The Coronation of Charles II
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The generation that witnessed the crowning of Charles II. had learnt with much sorrow the truth of that melancholy prophecy. But the plagues of war and want were now over, and the eyes of all men and women were bright in that April of 1661 because they were about to crown the King.
On the day before the Coronation, which had been fixed for St. George's Day, the young bachelor King rode, according to ancient custom, from the Tower of London through the City Streets to Whitehall. As he came out of the Tower and clattered over the cobbles of Crutched Friars, a band of music of eight waits greeted him from a stage: at the corner of Aldgate another band was playing music from a balcony.
At the Lime Street end of Leadenhall he passed under a triumphal arch built after the Doric order, with Rebellion, her crimson robe alive with snakes, being crushed by Monarchy Restored, and a fine painting of his Majesty's landing at Dover, "with ships at sea, great guns going off, one kneeling and kissing the King's hand, soldiers, horse and foot and many people gazing."
Outside the East India House in Leadenhall Street, that loyal and honourable trading company expressed their dutiful affections to his Majesty by two Indian youths, one attended by two blackamoors and the other mounted upon a camel, which bore on its back two panniers filled with jewels, spices, and silks to be scattered among the spectators.
At the Conduit in Cornhill a special treat was prepared for the bachelor king in the shape of eight nymphs clad in white. A little further down the street, just opposite the Royal Exchange, was another arch, with stages against it depicting the River Thames and the upper deck of one of his Majesty's ships.
Fountains and bands of music continued at intervals down the street; at Wood Street was another Arch representing the Temple of Concord, and another in Fleet Street near Whitefriars depicting the Garden of Plenty.
"His Majesty having passed the Four Triumphal Arches," the enraptured chronicler of the scene continued, " was at Temple Bar entertained with the view of a delightful Boscage, full of several beasts, both tame and savage."
What the King witnessed on that famous ride was nothing to what the spectators saw. The day was fine and cloudless, so nothing dimmed the splendour of the wonderful clothes and jewels of those taking part in the procession.
The list of those who rode is like a pageant of England. On both sides of the assembled Nobility marched Sergeants-at-Arms. Led by Clarenceux and Norroy came the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord High Steward, the Duke of Ormond, two persons representing the Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine (and so symbolising the lost French provinces of the Imperial Throne), Garter King of Arms, and the Lord Mayor, Sir Richard Browne.
The Duke of York, as heir presumptive, next rode alone. He was followed by the Lord High Constable of England, the Earl of Northumberland, and the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Earl of Lindsey.
The Sword of State was borne by the Duke of Richmond. The Knights of the Bath, who formed part of that glorious company, were clad in "mantles and surcoats of red taffeta, lined and edged with white sarcenet and thereto fastened two long strings of white silk, with buttons and tassels of red silk and gold and a pair of white gloves fastened to them, with white hats and feathers." Last of all came the King himself, riding bareheaded and alone for all his good people to see.
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