Not often can the subject hope to see a Coronation through the eyes of a King or Queen. Yet one English Sovereign has given us a picture of the ceremony as seen and experienced by royalty. In her diary the nineteen-year-old Victoria set down a graphic and even ecstatic account of this, the greatest day in her young life:
"I was awoke at four o'clock by the guns in the Park and could not get much sleep afterwards on account of the noise of the people, bands, etc., etc. Got up at seven, feeling strong and well; the Park presented a curious spectacle, crowds of people up to Constitution Hill, soldiers, bands, etc. I dressed, having taken a little breakfast before I dressed, and a little after. At half-past nine I went into the next room, dressed exactly in my House of Lords costume..."
"At 10 I got into the State Coach with the Duchess of Sutherland and Lord Albemarle and we began our progress... It was a fine day, and the crowds of people exceeded what I have ever seen; Their good humour and excessive loyalty was beyond everything, and I really cannot say how proud I feel to be the Queen of such a nation."
"I was alarmed at times for fear that the people would be crushed and squeezed on account of the tremendous rush and pressure. I reached the Abbey amid deafening cheers at a little after half-past eleven; I first went into a robing room quite close to the entrance where I found my eight train-bearers Lady Caroline Lennox, Lady Adelaide Paget, Lady Mary Talbot, Lady Fanny Cowper, Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope, Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, Lady Mary Grimston, and Lady Louisa Jenkinson, all dressed alike and beautifully in white satin and silver tissue with wreaths of silver corn ears in front, and a small one of pink roses round the plait behind, and pink roses in the trimming of the dresses."
"After putting on my mantles and the young ladies having properly got hold of it and Lord Conyngham holding the end of it, I left the robing room and the Procession began… The sight was splendid, the bank of Peeresses quite beautiful all in their robes, and the Peers on the other side. My young trainbearers were always near me, and helped me whenever I wanted anything. The Bishop of Durham stood on the side near me, but he was, as Lord Melbourne told me, remarkably maladroit and never could tell me what was to take place."
"At the beginning of the Anthem I retired to St. Edward's Chapel, a small dark place immediately behind the Altar, with my ladies and trainbearers took off my crimson robe and kirtle, and put on the supertunica of cloth of gold, also in the shape of a kirtle, which was put over a singular sort of little gown of linen trimmed with lace; I also took off my circlet of diamonds and then proceeded bareheaded into the Abbey; I was then seated upon St. Edward's chair where the Dalmatic robe was clasped round me by the Lord Great Chamberlain."
"Then followed all the various things; and last (of those things) the crown being placed on my head which was I must own a most beautiful impressive moment; all the Peers and Peeresses put on their coronets at the same instant..."
"The Enthronisation and the Homage of, first, all the Bishops, and then my Uncles, and lastly of all the Peers, in their respective order was very fine."
"Poor old Lord Rollo, who is 82 and dreadfully infirm, in attempting to ascend the steps fell and rolled quite down, but was not the least hurt; when he attempted to re-ascend them I got up and advanced to the 'end of the steps, in order to prevent another fall…"
"I then again descended from the Throne and repaired with all the Peers, bearing the Regalia, my Ladies and Train-bearers, to St. Edward's Chapel. The Procession being formed I replaced my Crown (which I had taken off for a few minutes), took the Orb in my left hand and the Sceptre in my right, and thus loaded, proceeded through the Abbey, which resounded with cheers, to the first robing-room; where I found the Duchess of Gloucester, Mamma, and the Duchess of Cambridge with their ladies. And here we waited for at least an hour, with all my ladies and trainbearers."
"The Archbishop had (most awkwardly) put the ring on the wrong finger, and the consequence was that I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, which I at last did with great pain..."
"At about half-past four I re-entered my carriage, the Crown on my head and the Sceptre and Orb in my hands, and we proceeded the same way as we came-the crowds if possible having increased. The enthusiasm, affection, and loyalty were really touching, and I shall ever remember this day as the PROUDEST of my life! I came home a little after six, really not feeling tired. At eight we dined..."
"Stayed in the dining-room till twenty minutes past eleven, but remained on Mamma's balcony looking at the fireworks in Green Park which were quite beautiful…"
It would be difficult to give a more illuminating picture of a Coronation than that so simply drawn by the clear-eyed girl who was in this case its central figure.