History Rewind: Coronation of King George VI

12 May 2014 - 12:15am
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On 12 May 1937 the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth was held on 12 May 1937 at Westminster Abbey. Originally this date was chosen for the coronation of Edward VIII before he decided to abdicate.

King George VI and President Roosevelt, June 8, 1939.

King George VI and President Roosevelt,
June 8, 1939.

Preparing for the coronation began at 4am with guests arriving two hours later. According to Westminster Abbey, “many peers carrying sandwiches in their coronets.”

The Procession of the Regalia began at 9.30 proceeding through the cloisters to the Abbey. Dating back to the time of Charles II, the crowns and regalia were taken to the Jerusalem Chamber, The Deanery of Westminster the night before.

Attending the ceremony were the King and Queen’s daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, along with the King’s mother, Queen Mary. Her attendance made it the first British coronation attended by a previously crowned queen.

The Imperial State Crown was redesigned for the occasion by the Crown Jewellers, Garrard & Co. Queen Elizabeth’s new platinum crown included the Koh-i-Noor diamond from the crown of Queen Mary.


Queen Elizabeth wore a gown made of silk satin, containing pure gold thread embroidery in a rose and thistle design. The gown included designs that were patriotic to the British Empire. Her velvet ermine-lined robe was resplendent with a gold outline and floral design.

A few changes were made at this coronation in comparison to those of the past. The Coronation Oath needed revision to show the amended constitutional agreements of the British Dominions, following the 1926 declaration of equality at the Imperial Conference as well as the passing of the Statute of Westminster in 1931. This was the first amendment to the Oath since the coronation of in 1689 of King William III and Queen Mary II.

There were some changes in the length of the coronation as it was indeed a long event. The sermon was taking out and the litany was sung during the start of the service in order to shorten the proceedings a bit. The coronation still lasted two and a half hours, not taking into consideration the time spent for the preliminary processions.

There were three minor missteps during the event. The Archbishop thought the Dean had handed him St Edward’s crown the wrong way, a bishop stepped on the king’s train and a bishop inadvertently placed his thumb over oath as the king was to read it.

King George VI’s coronation was the first BBC TV outside transmission and the first coronation to be broadcast on television.

photo credit: FDR Presidential Library & Museum via photopin cc

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