Home World Westminster Abbey: A Thousand Years of Coronations

Westminster Abbey: A Thousand Years of Coronations

Guillermo Ximenis |

London (BLAZETRENDS) a millennium.

Since the ceremony that proclaimed William the Conqueror sovereign on December 25, 1066, the temple has played a central role in the monarchy’s liturgy, to the point that Henry III rebuilt it in 1245 in its current majestic Gothic style thinking precisely at coronations.

Over the centuries, the official ascension to the throne of monarchs has acquired new rites and traditions, such as the use of the Stone of Scone, or Stone of Destiny, a 150-kilo block whose history dates back to ancient monarchs. Scottish and who has been transferred on this occasion from Edinburgh Castle, under strict security measures, to form part of the throne on which Carlos III will sit.

westminster abbey
Westminster Abbey facade. BLAZETRENDS/EPA/Will Oliver

Some practices, however, have fallen out of use over the years. Until Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838, a knight in battle armor would appear at the gala banquet on a white steed and invite any attendees with objections to the monarch’s coronation to fight a duel to the death.

Since the 19th century, the gentleman in ceremonial uniform continues to participate in agape, but no longer challenges the guests.

“The United Kingdom is one of the twelve countries in Europe that still has a monarchy and the only one that still has a coronation ceremony,” Jack Jewers, author of the book “The Lost Diary of Samuel Pepys” and an expert on the British royal history.

Photo of the English Royal family in the halls of Buckingham Palace, after the coronation ceremony of Elizabeth II as Queen of England at Westminster Abbey.BLAZETRENDS/TOPIX/esl

“In tradition lies power. Nowadays, it’s about soft power, whereas in the old days it was about hard power,” Jewers said.

These are some of the ceremonies that have left their mark on the history of the United Kingdom:

Elizabeth II (1953)

70 years ago, the coronation of Elizabeth II, the last to be held in the country to date, was one of the first major events broadcast live to millions of viewers in the British Isles and the rest of the world.

That coronation “was the beginning of television as a mass communication medium in the UK and, to some extent, in Europe,” Jewers said.

The ceremony at Westminster Abbey, with more than 8,000 guests, was a relevant political event attended by numerous international leaders, testimony to the power that London maintained not only in the Commonwealth but throughout the globe.

With the pomp and pageantry that marked the rest of her reign, Elizabeth II bathed in the streets of London, packed with thousands of people who saw her ascension to the throne as a symbol of renewal after years of hardship during the postwar period.

Rehearsal for the coronation of Charles III in Westminster Abbey. BLAZETRENDS/EPA/Andy Rain

Queen Victoria (1838)

At the age of 19, Victoria was crowned when her uncle, King William IV, died. The ceremony was deeply marked by tradition and ritual, but also by a certain renewal, and marked the line of future coronations.

The event represented the start of a long and prosperous reign that would last over 63 years, at the height of the British Empire.
On that occasion, the sovereign received the newly manufactured Imperial State Crown, a unique piece made of gold and 3,000 precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires and rubies.

Charles II (1661)

The Coronation of Charles II was a turning point in the history of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it restored the monarchy after the tumultuous period of the English Civil War and the rule of Oliver Cromwell.

His coronation began with a procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, where a ceremony was held that included elements of both Anglican and Catholic traditions, reflecting the King’s commitment to religious tolerance.

Many of the pieces that are now part of the British Crown Jewels were made for this ceremony, since most of the treasures of the previous monarchs had been melted down or sold during the previous government.

Henry VIII (1509)

Cavalry jousting, banquets, celebrations and a grand procession through London marked the coronation of Henry VIII and his wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The religious ceremony took place in the Abbey, but the event that left the greatest mark on history was the sumptuous banquet organized by the king in Westminster Hall, the great antechamber of the current Parliament building.

Extravagant dishes such as peacock and swan were served, and it was the starting signal for several days of parties, dances and contests.

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