The Chelsea Flower Show returned to London this week with King Charles III making his first visit to the show as monarch and tributes in honour of his coronation and the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last year. The show runs until 27th May. For more, see www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea.
LondonLife – Coronation moments…
Some more images from the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla on the weekend…
This Week in London – It’s Coronation weekend!…
• It’s Coronation weekend in London, so first up it’s a look at the Coronation Procession. The 1.42 mile route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, which opens for viewers at 6am on Saturday, will see the procession – with King Charles III and Queen Camilla travelling in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach – leave Buckingham Palace at 10:20am. Known as The King’s Procession, the coach, which will be accompanied by The Sovereign’s Escort of the Household Cavalry, will travel down The Mall, through Admiralty Arch and past Trafalgar Square, before turning down Whitehall. The procession will then make its way down to the Houses of Parliament and around the east and south sides of Parliament Square to Broad Sanctuary and Westminster Abbey.
• The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11am and is expected to run for two hours. There is, of course, no access to the abbey for uninvited guests but the ceremony will be broadcast live by the BBC and big screens are being set up to watch in St James’s Park, Green Park and Hyde Park as well as Holland Park, Valence Park in Dagenham and Walpole Park in Ealing.
• At 1pm, the King and Queen will return from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace in The Coronation Procession. They will be riding in the 260-year-old Gold State Coach that has been used in every coronation since that of William IV and accompanied by almost 4,000 members of the armed forces in what’s been called the largest ceremonial military operation in recent decades. Representatives of Commonwealth nations and British Overseas Territories will also take part in the return procession. The route will be the reverse of the outgoing route and see the procession travel back through Parliament Square (lined with an honour guard of 100 members of the Royal British Legion) and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, turning left to travel through Admiralty Arch and back down The Mall. Reaching Buckingham Palace, the King and Queen will receive a Royal Salute from the armed forces who have been escorting them followed by three cheers.
• The balcony appearance and flypast. The newly crowned King and Queen Consort are scheduled to appear on the famous balcony on Buckingham Palace at 2.30pm accompanied by members of the royal family. They will watch a six minute flypast of military planes, ending with a display by the Red Arrows.
• On Sunday, communities are invited to join in the Coronation Big Lunch (communities will also be holding street parties throughout the weekend). On Sunday night, the BBC will broadcast The Coronation Concert from Windsor Castle. The concert will feature the Coronation Choir as well as ‘Lighting Up The Nation’ in which locations across the UK will take part. For details on where events are being held, head to https://coronation.gov.uk/events/.
• On Monday, people are encouraged to join in The Big Help Out by volunteering time to help out in your local community. To find out where your local events are, head to https://thebighelpout.org.uk.
Four sites related to royal coronations in London – 4. Buckingham Palace…
Buckingham Palace will play an important role in this weekend’s coronation of King Charles III – not only as the location from which he and Queen Camilla will leave for the ceremony, but also for the famous balcony appearance.
Monarchs have only been living at the palace since 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in and it has been the official London residence of kings and queens ever since (although it should be noted that since becoming King, Charles has reportedly continued to reside at Clarence House and apparently intends continuing to do so following the coronation).
The palace has been in royal hands since 1761 when King George III bought what was then Buckingham House for the use of his wife Queen Charlotte, given, in particular, its proximity to St James’s Palace where court was held. Hence it become known as the Queen’s House.
King George IV intended using it the same way but in the 1820s had a change of heart and decided, with the aid of architect John Nash, to transform it into a palace. The ballooning work was unfinished when he died, and his successor and younger brother, King William IV, replaced Nash with Edward Blore to complete the work (thanks, apparently, to Nash’s budget blow-outs).
But William didn’t move into the property (in fact, he offered it up as a new home for parliament after much of the old Houses of Parliament were consumed by fire in 1834 – an offer which was not taken up).
Queen Victoria, however, decided to make it her home and she became the first monarch to leave the palace headed to a coronation when she did so in June, 1838.
Victoria also made the first balcony appearance by a monarch at the palace, doing so during celebrations to make the opening of the Great Exhibition in 1851.
But the first balcony appearance by a monarch immediately after their coronation was her son King Edward VII, who appeared on the balcony with his wife Queen Alexandra, to the joy of onlookers following his coronation on 9th August, 1901. Every monarch since has done so after their coronation (King Edward VIII, of course, never having had a coronation).
The King’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was the first monarch to watch a flypast on the balcony after her coronation, a tradition the King is expected to continue.
Buckingham Palace has also been the site of Coronation Banquets since the coronation of Queen Victoria (when it replaced Westminster Hall as the location). Queen Elizabeth held two Coronation Banquets in the palace following her coronation on 3rd and 4th June, each attended by 400 guests.
Few details have yet been released about King Charles III’s Coronation Banquet.
This Week in London – Three of London’s oldest charters on show and other coronation celebrations; Sir Christopher Wren’s life explored; and, a Pre-Raphaelite model and artist honoured…
• Three of the City of London’s oldest charters go on display at the City of London Heritage Gallery on Saturday as part of a series of events commemorating the coronation of King Charles III. On display will be the William Charter, which, drawn up in 1067 following the coronation of King William the Conqueror, was the earliest known royal document in Europe to guarantee the collective rights of all people in a town and not just a select few. Also to be seen is the Shrievalty Charter, which, issued by King John in 1199, confirms the rights of Londoners to elect their own sheriffs, and the Mayoralty Charter, which, also issued by King John – this time in 1215, confirmed that the Mayor of London could also chosen by Londoners with the proviso that they were publicly presented. Visitors can also see the beautifully illustrated Cartae Antiquae which records charters and statutes covering laws enacted from the reign of Edward III (1327 onwards) to the accession of Henry VII in 1485 and was used as an essential reference tool by City officials, as well as prints of the 19th century coronations of Queen Victoria, King William IV and King George IV. Admission is free but booking is recommended. Runs until 5th October. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/heritage-gallery-exhibition.
• Other events marking the coronation kick off in the City of London in the coming week. Among the extensive list of activities is a pop-up well-being garden in Seething Lane where you can pose for pictures with a floral crown installation, a guided walking tour of the City entitled ‘1000 Years of Royalty – the Best, the Worst and the Very Horribilus’, and a “Cockney knees-up” with Pearly King and Pearly Prince at Leadenhall Market. For more details and the full list of events, head to www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/events/coronation.
• A new exhibition commemorating the expansive career of Sir Christopher Wren opens today in St Paul’s Cathedral – the extraordinary building designed by Wren to replace the medieval cathedral destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666 Part of a series of events marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher in 1723, Sir Christopher Wren: The Quest for Knowledge explores not only his early life and career as an architect but also his lesser-known contributions to the fields of mathematics, astronomy and physiology. The display, located in the north aisle of the crypt, features drawings, photographs and objects from the cathedral’s collections. Entry to the exhibition is included in general admission. For more, see www.stpauls.co.uk/whats-on/exhibition-christopher-wren-quest-for-knowledge.
• The Pre-Raphaelite model and artist, Marie Spartali Stillman, has been honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque at what was her family home in Battersea. It was while living at The Shrubbery – a 1770s Grade II-listed property now located on Lavender Gardens – that Stillman first modelled for Pre-Raphaelite artists. Tutored by Ford Madox Brown, she went on to become one of a small number of professional women artists in the late 19th century, creating more than 150 works over a period spanning 50 years. Stillman is the first female Pre-Raphaelite artist and one of only very few female artists to receive a Blue Plaque. For more, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
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Four sites related to royal coronations in London – 3. Westminster Abbey…
Westminster Abbey has been centre-stage at coronations since at least the Norman Conquest.
William the Conqueror set the precedent for coronations at the abbey when he decided not to get crowned at Winchester Cathedral (where Edward the Confessor had been crowned) and instead chose to be crowned at the minster built by Edward the Confessor (there is some suggestion King Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon King, was crowned at Westminster Abbey before the Conquest but no documentary evidence exists for this).
William the Conqueror’s coronation was held on Christmas Day, 1066, and since then some 39 coronations have been carried out (King Charles III’s will be the 40th).
Arrangements for the coronation ceremony are the responsibility of the Earl Marshal and the coronation committee but the abbey’s dean acts as a liaison with the sovereign and assists the Archbishop of Canterbury who is usually the bishop who crowns the monarch.
Since the late 14th century, the service has largely followed that laid down in the Liber Regalis (Royal Book), an illuminated manuscript created in around 1390.
Since 1308, the heart of the coronation service has taken place on the Cosmati Pavement, located just before the High Altar, in what is known as the “Coronation Theatre”.
Having processed into the abbey and been acclaimed or “recognised” as sovereign by those present, the monarch then makes promises to God and the people they rule in what is known as the Oath, before being presented with a Bible.
Then, seated in the Coronation Chair, the monarch is anointed with holy oil while a canopy is held over them to shield this most sacred part of the ceremony from the eyes of those gathered.
Still seated, the monarch is then invested with the coronation regalia, including the Sovereign’s Ring, the Sovereign’s Orb, the Sceptre with Cross and the Sceptre with Dove, before St Edward’s Crown is brought from the altar and placed on the monarch’s head (it’s only since that coronation of King James I in 1603 that both the anointing and the crowning are carried out while the monarch is seated on the Coronation Chair – before that, the chair was used for only one aspect of the ceremony).
The monarch then moves to a throne and receives the homage of the royal princes and senior peers. It’s at this point that the coronation of a Queen Consort typically takes place in a simpler form of the ceremony.
The monarch then retires into St Edward’s Chapel where they dress on a purple robe known as the Imperial State Robe or Robe of Estate as well as the Imperial State Crown before processing back out through the abbey.
Other elements of the coronation include music which since the Coronation of King George II has included the George Fredric Handel anthem, Zadok the Priest. The introit I was glad has been sung at every coronation since that of King Charles I in February, 1626.
The abbey is currently closed in preparation for the Coronation of King Charles III. It reopens on Monday, 8th May. The Coronation Theatre will remain in place for visitors to see until 13th May.
WHERE: Westminster Abbey, Westminster (nearest Tube station is Westminster or St James’s Park); WHEN: Open to tourists everyday except Sunday (times vary so check the website); COST: £27 an adult/£24 for seniors (65+)/£12 a child (6-17 years); WEBSITE: www.westminster-abbey.org.
LondonLife – Rehearsing the Coronation Procession…
This Week in London – Coronations at Westminster Abbey; tulips at Hampton Court; St Bartholomew at The National Gallery; and, Food Season at the British Library…
• A new exhibition exploring the 1,000-year history of coronations at Westminster Abbey has opened in the abbey’s medieval chapter house. The exhibition, which has opened ahead of the coronation of King Charles III on 6th May, draws on historic illustrations and archive photography to explore the elements of the coronation service including the oath-taking, anointing, investing and crowning and takes a closer look any some of key artefacts present in the ceremony including the Coronation Chair. The exhibition, which is free with admission to the abbey and which runs until the end of September, is part of a season of events celebrating the coronation including themed late evenings, family activities and special afternoon teas at the Cellarium Café. Meanwhile, the abbey has also announced that visitors will be able to view the ‘Coronation Theatre’ – the special area which will be built for the historic occasion, from the Abbey’s North and South Transepts – following the coronation. Tickets for the special viewing – which will include the chance to see key elements from the coronation service including the Coronation Chair still in position on the Cosmati Pavement – can be purchased for timed slots between 8th and 13th May. For more on the abbey’s events surrounding the coronation, see www.westminster-abbey.org/events.
• Hampton Court Palace bursts into colour from Friday with its annual Tulip Festival. More than 110,000 bulbs have been planted to creat dramatic displays in the formal gardens and cobbled courtyards, among them a selection of heirloom bulbs on display in the Lower Orangery Garden which presents visitors with the chance to see tulips as they would have looked during the time of King William III and Queen Mary II, soon after the flowers were first introduced to Britain. Thanks to a special relationship with Netherlands-based Hortus Bulborum, the bulbs on display include Sylvestris (1595) and Rubella Broken (1700) as well as the Orange King (1903) and Queen of the Night (1940). Other highlights of the festival include 3,000 wine-toned tulips, including the merlot variety, flowing down from the steps and parapet of the Wine Fountain, as well as a floral fantasy in the palace’s courtyards in which tulips such as Raspberry Ripple, Apricot Emperor and Purple Prince flow out of wheelbarrows, barrels and a horse cart, and a free-style tulip planting in the Kitchen Garden inspired by Van Gogh’s 1883 painting, Bulb Fields. Runs until 1st May. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/tulip-festival/.
• The recently acquired Bernardo Cavallino work, Saint Bartholomew has gone on show at The National Gallery. The painting, which dates from 1640-45 and which was last exhibited at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1993, is being displayed alongside other 17th century works by artists such as Caravaggio, Artemisia and Orazio Gentileschi, Guercino, Reni and Ribera in the Hans and Julia Rausing Room (Room 32). The National Gallery has one other work by Cavallino – Christ driving the Traders from the Temple – but his depiction of Saint Bartholomew is considered one of his most splendid works. Admission is free. For more, see nationalgallery.org.uk.
• Featuring everything from a celebration of African Caribbean takeaways to a “deep-dive” into the issues surrounding food production and access, Food Season kicks off at the British Library Monday. Highlights include a discussion of the sandwich by food writers Nigella Lawson, Jonathan Nunn and Rebecca May Johnson, a day-long celebration of African Caribbean cuisine featuring chefs and broadcasters Jimi Famurewa, Fatmata Binta and Andi Oliver, and, an exploration of the big challenges in food, land use and food production featuring author Henry Dimbleby alongside Dr Tara Garnett, Nick Saltmarsh, Abby Allen and Dimitri Houtart. Runs until 7th June. Admission charges apply. For the full programme, see www.bl.uk/events/food-season.
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Where’s London’s oldest…chair?
The coronation of King Charles III is taking place in Westminster Abbey on 6th June and in preparation for that, the Coronation Chair is getting a makeover.
The six foot tall chair, which was made around 1300, is commonly referred to as the oldest piece of furniture in the UK which is still used for its original purpose and which is by a known maker.
The chair was constructed on the orders of King Edward I in 1300-1301 specifically to hold the Scone of Stone which he had brought south from Scotland several years before and which he had given into the care of the Abbot of Westminster.
Made of oak and painted by one Master Walter, the chair was decorated with patterns of birds, foliage and animals on a gilt background. On the seat back was painted the figure of a king, possibly King Edward I, with his feet resting on a lion. The chair, which would have had the appearance of being made of gold, would have also been decorated with coloured glass.
The space for the stone below the seat was originally fully enclosed and it’s believed the chair originally contained no seat with the King sitting on a cushion placed directly on the Stone of Scone.
The chair now rests on four gilt lions which were added in the 16th century (although those currently there are replacements made in 1727).
While there is some debate over whether King Edward II was sitting in the chair when he was crowned in 1308, that has certainly been the case from the 1399 when King Henry IV was crowned while sitting on it. Twenty-six subsequent monarchs including everyone from King Henry VIII to Queen Elizabeth II followed suit (Oliver Cromwell, meanwhile, had the chair removed to Westminster Hall when installed there as Lord Protector).
The chair has been graffitied in earlier centuries thanks mostly to Westminster schoolboys and visitors. Among the most legible graffiti scrawled upon it is “P Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800”. It also suffered minor damage in a bomb attack in 1914 thought to have been carried out by Suffragettes (it didn’t suffer any damage in World War II thanks to its being removed to Gloucester Cathedral).
The Stone of Scone, which had been taken briefly back to Scotland by Scottish Nationalists in 1950, was formally returned to Scotland in 1996 where it can now be seen at Edinburgh Castle. It is being returned to London for the coronation.
The chair, which for centuries had been kept in the Chapel of St Edward the Confessor, was moved to the abbey’s ambulatory in 1998 and then again moved again in 2010, this time to a specially-built enclosure in St George’s Chapel, located at the west end of the nave, so it could undergo conservation work. The two year conservation program was completed in 2013.
The chair is currently undergoing cleaning and work to stabilise what’s left of the gilding ahead of the coronation.
This Week in London – London painted large; Donatello at the V&A; and, the first King Charles III stamps…
• The most extensive collection of large scale paintings of London ever seen opens at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery on Friday. The Big City: London painted on a grand scale has at its heart a series of works by David Hepher which, on display in London for the first time, were given to the City by the artist in 2022. There’s also a four piece panel installation by John Bartlett and huge works by Frank O Salisbury and Terence Cuneo. The exhibition is open on a ‘pay what you can’ basis and runs until 23rd April. For more, see www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/thebigcity.
• The first major exhibition to explore the work of Renaissance sculptor Donatello opens at The V&A on Saturday. Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance features works never before on display in the UK including his early marble David and the bronze Attis-Amorino – both of which come from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, as well as the reliquary bust of San Rossore from the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa, and bronzes from the High Altar of the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua. And, for the first time, the V&A’s carved shallow relief of the Ascension with Christ giving the keys to St Peter will be displayed alongside the Madonna of the Clouds from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Desiderio da Settignano’s Panciatichi Madonna from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. Among the 130 objects in the display are also works by Donatello’s contemporaries and followers. Admission charge applies. The display runs until 11th June. For more, see www.vam.ac.uk.
• See the designs for the first Royal Mail stamp to feature King Charles III in a new exhibition at The Postal Museum. The King’s Stamp traces the story of definitive stamps and features stamps from the reigns of six monarchs. Along with the designs for the first definitive stamps featuring King Charles III, highlights include one of only two sheets of Edward VII ‘Tyrian Plum’ and original letters revealing the influence of past monarch’s on stamp designs as well as the chance to see your silhouette on a stamp. Runs until 3rd September. Admission charge applies. For more, see www.postalmuseum.org/event/the-kings-stamp/.
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LondonLife – Marking the King’s birthday; remembering the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in war; and, welcoming a new Lord Mayor…
LondonLife – A tumultuous week in national politics and (another) new PM…
Rishi Sunak was appointed as the nation’s third Prime Minister in less than two months today following Liz Truss announcement she would resign on Friday. Sunak visited King Charles III at Buckingham Palace after Truss visited earlier to officially resign.
This Week in London – Hieroglyphs explored at the British Museum; King Charles III coronation date announced; ‘The Admiral’s Revenge’ in Greenwich’; and, Dickens and ghosts…
• Marking 200 years since French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) was able to decipher hieroglyphs using the Rosetta Stone, a new exhibition opening at the British Museum explores how the stone and other inscriptions and objects helped scholars unlock one of the world’s oldest civilisations. Hieroglyphs: unlocking ancient Egypt centres on the Rosetta Stone but also features more than 240 other objects, many of which are shown for the first time. Alongside the Rosetta Stone itself, highlights include: “the Enchanted Basin”, a large black granite sarcophagus from about 600 BCE which is covered with hieroglyphs and images of gods; the richly illustrated, more than 3000-year-old Book of the Dead papyrus of Queen Nedjmet which measures more than four metres long; and the mummy bandage of Aberuait, a souvenir from one of the earliest ‘mummy unwrapping events’ in the 1600s where attendees each received a piece of the linen, preferably inscribed with hieroglyphs. There’s also the personal notes of key figures in the race to decipher hieroglyphs including those of Champollion which come from the Bibliothèque nationale de France as well as those of England’s Thomas Young (1773 – 1829) from the British Library. The exhibition can be seen in the Sainsbury Exhibition Gallery until 19th February. Admission charge applies. For more, see britishmuseum.org/hieroglyphs.
• King Charles III will be crowned at Westminster Abbey on 6th May next year, Buckingham Palace has announced this week. The Queen Consort, Camilla, will be crowned alongside him in the first such coronation since 12th May, 1937, when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were crowned in the abbey. The ceremony, which will be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will, according to the palace, “reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry”. King Charles III is expected to sign a Proclamation formally declaring the coronation date at a meeting of the Privy Council later this year. The first documented coronation at Westminster Abbey was that of King William the Conqueror on 25th December, 1066, and there have been 37 since, the most recent being that of Queen Elizabeth II on 2nd June, 1953.
• A new dark comedy, The Admiral’s Revenge, has opened in The Admiral’s House in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich. The play, set in 1797, features sea shanties, puppetry and follows a crew of shipmates in the wake of the ill-fated Battle of Tenerife. Audiences have the chance to explore the Admiral’s House before the show and enjoy a complimentary rum cocktail. Runs until 12th November. For ticket prices, head to https://ornc.org/whats-on/1797-the-mariners-revenge/.
• A new exhibition exploring Charles Dickens’ interest in the paranormal has opened at the Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury. To Be Read At Dusk: Dickens, Ghosts and the Supernatural explores Dickens’ famous ghost stories, including A Christmas Carol, and reveals his influence on the genre. Highlights include a copy of The Chimes which Dickens gifted to fellow author Hans Christian Anderson, original John Leech sketches of Dickens’ ghosts of the past, present and future and original tickets and playbills relating to the author’s public performances of his ghost stories. The display will also look into Dickens’ own views on the supernatural as a fascinated sceptic and includes correspondence in which he was asking about the location of a supposedly haunted house. Runs until 5th March. Admission charge applies. For more, see https://dickensmuseum.com/blogs/all-events/to-be-read-at-dusk-dickens-ghosts-and-the-supernatural.
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