Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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WESTMINSTER ABBEY.—HISTORICAL CEREMONIES, &c.
"From hence we may that antique pile behold
Where royal heads receive the sacred gold;
It gives them crowns, and does their ashes keep:
There made like gods, like mortals there they sleep;
Making the circle of their reign complete,
Those suns of empire, where they rise they set."—Waller.
Coronation of William the Conqueror—Bad Auguries—Coronation of Richard I.—Outrage against the Jews—Coronation of Anne Boleyn—Revival of the "Old Religion" by Queen Mary—Relic of the True Cross—The present Collegiate Establishment founded by Queen Elizabeth—Funeral of James I.—Assaults on the Abbey—Coronation of Charles II.—Parliamentary Grants for the Repair of the Abbey—The Abbey damaged by an Earthquake—Coronation of George III. and Queen Charlotte—Humility of a King—The Handel Festivals—Origin of the National Anthem—Further Grants for the Repair of the Abbey—A Narrow Escape from Destruction by Fire—Coronation of George IV.—An Unfortunate Queen—Coronation of William IV. and Queen Adelaide—Coronation of Queen Victoria—A Singular Incident.
Westminster Abbey has been for many centuries the scene of the coronations of our sovereigns. The first who was crowned here was Harold, in January, 1066, previous to which date most of the Saxon kings had been crowned at Kingston-onThames. Want of space prevents us from noticing many curious customs now disused in those imposing ceremonies; but our account of the Abbey would be incomplete were we to pass over some of the more exciting incidents attending some of them.
It was on Christmas Day, in the year 1066, that the new Abbey of Westminster, the last work of Edward the Confessor, was chosen as the place for the coronation of the first of our Norman kings, William the Conqueror. The suburbs, the streets of London, and all the approaches to the Abbey, we are told, were lined with double rows of soldiers, horse and foot. The Conqueror rode through the ranks, and entered the Abbey Church, attended by 260 of his warlike chiefs, by many priests and monks, and a considerable number of the English who had been gained over to act a part in the pageantry. At the opening of the ceremony one of William's prelates, Geoffrey, the Bishop of Coutances, asked the Normans, in the French language, if they were of opinion that their chief should take the title of King of England; and then the Archbishop of York asked the English if they would have William the Norman for their king. The reply on either side was given by acclamation in the affirmative, and the shouts and cheers thus raised were so loud that they startled the foreign cavalry stationed round the Abbey. The troops took the confused noise for a cry of alarm raised by their friends, and as they had received orders to be on the alert and ready to act in case of any seditious movement, they rushed to the English houses nearest the Abbey and set fire to them all. A few, thinking to succour their betrayed duke, and the nobles they served, ran to the church, where, at sight of their naked swords and the smoke and flames that were rising, the tumult soon became as great as that without its walls. The Normans fancied the whole population of London and its neighbourhood had risen against them; while the English imagined that they had been duped by a vain show, and drawn together, unarmed and defenceless, that they might be massacred. Both parties ran out of the Abbey, and the ceremony was interrupted, though William, left almost alone in the church, or with none but Archbishop Aldred and some terrified priests of both nations near to him at the altar, decidedly refused to postpone the celebration. The service was therefore completed amidst these bad auguries, but in the utmost hurry and confusion; and the Conqueror took the usual coronation oath of the Anglo-Saxon kings, making, as an addition of his own, the solemn promise that he would treat the English people as well as the best of their kings had done. Meanwhile the commotion without still continued, and it is not mentioned at what hour of the day or night the conflagration ended. The English who had been at the Abbey ran to extinguish the fire—the Normans, it is said, to plunder and otherwise profit by the disorder; but it appears that some of the latter exerted themselves to stop the progress of the flames, and to put an end to a riot peculiarly unpalatable to their master, whose anxious wish was certainly, at that time, to conciliate the two nations.
In 1189 the coronation of Richard I. at Westminster was characterised by even a worse tumult than that which served as an accompaniment to the coronation of the Conqueror. The festival in itself was held with unusual magnificence; the abbots and bishops, and most of the lay barons, attending on the occasion. The unction over, and the king being royally arrayed, he was led up to the altar, where the archbishop adjured him, in the name of Almighty God, not to assume the royal dignity unless he fully proposed to keep the oaths he had sworn. Richard repeated his solemn promises, and with his own hands taking the ponderous crown from off the altar, "in signification that he held it only from God," he delivered it to the archbishop, who instantly put it on his head, and so completed all the ceremonies of the coronation. "Which act," says old Speed, with a coldbloodedness less excusable than his superstition, "was accidentally hanselled and auspicated by the blood of many Jews (though utterly against the king's will), who, in a tumult raised by the multitude, were furiously murdered; which, though it was afterwards punished by the laws, might seem a presage, that this lion-hearted king should be a special destroyer of the enemies of our Church." We abridge the following account from Hunter's "History of London:"—"Among the vast concourse which the coronation had attracted to the metropolis, many wealthy Jews had flocked from every part of the kingdom, to consult with their friends in the City about presenting a liberal freewill offering to the king on his accession. Richard had issued a proclamation prohibiting all persons of that nation to enter the Abbey or Westminster Hall on the day that ceremony was performed. Some of them were, however, detected pressing among the crowd into the Hall. This brought upon them, at first, a torrent of abuse of language, which soon changed into the more formidable assault, and brickbats and bludgeons. Perceiving too late their imprudence, and the danger in which it had involved them, the poor Jews endeavoured to make good their retreat into the City, pursued and pelted by a furious multitude. In this state of fermentation it was easy to give out, and as easily believed, that the king had issued orders to destroy all Jews. Never were real orders more promptly and more ferociously executed. Many of those unhappy creatures were inhumanly massacred in the streets; such as were able to escape to their habitations, or had stayed at home, were not the more secure. The houses were either broken into and plundered or burnt over their heads. Those who were shut up perished in the flames; those who forced their way out fell by the sword."
"On the Sunday after her public entry into London," writes Miss Lucy Aikin, in her "Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth," . . . "Henry caused his new queen (Anna Boleyn) to be crowned at Westminster with great solemnity," an honour which that many-wived monarch never thought proper to confer on any of her successors.
On the revival of the "old religion," under Queen Mary, John Feckenham, late Dean of St. Paul's, was appointed Abbot of Westminster and Chaplain to her Majesty, and, with fourteen monks, took possession of the Abbey. Malcolm quotes a few lines from a proclamation issued in 1553, to show the probable state in which Feckenham found the Abbey. Speaking of the churches—"especially within the cittie of London, irreverently used, and by divers insolent rashe persones sundrie waies abused, soe farre forth, that many quarreles, riottes, frayes, and bloudshedinges have been made in some of the said churches, besides shotinge of hand-gonnes to doves, and the com'on bringinge of horses and mules into and throughe the said churches." He was indefatigable in restoring the building to its former state, and Mary, with great zeal, collected into it as many as she could of the rich habits and other insignia of its former splendid worship; but the death of his royal mistress put an end to his exertions, and his authority as abbot ceased on the 12th of July, 1559.
At the death of Queen Mary, Feckenham carefully removed from the Abbey the "relic of the true cross," which had been exposed there to the veneration of the faithful for centuries. It was carefully secreted during nearly two centuries, and found in 1822, in a box along with some antique vestments, at the house of a Roman Catholic gentleman in Holborn—Mr. Langdale. Having been duly authenticated, it was removed to the Benedictine College of St. Gregory, at Downside, near Bath, where it is still kept. It may be added that this particular relic is minutely described in the Chevalier Fleury's work on "Relics of the True Cross."
Pennant rightly, though no doubt sarcastically, observes that "an abbey is nothing without relics;" and he accordingly enumerates among those belonging to St. Peter's "the veil and some of the milk of the Virgin Mary, the blade-bone of St. Benedict, the finger of St. Alphage, the head of St. Maxilla, and half the jawbone of St. Anastatia."
Queen Elizabeth founded the present establishment, which is collegiate, consisting of a dean, sub-dean, canons, and minor canons; to which is attached a school for forty boys, denominated Queen's or King's Scholars, with a master and usher; and also twelve almsmen, an organist, and choristers.
The funeral of James I., as we learn from the "Calendar of State Papers," edited by the late Mr. John Bruce, was a most magnificent and costly pageant, the expense of carrying the royal body from Denmark House to the Abbey being set down at £50,000. And no wonder, considering that "blacks," or, in other words, mourningcloaks, were given to nine thousand persons, and that the rest of the outlay was on the same lavish scale. Not only the members of the king's and queen's household—including the "sworn drummers" and "the keepers of his Majesty's cormorants"—but even the entire household of "Steenie," Duke of Buckingham, were put into mourning on this occasion; and the people had to pay the bill. No doubt, therefore, the great funeral of May 7th, 1625, was "the greatest ever known in England." The hearse was fashioned under the charge of Inigo Jones, and the sermon, preached by the Lord Keeper, John Williams, afterwards Archbishop of York, was two hours in length! No wonder that, only two months later, we find it recorded, in a royal message addressed to the House of Commons by Charles I., that "the ordinary revenue is clogged with debts, and exhausted with the late king's funeral and other expenses of necessity and honour."
In the reign of Charles I. the Abbey underwent an assault from the mob, who took that means of showing their "zeal for the good old cause;" they were, however, beaten off, and a Sir Richard Wiseman, one of the number, was killed. Much injury was done to the building by the iconoclasts of that period, and, by order of the Parliament, the sacred vestments were seized and burnt.
In spite of the restoration of the king, and of episcopacy, and of the accustomed rites of the Established Church, it does not appear that the Abbey was very crowded when opened for service, or that the service itself was very satisfactorily performed. At all events, Pepys, in his "Diary," July 1, 1660, tells us he went "in the afternoon to the Abbey, where a good sermon by a stranger, but no Common Prayer yet." On the 7th of October, apparently matters have slightly improved, for on that day Pepys was at the Abbey, and tells us that he "heard them read the Church Service," though "very ridiculously." And again, a few days previously, the diarist writes—"To the Abbey to see them at vespers. There I found but a thin congregation."
The following particulars of the coronation of Charles II. are extracted from a brief narrative printed and published by authority in 1662:—
"Upon the 23rd of April, being St. George's Day, about half an hour after seven in the morning, the King entered into his rich barge, took water from the Privy Stairs, at Whitehall, and landed at the Parliament Stairs; from whence he proceeded up to the room behind the Lords' House called the Prince's Lodgings, where, after he had reposed himself for a while, he was arrayed in his royal robes of crimson velvet furr'd with ermine. By which time the nobility, being assembled, robed themselves in the Lords' House and Painted Chamber. The Judges also, with those of the long robe, the Knights of the Bath, and Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, met in the Court of Requests. After some space, the King's heralds and pursuivants began to set the proceeding in order, each of them taking his share assigned in chapter (held at the Heralds' Office the evening before), and thence directed all the before-mentioned degrees (except the nobility) down into Westminster Hall, where the rest of the proceeding attended, and from whence the march began.
"About half an hour after nine the nobility (having been first called over in the Painted Chamber) proceeded, each according to his rank and dignity, in their robes and coronets, before the King, through the Court of Requests into Westminster Hall, ascended up to the state platform, which was raised at the west end, and placed themselves upon each side thereof. His Majesty being set in his chair, under a rich cloth of state, first Sir Gilbert Talbot, the Master of the Jewel House, presented the Sword of State, as also Curtana, and two other swords, to the Lord High Constable, who took and delivered them to the Lord High Chamberlain, and he (having drawn the last) laid them upon the table before the King. Then the said Master of the Jewel House delivered likewise the spurs to the Lord High Constable, and he again the same to the Lord High Chamberlain, who also placed them upon the table.
"Immediately after the Dean and Prebends of Westminster (by whom the regalia had been brought in procession from the Abbey Church unto Westminster Hall), being vested in rich copes, proceeded from the lower end thereof in the manner following:—
"The Serjeant of the Vestry, in a scarlet mantle; the Children of the King's Chapel, being twelve in number, in scarlet mantles; the Quire of Westminster, in surplices; the Gentlemen of the King's Chapel, being thirty-three in number, in scarlet mantles; the Pursuivants, Heralds, and Provincial Kings; the Dean (Dr. Earle), carrying St. Edward's crown; Dr. Helyn, the sceptre with the cross; Dr. Heywood, the sceptre with the dove; Dr. Nicholas, the orb with the cross; Dr. Killegrew, King Edward's staff; Dr. Jones, the chalice and patena; Dr. Dowty, the spoon: and Dr. Busby, the ampulla.
"All standing towards the lower end of the Hall, ready to proceed, they made their first reverence together; then coming to the middle of the said Hall, they there made a second; and thence going a little further, both the quires fell off, and stood on either side, through which lane the pursuivants, heralds, and kings passing, fell likewise off on either side, the seniours still placing themselves uppermost towards the throne; after whom the Dean and Prebends proceeded, and arrived at the foot of the stone steps ascending to the throne, where they made another reverence. This being done, the Dean and Prebends, with Garter Principal King-of-Arms before them (he having waited their coming thither), ascended the steps, and approaching near to the table before the King, made their last reverence.
"The Dean first presented the crown, which was by the Lord High Constable and Lord Great Chamberlain set upon the table; who afterwards took from each of the prebends that part of the regalia which they carried, and laid them also by the crown; which done, they retired. Then the Lord Great Chamberlain, presenting the regalia severally to the King, his Majesty thereupon disposed of them unto the noblemen hereafter named, to be carried by them in the procession to the Abbey Church, viz.:
"St. Edward's staff, to the Earl of Sandwich; the spurs to the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery; the sceptre with the cross to the Earl of Bedford; the pointed sword (borne on the left hand of Curtana) to the Earl of Derby; the pointed sword (borne on the right hand thereof) to the Earl of Shrewsbury; Curtana, to the Earl of Oxford; the sword of state to the Earl of Manchester; the sceptre with the dove to the Duke of Albemarle; the orb with the cross to the Duke of Buckingham; St. Edward's crown to the Duke of Ormond; the patena to the Bishop of Exeter; and, lastly, the chalice to the Bishop of London.
"And because the spoon and ampulla were not to be borne in the proceeding, and therefore ought not to have been brought thither, but left placed upon the high altar, in the Abbey Church, there to lye in readiness, they were not presented to the King, but commanded to be sent back thither, and laid thereon.
"All things being thus far prepared, and it being about ten a clock, the proceeding began from out the said Hall into the Palace Yard, through the Gate House and the end of King Street, thence along the Great Sanctuary, and so to the west end of the Abbey Church, all upon blew (sic) cloth, which was spread upon the ground from the throne in Westminster Hall to the great step in the Abbey Church by Sir George Carteret, Knt., Vice-Chamberlain, appointed by the King to be his almoner for this day."
Of the ceremony in the Abbey on this occasion we glean the following particulars from the amusing pages of Pepys. Under date of April 22, 1662, the witty diarist writes:—
"About four I arose and got to the Abbey, where I followed Sir J. Denham, the surveyor, with some company that he was leading in. And, with much ado, by the favour of Mr. Cooper, his man, did get up into a great scaffold, across the north end of the Abbey, where, with a great deal of patience, I sat from past four till eleven, before the King came in. And a great pleasure it was to see the Abbey raised in the middle, all covered with red, and a throne (that is, a chaire) and footstoole on the top of it; and all the officers of all kinds, so much as the very fidlers, in red vests. At last comes in the Dean and Prebends of Westminster, with the bishops (many of them in cloth of gold copes), and after them the nobility, all in their Parliament robes, which was a most magnificent sight. Then the Duke and the King, with a sceptre (carried by my Lord Sandwich) and sword and wand before him, and the crowne too. The King in his robes, bare-headed, which was very fine. And after all had placed themselves, there was a sermon and the service; and then in the quire at the high altar, the King passed through the ceremonies of the coronation, which, to my great grief, I and most in the Abbey could not see. The crowne having been put on his head, a great shout begun, and he came forth to the throne, and there passed through more ceremonies, as taking the oath, and having things read to him by the bishopp; and his lords (who put on their caps as soon as the King put on his crowne) and bishops came and kneeled before him. And three times the King-at-Arms went to the three open places on the scaffold, and proclaimed, that if any one could show any reason why Charles Stewart should not be King of England, that now he should come and speak. And a general pardon was also read by the Lord Chancellor, and meddalls flung up and down by my Lord Cornwallis, of silver, but I could not come by any. But so great a noise that I could make but little of the musique; and, indeed, it was lost to everybody. I went out a little while before the King had done all his ceremonies, and went round the Abbey to Westminster Hall, all the way within rayles, and 10,000 people, with the ground covered with blue cloth, and scaffolds all the way."
In the reign of William III. the House of Commons granted an annual sum for repairing the Abbey; and under Queen Anne an Act was passed allowing £4,000 a year towards the same purpose. The like sum was afforded by various Acts of George II., but in 1738 the works were at a standstill for want of money, and a petition was presented, which was referred to a committee of the whole House. The assistance, however, which was granted was inconsiderable, and even that was not paid till some time after.
In 1750 the top of one of the piers on the north side of the Abbey fell down, by earthquake, with the iron and lead that had fastened it. Several houses fell in, and many chimneys were damaged. Another shock had been felt during the preceding month.
On the occasion of the coronation of George III. and Queen Charlotte, on the 22nd of September, 1761, the Abbey was filled with galleries, and a platform was erected from the upper end of Westminster Hall, where the procession was to commence, and continued through New Palace Yard, Parliament Street, and Bridge Street, into King Street, and so on through the west door of the Abbey to the choir. The following account of the ceremony we take from the Gentleman's Magazine of the above year:—"About half an hour after one, their Majesties entered the Abbey, and went to their seats on the east side of the throne. The Archbishop of Canterbury made the recognition, and then their Majesties made their first oblation, and took their seats on the south side of the altar. The Litany began, during which the regalia were severally presented at the altar, and the great officers retired to their seats.
"The Litany being ended, and part of the Communion Service being read by the Archbishop, Dr. Drummond, Bishop of Salisbury, preached the sermon, which being ended, his Majesty made the usual declaration, and took and subscribed the coronation oath.
"After Veni Creator his Majesty removed to St. Edward's chair, and the unction was performed by the Archbishop, four Knights of the Garter holding a pall over his Majesty during the anointing, viz., the Duke of Devonshire, Earl of Northumberland, Earl of Hertford, and Earl Waldegrave. The spurs were then presented, and his Majesty girt with the sword, which was afterwards offered and redeemed.
"His Majesty was then invested with the armill, the purple robe or imperial pall, and orb, and afterwards receiving the ring, returned the orb to the altar. The Marquis of Rockingham, deputy to the Duke of Norfolk, as Lord of the Manor of Worksop, presented a right-hand glove to his Majesty, who, putting it on, received from the Archbishop the sceptre with the cross, and afterwards the sceptre with the dove, with his left hand, and the Marquis did afterwards support his Majesty's right hand as occasion required. The Archbishop then set the crown upon his Majesty's head, about half an hour after three o'clock, amidst the acclamations of an infinite number of spectators; upon which the peers put on their coronets, the Dukes of Normandy and Aquitaine their hats, the bishops, Knights of the Bath, and judges their caps, and the kings of arms their crowns. Then the Archbishop presented the Bible, and pronounced the benediction, and his Majesty kissed the bishops kneeling before him.
"Whilst Te Deum was singing, his Majesty was enthroned, whereupon the bishops performed their homage, and then the temporal lords: first, his Royal Highness the Duke of York, and his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, each for himself; then the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Chamberlain, pronounced the words of homage for all the dukes; the Marquis of Rockingham, for the marquises; Earl Talbot, Lord High Steward, for the earls; Viscount Saye and Sele, for the viscounts; and Lord Henley, Lord High Chancellor, for the barons. Every peer, likewise taking off his coronet, touched the King's crown, and kissed his left cheek.
"The coronation of his Majesty being finished, the Queen removed from her seat to the south side of the area, to a chair placed before the altar, and was anointed (four ladies holding a pall over her Majesty), and afterwards invested with the ring and crowned by the Archbishop, upon which the peeresses put on their coronets. The Archbishop then delivered the sceptre into her right hand, and the ivory rod into her left hand. Their Majesties then made their second oblation and received the communion, and the final prayers being read, they retired into St. Andrew's Chapel, where they were invested with their royal robes and crowns of state."
The following story, we may here remark, shows the religious feelings of George III. to great advantage:—"When the King approached the communion-table, in order to receive the sacrament, he inquired of the Archbishop, whether he should not lay aside his crown? The Archbishop asked the Bishop of Rochester, but neither of them could say what had been the usual form. The King determined within himself that humility best became such a solemn act of devotion, took off his crown and laid it down during the administration."
It may interest such of our readers as care for sacred music, to be reminded that the first of those Handel Festivals, which within our own day have become so popular at Exeter Hall, and at the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, was celebrated here on the 26th of May, 1784. The idea of holding these musical gatherings originated in a conversation at the house of a Mr. Joah Bate, between that gentleman, Lord Fitzwilliam, and Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, on the grand effect produced by large bands. That year had just completed a century from Handel's birth, and twenty-five years from his death. When the plan had assumed some degree of form the Abbey was naturally thought of as the place best calculated for such a scene. The King offered his patronage, and the consent of the Dean and Chapter was readily obtained. The festival took place in the nave of the Abbey.
The following inscription on a tablet of white marble was (on Saturday, June 5th, 1784) placed over the monument of Handel in the south transept:—"Within these walls the memory of Handel was celebrated, under the patronage of his most gracious Majesty, George III., on the 24th and 29th of May, and on the 3rd and 5th of June, 1784. The music performed on this solemnity was selected from his own works, by the direction of Brownlow, Earl of Exeter; John, Earl of Sandwich; Henry, Earl of Uxbridge; Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, and Sir Richard Jebb, Baronets; and conducted by Joah Bate, Esq.'
The Handel Festivals continued to be held in the Abbey till the year 1790, when they were transferred to St. Margaret's Church, close by, for a year or two; and subsequently, on one occasion, the celebration was held in the Banqueting House at Whitehall.
Apropos of the Handel festivals, we may add
that, on the authority of an entry in "Raikes's
Journal," our National Anthem of "God save the
King," composed in the time of George I., has
always been considered of English origin; but from
the "Memoirs of Madame de Crégn," it appears
to have been almost a literal translation of the
"cantique" which was always sung by the demoiselles de St. Cyr when Louis XIV. entered the
chapel of that establishment to hear the morning
prayer. The words were by M. de Brinose, and
the music by the famous Sully:—
"Grand Dieu, sauve le Roi!
Grand Dieu, venge le Roi!
Vive le Roi!
Que toujours glorieux,
Voie ses ennemis,
Grand Dieu, sauve le Roi!
Grand Dieu, venge le Roi!
Vive le Roi!"
It appears to have been translated and adapted to the House of Hanover by Handel.
The exterior of the Abbey had become in such a sad state of decay in the beginning of the present century, that a memorial on the subject was addressed to the Lords of the Treasury in 1806. The petition was immediately referred to a "committee of taste," in consequence of whose report it was laid before the House of Commons, and the sum of £2,000 was at once granted towards the projected repairs. From subsequent reports made to Parliament, it appears that upwards of £42,000 were granted for reparations between 1807 and 1822; and since that time further grants have been occasionally made by Parliament for the same purpose.
In July, 1803, the Abbey very narrowly escaped destruction, through the carelessness of some of the plumbers who were employed in repairing the lantern at the junction of the four long timber roofs. Fortunately the fire broke out in the day-time, or the consequences might have been very serious; as it was, the cost of repairing the damage done amounted to £3,500.
On the 19th of July, 1821, George IV. was crowned with the usual pomp and ceremony in the Abbey, the champion's duty being performed by Henry Dymoke, Esq. (afterwards Sir Henry Dymoke, Bart.), as deputy for his father, the Rev. John Dymoke, Hereditary Grand Champion of England, an office which is attached to the feudal manor of Scrivelsby, in Lincolnshire. We shall have more to say with reference to the champion's duties in our chapter on Westminster Hall. The procession from Westminster Hall was headed by the "King's Herbwoman, with her six maids," scattering flowers along the raised and carpeted platform, which was traversed by the king and the long line of nobles, and others who preceded him. The ceremony in the Abbey was, on this occasion, very similar to that which had been performed sixty years previously at the coronation of George III., which we have described above; but one touching incident towards its close should not be lost sight of here. His unfortunate queen—Caroline of Brunswick—presenting herself for admission to the Abbey in order to be crowned as Queen Consort, was rudely repulsed from the doors, both at Poets' Corner and at the western entrance. Little more than a fortnight afterwards, on the 7th of August, she died at Brandenburg House, the victim of a broken heart.
On the 14th, when her remains were removed for interment at Brunswick, a shameful riot took place in the streets of London. For some reason or other, which was never explained, the queen's corpse was ordered to be carried into Essex en route for Harwich, not through the heart of the City, but by the circuitous route of the New Road. The people, who had made common cause with the injured lady, regarded this as an indignity, and in opposition to the orders of the king's ministers and of the authorities of the Horse Guards, they succeeded in forcing the funeral cortége to pass through the Strand and St. Paul's; in a conflict between the mob and the soldiers, two of the former were killed.
We learn incidentally from Mr. Raikes' "Journal" that the coronation of King William IV. and Queen Adelaide cost only £37,000. "The Queen was so anxious that no expense should be incurred on her account, that she would not permit either the purchase or the hire of a crown from Rundell's for herself, but ordered that it should be composed of her own jewels and made up at her own expense." At the previous coronation, that of George IV., the charge of Messrs. Rundell, for the loan of jewels only, was £16,000, as interest on their value.
The coronation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, on the 28th of June, 1838, was conducted in most respects after the reformed model of that of her immediate predecessor, the walking procession of "all the estates of the realm," and the banquet in Westminster Hall, with all the feudal services attendant thereon, being wholly dispensed with. There was, however, a State procession, which was attended by the foreign ministers and ambassadors, and which wound its way from Buckingham Palace by Constitution Hill, Piccadilly, St. James's Street, Pall Mall, Charing Cross, Whitehall, and Parliament Street, to the Abbey. Here the peers and peeresses, the great officers of state, and others who were to take part in the ceremony, had assembled some time before the arrival of Her Majesty. All being in readiness, the Queen, arrayed in her royal robe of crimson velvet, furred with ermine and bordered with gold lace, wearing the collars of the Orders of the Garter, Thistle, Bath, and St. Patrick, and having on her head a circlet of gold, was conducted, amidst a most magnificent procession, up the nave into the choir. The dresses worn by many of the nobles on this occasion are described as most superb, and Prince Esterhazy's uniform is stated to have been so gorgeous that he seemed to be quite encased in precious stones. The coronation ceremony was impressively performed. The first part of the service over, the Archbishop of Canterbury, standing before the altar, and having St. Edward's crown before him, took the same into his hands, consecrated and blessed it with the prayer, "O God, who crownest thy faithful servants, with mercy," &c. Then the Archbishop came from the altar, assisted by the Archbishops of York and Armagh, with the Bishops of London, Winchester, and other bishops, the Sub-dean of Westminster carrying the crown, which the Archbishop took and placed on Her Majesty's head; when the people, with loud and repeated cheers, cried, "God save the Queen." Immediately the peers and peeresses present put on their coronets, the bishops their caps, and the Deputy-Garter King-of-Arms his crown; the trumpets meanwhile sounding, the drums beating, and the Tower and Park guns firing by signal.
Mr. Rush, the American Minister, who was an eye-witness of the coronation, thus describes the scene at this moment:—"The beautiful and almost startling effect of the sudden gleams of the noonday sun, as they shot through the windows of the Abbey at the very instant at which the Archbishop of Canterbury placed the crown upon the head of the youthful female sovereign, falling directly where he stood and she knelt—which in old Rome would have been seized upon as the most auspicious of omens; the like simultaneous putting on of his coronet by each peer at a given moment as by enchantment; the beauty and grace of the Queen's train-bearers; and the scattering of the gold medals among the aristocratic throng as the ceremonies drew to a close, and good-humoured strife to catch them—all this will be long remembered by those who had the good fortune to witness that magnificent spectacle. But there was no banquet in the hall—no champion—no Duke of Wellington on horseback by his side."
Lady Clementina Davies, in her "Recollections of Society," gives the following sketch of the scene:—"I was present at Queen Victoria's coronation; when she knelt and the crown was placed on her brow, a ray of sunshine fell on her face; the day had been dull, but the sunlight on the diamonds made a kind of halo round her head. When she was conducted to King Edward's chair, to which the peers came to swear allegiance, the Duke of Wellington, having to back down the steps of the throne, threw his robe over his arm, and his great military boots became visible; still he made a safe and not ungraceful descent. When it came to Lord Rolle's turn to walk backward, he lost his footing and rolled down. He sustained no damage, but when he stumbled, the Queen started forward as though to save him!"
From the account of the coronation in the Gentleman's Magazine, it appears that the venerable Lord Rolle, from his feeble and infirm state, fell in ascending the steps; "whereupon Her Majesty rose from her seat, extended her hand to him to kiss, and expressed a hope that his lordship was not hurt. This act of royal and gracious kindness was instantly felt and appreciated by all the spectators, who loudly and zealously applauded it." "When the Peers had done their homage," continues the writer, "the House of Commons, determined not to be outdone in the manifestation of loyalty, immediately gave, every man, nine loud and hearty cheers, accompanied with reiterated cries of 'God save Queen Victoria!' The simultaneous burst of loyal feeling seemed as if it had been provided for in the programme. The assembled multitudes in the galleries and vaultings were not behind 'Her Majesty's faithful Commons' in their enthusiasm, but caught up and repeated the shouts until the vaulted roof and arches of the whole sacred edifice rang with one universal acclaim."
Mr. Rush gives the following description of the incident alluded to above, in his "Court of London:"—"It was feared, at first, that he [Lord Rolle] had injured himself, and all eyes were riveted to the spot. In an instant a dozen arms and hands were extended to assist him to rise; conspicuous among the number being those of the youthful maiden Queen herself, who quickly rose to go towards him as by a feminine instinct, the latter triumphing, at such a moment, over all the pageantry which surrounded her. When it was found that he was not hurt, a sprightly young lady—daughter of the peer—in the box immediately adjoining that of the ambassadors and ministers, was heard to say, 'Oh, it's nothing; it's only part of his tenure to play the 'roll' at the coronation."
We may add that the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Victoria has been made the subject of an historical painting by Mr. Martin. The picture contains upwards of one hundred portraits. The scene represented is the Queen receiving homage of the Peers, with the incident of the venerable Lord Rolle stumbling on the steps of the throne, and Her Majesty advancing as if to assist his lordship in rising.