by Scott Mehl
June 22, 1911 – Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary
King George V became Sovereign upon the death of his father, King Edward VII, on May 6, 1910. The following year, on June 22, 1911, King George V and his consort, Queen Mary, were crowned at Westminster Abbey. The guests were all in place by 8:30 am although the service did not begin until 11. At 10:30, King George V and Queen Mary left Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, in a grand procession to Westminster Abbey. Following the traditional Coronation ceremony, including the homage of their eldest son, The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, and Duke of Windsor), the newly crowned King and Queen returned to Buckingham Palace, where they appeared on the balcony several times throughout the day.
Westminster Abbey, the site of English and British coronations going back to 1066, had closed a month earlier to prepare for the event. In order to accommodate the 6,000 invited guests, the fixed pews were removed and Chippendale-style chairs were put in place, each carved with a royal coronet and inscribed with the guest’s name. (Afterwards, the guests were given the opportunity to purchase the chairs as souvenirs). A brilliant new carpet was designed and installed, and a special annex was built to serve as the robing room for the King and Queen. You can read more about the Coronation ceremony here.
Over 50,000 troops took part in the festivities, marching in the procession and lining the route. Special camps were set up around London to accommodate them – in Hyde Park and Kensington Park for the British troops; Alexandra Park for the Dominion troops; and at Hampton Court Palace for the Indian troops.
King George V re-established the tradition of being crowned with St. Edward’s Crown, last used at the coronation of King William III in 1689. St. Edward’s Crown was only used for the actual crowning part of the Coronation ceremony, after which the King wore the Imperial State Crown (created for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 and also used for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902.) This is the crown he is wearing in the photograph above.
In keeping with the tradition started by Queen Adelaide in 1831, a new crown was created for Queen Mary, containing the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV. (Previous Queen consorts used the Crown of Mary of Modena). The new crown was designed with eight arches, which were removable so that it could be worn as a circlet. This is how she later wore it to the coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937.
A brief extract from the diary of King George V on the day of the Coronation:
“The Service in the Abby was most beautiful and impressive, but it was a terrible ordeal. IT was grand, yet simple & most dignified & went without a hitch. I nearly broke down when dear David came to do homage to me, as it reminded me so much when I did the same thing to beloved Papa, he did it so well. Darling May looked lovely & it was indeed a comfort to have her by my side as she has been ever to me during these last 18 years.”