Westminster Abbey Coronations - from Mishaps to Majesty
Updated: Aug 11
For a thousand years, British kings and queens have been crowned at Westminster Abbey.
In this British history podcast, we tell the story of coronation: from babbling bishops to falling dukes, spurned queens to medieval murders, stolen stones to dazzling diamonds, from belly-busting banquets to mighty majesty.
The first coronation at Westminster Abbey took place in 1066, when William the Conqueror claimed the throne of England. It was a tense affair: the English earls did not trust the new French Norman ruler, and the event ended with a smoking riot.
What was needed was an instruction book. So in 1382, the Liber Regalis set out the rules and traditions for the coronation.
Medieval coronations were often rushed and set against a backdrop of betrayal and conflict.
The Abbey is a witness to this story, with the murdered Richard II buried a few yards from the place where his usurper was crowned.
Victors and vanquished, winners and losers are commemorated in every corner of the church.
Monarchs are crowned at Westminster above the esquisite Cosmati Pavement altar. But does this majestic mosaic hold a secret message? Does it predict the year when when will the world end?
Before Charles II was crowned in Westminster, he made sure that the man who had usurped his father King Charles - putting him on trial for treason - was posthumously removed from the building and brutally degraded.
The coronation throne was made to hold the Stone of Destiny - plundered by Edward I in the 13th century. But was it the real Scottish kings’ coronation stone? How did students steal the stone in the 1950s. And why is it covered in graffiti?
What happened when German George I could not speak English at his coronation? And when George IV’s queen was locked out of his investiture? Why was William IV’s crowning nicknamed the “half-crown-ation”?
On the 28th June 1838, 400,000 people packed the streets of London for the coronation of Queen Victoria. But when the new young queen arrived at Westminster Abbey, things did not proceed entirely according to plan. The Archbishop could not work out where to put the ring, the ancient Lord John Rolle collapsed in front of the monarch, and the Queen was almost not coronated.
Hear the stories of 1000 years of coronations at Westminster Abbey, in this British History Podcast: