Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary

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Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary
George V of the united Kingdom.jpg
The King in his coronation robes
Date 22 May 1911 (1911-05-22)
Location Westminster Abbey, London, England

The coronation of George V and his wife Mary as King and Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Empire took place at Westminster Abbey, London, on 22 June 1911. This was second of four such events held during the 20th century and the last to be attended by royal representatives of the great continental European empires.



The overall planning of the coronation was theoretically the role of the Earl Marshal, a hereditary office held of the Dukes of Norfolk for several centuries. At the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, the driving force had been Viscount Esher in his capacity as Secretary to the Office of Works, a position which had since been filled by Sir Schomberg Kerr McDonnell. However, in the interim, the Earl Marshall, Henry Fitzalan-Howard, 15th Duke of Norfolk, had reasserted his ancient right to organise the great state events, despite having a personal dislike of ceremonial and having little capability as an organiser. The Earl Marshall had no permanent staff and was obliged to appoint a new one for each event. This arrangement had proved highly unsatisfactory for Edward VIII's state funeral, when the ceremonial directions were found to be full of errors and had to be rewritten by courtiers on the previous evening, the printed order of service was wrong, and the seating of guests was alleged to be "a mosaic of indecision and confusion". King George described Norfolk as "a charming, honourable, straightforward little gentleman, the finest in the world. But as a man of business he is absolutely impossible".[1]

Despite the objections of the College of Heralds and the Duke of Norfolk, a compromise was reached at the insistence of the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, whereby Norfolk would be chairman of the Coronation Executive Committee, but the detailed work would be done by the professional staff of the Office of Works rather than by Norfolk's appointees.[2]


As with all modern British coronations, a temporary extension or annexe was built at the west front of Westminster Abbey to allow the forming up of the processions before their entry into the church. As in the 1902 coronation, it was designed by the architect Alfred Young Nutt in the Gothic Revival style, matching the architecture of the abbey itself. Inside the abbey, the traditional ceremonial areas known as the theatre and the sacrarium had to be constructed, along with the galleries and boxes to accommodate the congregation. Following the arrangements for 1902, it was decided to limit the congregation to 6,000, far fewer than at earlier coronations.[3] More than 50 grandstands were erected along the route of the processions, varying in size from seating 250 to 3,500 spectators each. The construction of these required 2,100 Imperial tons (2,134 tonnes) of timber and 70 tons (71 tonnes) of bolts, nails and screws.[4]

Festival of Empire[edit]

The Festival of Empire opened on 12 May 1911 at the Crystal Palace in London, an exhibition of British and Imperial trade and culture to celebrate the forthcoming coronation.

The service[edit]

"King George V and Queen Mary occupying their chairs of estate on the south side of the altar during that part of the coronation service which precedes the anointing". An official photograph by Sir John Benjamin Stone (1838 – 1914).

The order of service was prepared by Claude Jenkins, the Lambeth Palace librarian, an eccentric character who was an antiquarian and patristic scholar. He was supervised by Armitage Robinson, the Dean of Westminster, who insisted that innovation be balanced by tradition. In fact, there was little change from the 1902 coronation, or at least that which had been intended, since the service had been shortened because of Edward's poor health. Randall Davidson, who as the Bishop of Winchester, had largely compiled the 1902 coronation service, was now Archbishop of Canterbury. Davidson sought the advice of Frank Edward Brightman, a liturgist from Magdalen College, Oxford. The main changes were to the words spoken at the actual crowning, which replaced those first used at the Coronation of James II with a translation of the simpler medieval form.[5] and the coronation sermon, which had been omitted in 1902, was reintroduced for the last time, but in a shorter form.[6] The service was conducted by Davidson, including the crowning of the queen, which in 1902 had been delegated to the Archbishop of York.[7]


The Director of Music, as in 1902, was Sir Frederick Bridge. As at the previous event, Bridge aimed to produce a celebration of four hundred years of English music,[8] including work by Thomas Tallis, John Merbecke and George Frederick Handel. Bridge himself wrote a new anthem, Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous, the tenor solo for which was performed by Edward Lloyd. The organist was Walter Alcock, who also wrote a new setting for the Sanctus.[9] Sir Hubert Parry wrote an orchestral introduction for his setting of Psalm 122, I Was Glad which had made a great impact at the 1902 coronation, and also a new setting of the Te Deum, which was less well received, perhaps because the choir was exhausted at the end of the three hour service.[10] More successful was a new setting of the Gloria by Charles Villiers Stanford which was also used at the coronations of 1937 and 1953.[11] New orchestral music included a Coronation March by Edward Elgar, who despite being awarded the Order of Merit in the coronation honours list, inexplicably refused to attend in person.[12]

The Processions-in-State[edit]

The processions to the Abbey[edit]

The first of three processions left Buckingham Palace at 9:30 am. It consisted of representatives of foreign royal families and governments, carried in fourteen carriages.[13] The second procession had five state landaus for members of the British royal family; the fifth contained the king and queen's children, the Prince of Wales, Princess Mary and the young Princes Albert, Henry and George.[14] The third procession brought the officers of state in a further four carriages and the twenty-fifth and final carriage, the Gold State Coach carrying the king and queen. They were surrounded by equerries, aides-de-camp and the commanders of the armed forces mounted on horseback, all escorted by Yeomen of the Guard, colonial and Indian cavalry and the Royal Horse Guards.[15]

The return processions[edit]

Following the coronation service, the three processions returned to the palace in reverse order and by an extended route, passing through Pall Mall, St James's Street, Piccadilly and Constitution Hill.[16] Some 45,000 soldiers and sailors from across the empire either participated in the procession or lined the route.[4]

After the end of the procession, there was an unexpected innovation, the appearance of the king and queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. This created such excitement that the soldiers outside the palace broke ranks and joined in the cheering. According to one account, "some of them put their helmets on their rifles and waved them vigorously aloft".[17] That evening, the principal buildings in central London were illuminated with strings of electric lights until 12:30 am.[18]

The royal progress in the City of London on 23 June.

The royal progress through the City[edit]

On the following day, the return procession was reconstituted for a further parade through the streets of the capital, this time passing along The Strand and into the City of London, past St Paul's Cathedral, across the River Thames by London Bridge, along Borough High Street, back over Westminster Bridge and finally returning up The Mall to Buckingham Palace. Instead of the Gold Coach, the king and queen were driven in an open landau. The place of the foreign royalty was taken by Indian princes and colonial rulers.[19] This time, 55,000 troops were on duty.[4]

The Coronation Review of the Fleet[edit]

A painting by A. B. Cull depicting the arrival of the fleet at Spithead for the Review of the Fleet. In the centre is HMS Neptune (1909), the flagship of Sir Francis Bridgeman, Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet. On the left are two foreign ships, the Russian cruiser Rossia and the German battlecruiser SMS Von der Tann.

On 24 June, the king and queen attended the Coronation Review of the Fleet at Spithead between the naval base of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. The Royal Navy had 167 warships in attendance, together with 187 ships from foreign navies; they were arranged in five lines, each 6 miles (10 kilometres) in length, through which the royal party steamed in review, aboard the royal yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert. The crowd of spectators ashore was estimated to number a quarter of a million.[20]

The Delhi Coronation Durbar[edit]

On 11 November 1911, the king and queen left Portsmouth aboard RMS Medina bound for the Indian Empire.[21] Arriving in Bombay (present day Mumbai) on 2 December, they reached Delhi by train on 7 December for a ceremonial state entry.[22] The Durbar itself was on 12 December, attended by an estimated 100,000 people, both watching and participating.[23]

King George V Coronation Medal

External links[edit]

  • "Westminster Abbey - George V Coronation Music, 1911" (PDF). The Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 
  • "Coronation Of King George V 1911". British Pathé. Retrieved 29 December 2017. Various [newsreel] shots of the Coronation procession for King George V. 
  • "Coronation Of His Majesty King George V 1911". British Pathé. Retrieved 29 December 2017. Coronation procession passing under Admiralty Arch. Various cavalry troops and carriages... Yeomen of the Guard. Colonial troops... The state coach bearing King George V and Queen Mary to the Coronation comes past. 
  • "King George V. Naval Review 1911". British Pathé. Retrieved 29 December 2017. King George V attends a naval review. The royal yacht steams slowly up and down the long lines of warships assembled for the review. 
  • "The Great Coronation Durbar - Delhi 1911". British Pathé. Retrieved 29 December 2017. Delhi, India. Pan across huge dais in the midst of a massive arena. Thousands of troops form up and hundreds of civil and military dignitaries arrive. King George V and Queen Mary arrive and take the place on the dais where they receive homage. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kuhn, pp. 129-130
  2. ^ Kuhn, p. 133
  3. ^ Strong 2005, pp. 459-460
  4. ^ a b c The Dominion, p. 8
  5. ^ Strong, p.480
  6. ^ Strong, Roy, Coronation, p.477
  7. ^ Strong, p.479
  8. ^ Richards, p. 104
  9. ^ Musical Times, p. 433
  10. ^ Range, p. 241]
  11. ^ Beeson, p. 73
  12. ^ Moore p. 622
  13. ^ Milne, p. 5
  14. ^ Milne, p. 8
  15. ^ Milne, pp. 11-19
  16. ^ Milne, pp. 53-54
  17. ^ Milne, p. 56
  18. ^ Milne, p. 58
  19. ^ Milne, pp. 60-61
  20. ^ Milne, p. 79
  21. ^ Milne, p. 85
  22. ^ Milne, p. 89
  23. ^ "The Delhi Durbar, 1911". National Army Museum. Retrieved 19 December 2017.