George IV’s Coronation on 19 July 1821

George IV became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover following the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820. George IV’s coronation occurred about a year and half later on 19 July 1821. It was a grand costly affair estimated to have been about £243,000 (approximately £19,970,000 in 2017)[1]. One great expense was the innovative gold and silver frame crown that had been specifically created for the King by Philip Liebart of Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. It was a tall crown with a dark blue cap and encrusted with 12,314 diamonds that were said to make the King appear to be a “gorgeous bird of the east.”[2]

George IV's coronation crown.

George IV’s coronation crown. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The crown was not the only costly thing George IV wore at the coronation. So were his robes, which for many years afterwards were displayed at Madame Tussaud‘s Wax Museum. A description of them on the day stated:

“Precisely at ten o’clock the King entered the Hall from the door behind the Throne, habited in [weighty] robes of enormous size and richness, wearing a black hat with a monstrous plume of ostrich feathers, out of the midst of which rose a black heron’s plume. … The train was of enormous length and breadth. It was of crimson velvet adorned with large golden stars, and a broad gold border.”[3]

George IV's coronation in his robes

George IV’s coronation picture depicting him wear the coronation robes and four collars of chivalric orders: the Golden Fleece, Royal Guelphic, Bath and Garterpicture. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

After the procession to Westminster Hall the ceremonies associated with George IV’s coronation were held:

“He went through the ceremonies … with much spirit and apparent good humour. In descending the steps of the platform his Majesty seemed very feeble, and requested the aid and support of an officer who was near him. Instead of standing under the canopy, his Majesty, perhaps afraid of the the awkwardness of the Barons, preceded it. The canopy was therefore always borne after him. When his Majesty had got a little way down the hall he turned to his train-bearers, and requested them to bear his train farther from him, apparently with a view to relieve himself from the weight.”[4]

George IV's coronation

George IV’s coronation. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Years later an explanation about the awkwardness of the Barons’ canopy was proffered:

“An unusual feature of the Canopy bearing by Cinque Ports Barons at the Coronation of George IV was that the Canopy had eight staves and eight bells in place of the customary four. This made the Canopy extremely awkward to manage. The reason for this departure from precedent has not been explained … An interesting speculation is that there may have been an idea that the popular demand that Queen Caroline should also be crowned was going to succeed, and that, accordingly the eight bells and staves were prepared for two canopies, but subsequently were worked into one canopy. On the other hand, it may have been the case that the authorities in their anxiety to placate the public opinion, did not wish to take any prerequisites away from the Cinque Ports Barons, and included in the Canopy as many silver bells and staves as would have been the case had the Queen been crowned”[5]

After the procession and coronation, another grand expense occurred. This was George IV’s coronation dinner that was served to those who had participated at the event. Guests dined on a spectacular fare of hot and cold dishes, luscious desserts, and expensive wines. After they finished, visitors watching in the galleries were allowed to finish the feast. Here is the list of what the diners enjoyed (almost verbatim):

Bill of Fare

Hot Dishes — 160 tureens of soup; 80 of turtle; 40 of rice; and 40 vermicelli. 160 dishes of fish, comprising 80 of turbot; 40 of trout, 40 of salmon; 160 hot joints, including 80 of venison; 40 of roast beef, with three barons; 40 of mutton and veal. 160 dishes of vegetables, including potatoes, peas, and cauliflower. 480 sauce boats; 240 of lobsters; 120 butter, 120 mint.

Cold Dishes — 80 dishes of braised ham; 80 savory pies; 80 dishes of daubed geese, two in each; 80 dishes of savory cakes; 80 pieces of beef braised; 80 dishes of capons braised, two in each; 1,190 side dishes of various sorts; 320 dishes of mounted pastry; 320 dishes of small pastry; 400 dishes of jellies and cream; 160 dishes of shell-fish; 80 of lobster, and 80 of crayfish; 161 dishes of cold roast fowls; 80 dishes of cold house-lamb.

Total quantities — 7,442 lbs. of beef; 7,133 lbs. of veal; 2,474 lbs. of mutton; 20 quarters of house-lamb; 20 legs of house-lamb; 5 saddles of lamb; 55 quarters of grass-lamb; 160 lambs’ sweetbreads; 389 cow-heels; 400 calves’ feet; 250 lbs. of suet; 160 geese; 720 pullets and capons; 1,1610 chickens; 520 fowls for stock (hens); 1,730 lbs. of bacon; 550 lbs. of lard; 912 lbs. of butter; 84 hundred of eggs.

All these are independent of the eggs, butter, flour, and necessary articles in the pastry and confectionery departments, — such as sugar, isinglass, fruits, &c.

Wines

The quantities ordered for the banquet were, — Champagne, 100 dozen; Burgundy, 20 dozen; Claret, upwards of 200 dozen; Hock, 50 dozen; Moselle, 50 dozen; Madeira, 50 dozen; Sherry and Port, about 350 dozen: Ice Punch, 100 gallons. The Champagne, Hock, and Moselle, were iced before they went to table; and the whole of the wines were spoken of as being excellent by the thousands who had an opportunity of tasting them.

Of ale, 100 barrels were ordered for the use of the kitchen. The porcelain consisted of 6,791 dinner plates, 1,406 soup plates, 1,499 dessert plates, and 288 large ale and beer pitches. There were 240 yards of elegant damask table-cloths for the hall, and less than 1000 yards more laid on the tables in the different suits of rooms. Among the cutlery were furnished 16,909 knives and forks, and 612 pairs of carvers.[6]

Besides the dinner, there was also in celebratory ballon that ascended with an image of the King’s arms and large gold letters that stated, “George IV Royal Coronation Balloon.” A description of it stated:

“It was covered entirely by a net, from the bottom of which was suspended a beautiful boat, the keel part of which was covered with matted silver, and the gunwale elegantly carved in burnished gold. At the bow was displayed a flag, bearing his Majesty’s arms, and at the stern an English jack.”[7]

It was inflated about 1pm in front of the Duke of Devonshire’s house in Piccadilly and ascended soon after floating off in a northwest direction. On board was the United Kingdom’s most famous balloonist of the 19th century, Charles Green. He continued to wave a flag sporting the king’s arms as it ascended. As it flew off the crowd cheered, and he threw out ballast until it was reported the balloon was the size of a “cricket ball.”

Portrait of Charles Green by Hilaire Ledru, 1835. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the end, it seemed everyone was satisfied with George IV’s coronation event as newspapers could not provide enough coverage. The new king was seemed satisfied according to Perthshire Courier who reported:

“The King quitted the hall at a quarter before eight o’clock … he was immediately conducted, by his own desire, to his carriage, and with his usual guard, was driven to Carlton Palace. He was in the most buoyant spirits, and expressed his high satisfaction at all the occurrences of the day.”[8]

References:

  • [1] UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures based on data from Gregory Clark, “The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)” at MeasuringWorth.com.
  • [2] Tessa Rose, The Coronation Ceremony of the Kings and Queens of England and the Crown Jewels, 1992, p. 85.
  • [3] MacLean, Douglas, The Great Solemnity of the Coronation of the King and Queen of England, 1902, p. 158.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] “Cinque Ports & George IV Coronation,” in Dover Express, 4 June 1937, p. 13.
  • [6] The Mirror of Literature Amusement and Instruction, p. 75-76.
  • [7] “Coronation,” in Perthshire Courier, 26 July 1821, p. 3.
  • [8] Ibid

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