A photograph of a television dramatization of a corornation.
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5 Historic Things to Know About Coronations

Take a look at the history and heritage behind this ancient ceremony.

The coronation of His Majesty King Charles III, on 6 May 2023 at Westminster Abbey in London, is the first for almost 70 years.

Here are 5 things you should know about the history and heritage of this ancient ceremony.

A black and white photograph of a crowded street with flags flying to celebrate a coronation.
A street in Oxford, crowded with people celebrating the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. Source: Historic England Archive. CC72/00905.

1. Coronations in England haven’t always been in London

It’s only relatively recently that coronations have been for Kings and Queens of the whole of England.

The first King of all England was Athelstan, who lived between 895 and 939 AD. He was the grandson of Alfred the Great and is the 31st great-granduncle to King Charles III.

A close up photograph of a stone medieval tomb with a sculpture of a king.
The tomb of King Athelstan in the scheduled Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. © CBW / Alamy Stock Photo.

While almost all Kings and Queens since 1066 have been crowned in Westminster Abbey, in the 10th and 11th centuries, at least 3 kings were crowned outside London, including:

Of course, an official coronation isn’t always the same as being ‘crowned’.

In 1485, it is said that King Henry VII was crowned in Stoke Golding, Leicestershire, following Richard III’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth. (He had a coronation at Westminster Abbey later that year).

Legend says that the coronation table and chair were taken from a rural farmhouse, and are now stored at Maxstroke Castle in Warwickshire.

Listen to our 100 Places Podcast episode on the Battle of Britain and the Battle of Bosworth.

2. Stones before thrones

In 2023, the coronation will use the same Coronation Chair that was first created for Edward I in 1272. It has been used in every coronation at Westminster Abbey since.

A black and white photograph of a 13th century ornately carved throne.
The 13th century Coronation Chair made for Edward I in Westminster Abbey, photographed in 1952. Source: Historic England Archive. CC97/00027.

However, prior to Edward I, coronation stones were the alternative to seating.

The stone pictured below, in Kingston-upon-Thames, London, is said to have been the one on which the West Saxon Kings were crowned during the 10th century.

A photograph of a stone atop a stone plinth and surrounded by a painted blue fence. Text on the plinth reads: 'EADREO DCCCCXLVI'.
The Grade I listed Coronation Stone in Kingston upon Thames, London. © Historic England Archive. DP434126.

3. Coronation this, coronation that

It almost feels like there isn’t a single object that hasn’t been dedicated to a coronation at some point in time.

A photograph of a 20th century brick boathouse with a thatched roof and many boats in front.
The Coronation Boathouse in Bantham, Devon, built in 1937 to mark the coronation of King George VI. © Historic England Archive. DP264062.

From fountains to boathouses, clock towers to lamp posts, you’ll find memorials and reminders of this key event in English history spread across the country.

For example, there are at least seven Coronation Streets in England, though one has surely attracted more drama than the rest…

Set within a fictional community of a fictional town in northern England, the TV show Coronation Street was first aired in 1960. It is now the world’s longest running television soap opera.

A photograph of a television set brick pub with a green door and sign reading: ROVERS RETURN INN.
The Rovers Return Inn from the set of television soap Coronation Street. © Joseph Gaul / Alamy Stock Photo.

4. The coronation route isn’t always the same

Although many British coronations take similar routes, there can be slight changes.

A black and white photograph of a coronation procession with guards lining the street for horse and carriage.
The coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth II in London in front of the Grade I listed Admiralty Arch on 2 June 1953. Source: Historic England Archive. P/C00425/002.

Take a look at our story map showing the route and key buildings included in Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation procession in 1953, which also featured heads of states and dignitaries from all around the world.

5. Coronations on film

Coronations make for spectacular events, both for the nation and for popular culture.

The television drama series ‘The Crown’, serialising the life of Queen Elizabeth II, has covered many important moments in recent British history.

A photograph of a coronation in a television show, with people wearing richly ornate clothes.
The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, played by Claire Foy, in the Netflix television show ‘The Crown’. © Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo.

Whilst the coronation scenes couldn’t take place in Westminster Abbey itself, the show did use another Grade I listed English cathedral as a stand in: Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire.

A sepia photograph of a cathedral.
The Grade I listed Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire. Source: Historic England Archive. RBO01/05/OP22326.

‘Queen Charlotte’, a prequel to the popular ‘Bridgerton’ TV series, is set to tell the story of young Queen Charlotte’s marriage and coronation as the wife of King George III. It’s sure to draw interest from TV fans and Royal watchers alike.

Do you have a photo or memory that can enrich these list entries? Make your contribution today.

Do you know of another historic or significant place that has coronation connections? Find out more about making suggestions for the National Heritage List for England.

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