Four sites related to royal coronations in London – 2. The Tower of London and Westminster Hall…

OK, so this is two sites but both – while once an integral part of coronations – are no longer so.

The first, the Tower of London, was, in a tradition begun by King Richard II in 1377, where the monarch would reside on the night before the coronation. It was also where – initially in St John’s Chapel in the White Tower and later in a chapel where the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula now stands – that the Knights of the Bath would be invested and then hold vigil on the eve of a coronation.

The Tower of London at night. PICTURE: Jaydn Li/Unsplash

Not only was the Tower a royal palace, it was also ideally located for the start of the coronation procession the next day in which the monarch would process through the City of London to Westminster Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth I is believed to have been the last monarch to spend the night before her coronation at the Tower. King Charles II still left from the Tower for his coronation in 1661 but the apartments were said to be in such a poor state that he didn’t spend the night there (the previous two monarchs – King James I and King Charles I – had both cancelled the vigil and coronation procession itself apparently because of plague).

Westminster Hall, meanwhile, has also played a key role in coronations, including being the location where the monarch was presented with the coronation regalia before heading to Westminster Abbey for the ceremony as well as hosting the coronation banquet after the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

The southern end of Westminster Hall to the left. PICTURE: David Adams

The tradition dates back to the coronation of King Richard I in 1189 (although a feast was held in the hall in 1170 for Prince Henry, Richard’s eldest brother, after he was crowned during the reign of their father King Henry II).

Among traditions observed at these banquets was that citizens of London would act as butlers to the monarch and that the Earl Marshall kept order on horseback. It was also traditional for the King’s Champion to ride into the hall in full armour and challenge anyone to deny the right of the monarch to sit on the throne.

As the event became more sophisticated, galleries were added to hall to accomodate guests.

The last monarch to hold a coronation banquet in Westminster Hall was King George IV in 1821 whose lavish event cost some £250,000. King William IV abandoned the banquet when he was crowned in 1830, deeming it too expensive. The presentation of the regalia and procession from the hall to the abbey prior to the coronation was abandoned at the same time.


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