored monarch.

The Legacy of Charles II’s Coronation Procession

As a symbol of the resurgence of the monarchy, Charles II’s coronation ushered in a period of cultural and artistic renewal, known as the Restoration. 

Key Elements of a Coronation Ceremony

The English coronation ceremony is a rich tapestry of religious, cultural, and political traditions that have evolved over centuries. It serves as a potent symbol of the continuity of the British monarchy and the commitment of each new monarch to their people and the nation. By understanding the key elements of a coronation, we can appreciate the depth of meaning behind this historic event and the important role it plays in maintaining the link between the past, present, and future of the British monarchy.


The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pivotal Role

The Archbishop of Canterbury has historically played a central role in English coronations, with the responsibility of overseeing the anointing, crowning, and investiture of the monarch. As the spiritual leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop is responsible for guiding the monarch through the various religious aspects of the ceremony. The presence of the Archbishop symbolises the close relationship between the British monarchy and the Anglican Church, which has existed since the Reformation in the 16th century.


Anointing, Crowning, and Investiture: Symbolizing Divine Approval and Authority


One of the most significant moments of a coronation ceremony is the anointing of the monarch with holy oil. This ritual traces its origins back to biblical times and represents the divine approval of the monarch’s rule. The Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the monarch on the hands, head, and heart, emphasizing the spiritual dimensions of kingship and the monarch’s connection to God. The act of anointing sets the monarch apart from their subjects, highlighting their unique role as both the temporal and spiritual leader of the nation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury uses the 12th-century Coronation Spoon. Queen Consorts are usually anointed with Holy Oil upon the head. They are traditionally then invested with regalia including a ring, crown, sceptre, and rod with dove. You can hear more about the Crown Jewels on episode 4 of our London History Podcast. 

In the case of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the holy oil used for her anointing contained a unique blend of ingredients, highlighting the rich history and symbolism associated with the ritual.

The holy oil, also known as the chrism, was derived from a combination of sources, including a musk deer, a civet cat, and a sperm whale. These ingredients may seem unusual, but they have a long history in the making of sacred oils.

Musk, obtained from the musk deer, is a highly valued ingredient in perfumery and has been used since ancient times in religious ceremonies. Its inclusion in the holy oil signifies the importance of the occasion and the desire to create a sense of reverence and sacredness.

Civet, derived from the glands of the civet cat, is another fragrant substance that has been used in perfumes and religious rituals for centuries. Its inclusion in the holy oil serves a similar purpose as musk, adding to the overall sense of sanctity and importance of the coronation.

Ambergris, a substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales, is a rare and highly prized ingredient in perfumery. Its inclusion in the holy oil adds an element of rarity and exclusivity to the ceremony, further emphasizing the significance of the event.

These ingredients were combined with other traditional elements, such as olive oil and fragrant herbs or spices, to create a unique and sacred blend for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. I understand Charles III has chosen a vegan-friendly oil.

Next comes the Crowning

Following the anointing, the Archbishop of Canterbury places the crown on the monarch’s head, marking the moment when the monarch officially assumes their new role. The crown is a potent symbol of the monarch’s authority and the continuity of the British monarchy. It is also a visual reminder of the heavy responsibilities and duties that come with the position.

After the Crowning comes the Investiture

The investiture is another crucial part of the coronation ceremony, during which the monarch receives various items of regalia that represent their authority and responsibilities. These items may include the orb, sceptres, rings, and other symbols of royal power. Each piece of regalia has its own historical and symbolic significance, and the act of presenting them to the monarch serves to reinforce the solemnity and importance of the occasion.

From the crown to the orb and sceptre, and from the ampulla to the golden spurs, each of these objects is steeped in history and symbolism. So, join us as we delve into the stories behind some of the most famous and controversial jewels.


The Symbolism of the Coronation Regalia

The regalia used in coronation ceremonies is rich with meaning, as each item symbolises a specific aspect of the monarch’s role and authority. For instance, the crown represents the monarch’s sovereignty and divine right to rule, while the orb symbolizes their dominion over the earth. The sceptre, on the other hand, signifies the monarch’s power and authority, and the ampulla, which contains the holy anointing oil, represents the divine grace bestowed upon the monarch during the ceremony.

The Tragic Fate of the Medieval Crown Jewels

The medieval Crown Jewels, once a dazzling collection of royal regalia, met a tragic fate during the English Civil War. In 1649, following the execution of King Charles I, the jewels were sold or melted down on the orders of Oliver Cromwell’s republican government. The loss of these priceless artefacts is a poignant reminder of the turbulent history that has shaped the British monarchy.

The Stories Behind Famous and Controversial Jewels

Many of the jewels used in coronation ceremonies have fascinating stories attached to them. For example, the Black Prince’s Ruby, which adorns the Imperial State Crown, is not a ruby at all, but a large spinel. This gemstone has a storied history, having once belonged to a Moorish king and later being acquired by Edward, the Black Prince, in the 14th century.

Another controversial jewel is the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The diamond’s origins can be traced back to India, and its ownership has been the subject of much debate and contention between Britain and India.

The Oath and Homage: Commitment to the People and the Nation


The Oath

During the coronation ceremony, the monarch takes a formal oath to uphold the laws of the land, protect the Church of England, and faithfully serve their people. This oath represents the monarch’s commitment to their duties and responsibilities as the sovereign. It also emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between the monarch and their subjects, underscoring the idea that the monarch’s authority derives from the consent of the people.



After the oath, the ceremony proceeds with the act of homage, during which various representatives of the British government, the Church, and the aristocracy swear their loyalty to the new monarch. This act of fealty further reinforces the bond between the monarch and their subjects and highlights the importance of collaboration and unity in governance.


The Importance of Religious and Cultural Traditions in the Coronation Ceremony


Throughout the history of British coronations, religious and cultural traditions have played a vital role in shaping the ceremony and imbuing it with a sense of continuity and heritage. These traditions serve to remind both the monarch and the nation of the rich history of the British monarchy and the importance of maintaining these customs as a link to the past.


Religious Traditions

The religious elements of the coronation ceremony, such as the anointing, the involvement of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the inclusion of hymns and prayers, reflect the close relationship between the British monarchy and the Church of England. These traditions are an essential part of the ceremony, as they emphasize the spiritual dimensions of kingship and the monarch’s role as the Defender of the Faith.


Cultural Traditions

The coronation ceremony also incorporates various cultural traditions that have evolved over time, such as the use of specific regalia, the incorporation of music and choral performances, and the procession through the streets of London. These traditions help to create a sense of pageantry and spectacle that captures the imagination of the public and highlights the importance of the monarchy as a cultural institution.


The Continuity and Adaptation of Coronation Traditions


While the basic elements of the coronation ceremony have remained consistent throughout history, there have been adjustments and adaptations to reflect the changing social, political, and cultural contexts in which the monarchy operates. For example, the role of women in the ceremony has evolved over time, with queen consorts and female members of the Royal Family taking on more prominent roles during the coronation of a king.


Additionally, advances in technology and media have transformed the way coronations are experienced by the public. For instance, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, allowing millions of people around the world to witness the historic event. This development marked a significant shift in the way the monarchy engages with its subjects and reflects the broader changes in society and culture.


Coronation Attire

Coronation attire plays a significant role in British royal tradition, reflecting the grandeur and importance of these ceremonies. Each garment carries its own symbolism and history, showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating these stunning pieces of regalia.


Coronation Garments

Coronation robes have played a significant role in British royal tradition, reflecting the grandeur and importance of these ceremonies. The evolution of these garments tells a story of changing tastes, styles, and symbolism, while also showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry that goes into creating these stunning pieces of regalia.


There are four key garments worn by the monarch during the ceremony and discuss their significance.

  1. The Robe of State (Supertunica)

When a monarch enters Westminster Abbey at the start of the ceremony, they wear the Robe of State, also known as the Parliament Robe. This ornate crimson velvet robe, lined with ermine fur, is typically worn over the monarch’s coronation attire and fastened with a gold clasp at the neck. Embellished with gold embroidery and adorned with symbols of the monarchy, the Robe of State is an important symbol of the monarch’s authority and power.


  1. The Shroud Tunic (Colobium Sindonis)

This plain, white linen shift symbolizes humility before God and the relinquishing of earthly vanities. Worn over the monarch’s clothing during the anointing ceremony, the Colobium Sindonis serves to protect the lavish fabrics beneath from any errant drops of oil. Following the investiture, the Colobium Sindonis and Supertunica are removed before the newly crowned monarch makes their final procession out of the abbey.


  1. The Supertunica: 

Worn during the investiture ceremony, the Supertunica is a long robe made of golden silk and trimmed with golden lace. Decorated with symbols representing the four nations of the United Kingdom, this garment serves as a reminder of the monarch’s association with Christianity, drawing a parallel between priestly garments and royal attire.


  1. The Imperial Robe: 

Worn during the monarch’s final procession from the abbey, the Imperial Robe is made from purple silk and trimmed with ermine. Its design harks back to the imperial robes of Roman Emperors and should not be confused with the Robe of State, which is the crimson velvet robe worn upon entering the abbey. The outer layer of this long gown features crimson velvet, lined with silk satin and a trim of Canadian ermine. The train of the robe features gold lace and filigree embroidery in the shape of wheat ears and olive branches, symbolizing prosperity and peace.

Elizabeth II’s Coronation Dress

Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation took place on June 2nd, 1953, and as the young monarch stepped into Westminster Abbey, all eyes were on her stunning coronation dress. Designed by British couturier Sir Norman Hartnell, this dress would become an enduring symbol of Elizabeth II’s reign and a testament to the artistry of British fashion.


Now, let’s talk about the design. Sir Norman Hartnell was inspired by Botticelli’s painting “Primavera” and wanted to create a dress that would evoke a sense of rebirth and renewal. The gown itself is made of white satin, with a fitted bodice, long sleeves, and a full skirt extending into a magnificent train. But the real showstopper is the intricate embroidery that adorns the dress.


The embroidery is a true masterpiece, featuring a symphony of floral emblems representing the countries of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations. You’ll find the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Welsh leek, and the Irish shamrock, as well as exotic flowers like the Indian lotus and the Canadian maple leaf. This rich tapestry of symbols is brought to life using gold and silver thread, pearls, crystals, and sequins, creating a dazzling effect that captures the light with every movement.


To complete the ensemble, Queen Elizabeth II wore the St. Edward’s Crown, the solid gold, diamond-encrusted symbol of the British monarchy, and carried the orb and sceptre, further emphasizing her royal status.


Now, you might be wondering about the legacy of this iconic dress. Well, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation gown has been exhibited worldwide, allowing people to marvel at its beauty and craftsmanship. It has also inspired countless designers who have sought to capture the same elegance, regality, and sense of occasion in their own creations.


Other London locations connected with Coronations

The coronation banquets are an opportunity for the new monarch to showcase their power and magnificence and to strengthen their alliances with the nobility.

Westminster Hall

As we embark on our journey through time, we’ll begin with the early days of coronation banquets, which were held in Westminster Hall, with the first being in 1066. 

Notable Features of Coronation Banquets at Westminster Hall:

Coronation banquets held in Westminster Hall were known for their opulence and grandeur. The hall would be lavishly decorated with tapestries, banners, and other regal adornments. Guests would be seated at long tables, with the new monarch presiding at the head of the hall.


An important part of the banquet was the ceremonial entrance of the royal regalia, including the crown, orb, and sceptre. These items would be carried in a procession, accompanied by trumpets and other fanfare, before being placed on the high table before the monarch.


The feasting itself would consist of multiple courses, showcasing the finest foods and wines available. Entertainment was also a key component, with musicians, jesters, and other performers providing amusement throughout the event.

Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster hosted coronation banquets for many monarchs, including William the Conqueror, Edward III, Henry IV, and Henry VIII.

The last coronation banquet held in Westminster Hall took place in 1821 for King George IV. The tradition was discontinued thereafter, due to the growing expense and logistical challenges of hosting such large-scale events.

Banqueting House

Moving forward in time, we arrive at the Banqueting House in Whitehall. This magnificent building, designed by the famous architect Inigo Jones and completed in 1622, became the primary location for coronation banquets from the early 17th century until the early 19th century. The Banqueting House’s stunning features, including its iconic ceiling painted by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, made it an ideal setting for these royal celebrations.

This magnificent venue was used for coronation banquets for James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, and William III and Mary II.

The Guildhall

The Guildhall is a grand structure in the heart of the City of London, reflecting the city’s prominence as a centre of commerce and governance. Built in the early 15th century, the Guildhall has served as the home of the City of London Corporation and has hosted countless banquets, feasts, and ceremonies over the years. Its Great Hall, with its high vaulted ceiling, impressive stained glass windows, and opulent interior, was a fitting location for one royal coronation banquet.

Queen Anne’s Coronation Banquet

The coronation banquet of Queen Anne was a lavish affair, attended by the highest-ranking members of the British nobility and the City of London’s elite. The tables were laden with sumptuous dishes, from roast meats and game to delicate pastries and confections, accompanied by the finest wines and liquors.

The banquet was not only a celebration of Queen Anne’s coronation, but also a demonstration of the wealth and power of the City of London. The event would have been a dazzling display of pageantry, with the Queen seated at a raised dais, surrounded by her courtiers and guests, all dressed in their finest attire.

St. James’s Palace

As we continue our exploration, we come to St. James’s Palace, another significant location in the history of coronation festivities. While not a primary venue for the coronation banquets themselves, St. James’s Palace played an important role in the days leading up to the coronation. Monarchs would often stay at the palace, participating in various religious rituals and ceremonies in preparation for their coronation. The palace’s close proximity to Westminster Abbey made it a convenient and symbolic location for these pre-coronation events.

St. James’s Palace, with its long and storied history, is one of the oldest royal palaces in London. It was originally commissioned by King Henry VIII in the 16th century on the site of a former leper hospital. Over the centuries, St. James’s Palace has been a crucial setting for many significant events in British royal history, particularly in the context of coronation festivities.

As a residence for the monarch before their coronation, St. James’s Palace provided a serene and stately environment for quiet contemplation and spiritual preparation. In addition to the royal family, members of the court and high-ranking officials would also gather at the palace, attending to the various matters related to the coronation ceremony.

St. James’s Palace has also been the starting point for many coronation processions, with the monarch and their entourage making their way from the palace to Westminster Abbey through the streets of London. The procession would be a grand spectacle, allowing the public a chance to celebrate and catch a glimpse of their new monarch as they journeyed towards their official investiture.

Buckingham Palace

In more recent history, Buckingham Palace has also played a role in coronation festivities. For example, following Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, a grand luncheon was held at Buckingham Palace in lieu of a traditional coronation banquet. This event, attended by members of the Royal Family, foreign dignitaries, and other esteemed guests, showcased the continuing evolution of coronation celebrations and their adaptation to the modern era.

The choice of Buckingham Palace as the location for this post-coronation event also reflects the palace’s importance as a symbol of the monarchy’s continuity and presence in the heart of London. Over the years, the palace has become an iconic backdrop for various royal events, such as the famous balcony appearances.

The Role of the King’s Champion

Regardless of the location of the Coronation banquet, it was customary for the King’s Champion to ride into the hall dressed in full armour and issue a bold challenge to anyone who dared deny the monarch’s right to the throne. This dramatic and symbolic act served as a powerful display of loyalty and a testament to the sovereign’s authority.

The Dymock Family Legacy

The role of the King’s Champion has been held by the Dymock family for more than six centuries, making it one of the longest-standing hereditary positions in British history. This prestigious honour was first bestowed upon the family during the reign of King Richard II in the late 14th century, and it has been passed down through the generations ever since.

The Last Performance of the Ceremony

The last time a King’s Champion performed this traditional ceremony was at the coronation of George IV in 1821. Although the role has not been called upon in recent times, the Dymock family still holds the title to this day. This enduring connection to the past serves as a reminder of the rich tapestry of British royal history and the longstanding traditions that have shaped the monarchy.



The history of coronations is a fascinating and essential aspect of British royal tradition. From its ancient and medieval origins to its modern-day evolutions, coronations have played a significant role in shaping the monarchy and its relationship with the British people. Thank you for joining me. Until next time!


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