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On this day in 1821, George IV’s unbelievably over the top coronation.

July 19, 2015


On this day in 1821, the least popular monarch in the whole Hanoverian Saxe-Coburg Gotha Windsor dynasty had his coronation.

Adjusted for inflation George IV’s coronation in may have been the most expensive coronation ever.  The bling, the glitz, the ermine and the trumpets added up to the most splendiferous concentration of pomp and circumstance Londoners had ever seen.  It had been sixty years since George III had his day out to the Abbey and few people could remember it.  In any case, honest octogenarians in 1821 would have conceded that the whole affair was far flashier than 1761 had been. George IV didn’t like the look of King Edward’s crown (not blingy enough), so he got himself crowned with a different one made largely of diamonds.  After the ceremony, it was off to Westminster Hall for the biggest slap up feed in the world ever (see pic).

George IV had something of a Napoleon complex – a complex that he was thankfully too fat and lazy to do much about by way of military conquests (although according to some accounts towards the end of his life he seemed to think that he had been at the Battle of Waterloo in person).  The important thing for George was that his coronation was bigger than Napoleon’s had been in 1804.  He couldn’t dominate Europe, but he could razzle dazzle his way to Napoleonic eminence – or so he thought.

A nasty incident rather soured the day.  George’s estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick showed up at the Abbey and tried to get in.  There was an unpleasant scene as the bouncers (following instructions) physically prevented her entrance.  All very undignified.  George, morally if not legally a bigamist, hated the wife foisted on him by the cruelties of dynastic politics and abandoned her very very early on in their marriage.  She was rumoured to have found comfort in the arms of others and George did his best to blacken her reputation – attempts which largely backfired.  She was denied access to their daughter Charlotte, and when Charlotte died, didn’t even bother to write to tell her about it.  She found out almost by accident.

She died just a few months after George’s coronation, never crowned queen but “Queen of Hearts” for the many many people who hated George (a list which included Jane Austen who never lived to seen George crowned).

A day’s spectacle brought out the gawpers but did not do much for George’s long term popularity.  When he died nine years later, obese, friendless and alone, the royal obituary in The Times  (1830) achieved a kind of dismissive grandeur.  We’re probably all familiar with some of its best lines.

“There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow-creatures than this deceased king. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? … If he ever had a friend – a devoted friend in any rank of life – we protest that the name of him or her never reached us.”


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  1. NMac permalink

    It seems he didn’t like having a wife foisted upon him by the dynastic system, but didn’t mind foisting himself upon the nation as a dynastic Head of State.

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