Queen Victoria crowned
Just after reaching her legal majority on her 18th birthday, May 24 1837, Princess Victoria watched King William's rapid decline into increasingly poor health. The 71-year-old king died of heart failure in the very early hours of June 20 1837 , with no children of his own as heirs. The news was broken to Victoria by the Archbishop of Canterbury at five that morning, and a few hours later the new Queen was officially proclaimed to the world.
Just over a year later Victoria , still in her teens, was crowned in the usual lavish ceremony so beloved of (at least part of) the British people. The day began with the firing of the cannon in the park opposite Buckingham Palace , disturbing the Queen’s slumbers at four in the morning, the weather boding ill for the rest of the day. But when the Queen rose at seven the weather had cleared, and a fine day was in prospect.
Just half an hour before the state coach was to depart the Queen dressed in her state robes. By ten the Queen and her attendants were on their way to Westminster Abbey .
In the final years of the Georgian era, and through the brief reign of William IV , the standing of the monarchy in the eyes of the great British public had fallen dramatically. In spite of this the crowds gathered in force from Palace to Abbey, moving the young Queen to write later of how encouraging they had been, and in what good humour.
The long ceremony dragged on through hour after hour, only enlivened by the aged Lord Rollo living up to his name when he stumbled and rolled down some steps; by the Archbishop of Canterbury getting the ring, designed for Victoria’s little finger, stuck on the wrong digit, and by Victoria’s uncles beating time noisily to Handel’s great coronation anthems.
When the diamond circlet in which she began the day had been removed behind the scenes had been replaced by the crown in full view of the gathered great and good, and the orb placed in her hand, Victoria’s coronation was all but over. At half past four she was heading home in the state coach again, cheered by the vast crowds, determined to enjoy the party. They were not to know, but this would be the last coronation in Britain for sixty four years.
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