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Title: The Crowning of the King and Queen

Date of first publication: 1937

Author: Stephen King-Hall (1893-1966)

Date first posted: June 6, 2019

Date last updated: June 6, 2019

Faded Page eBook #20190609

This eBook was produced by: Mardi Desjardins, Howard Ross & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at https://www.pgdpcanada.net

County Borough of Southampton

This book is being presented to you by the Southampton Borough Council to commemorate a great event in the history of our Country and of the Empire, the Coronation of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, whose many visits to our town as Duke and Duchess of York we remember with affection and pleasure.

I hope that May 12th, 1937, will long live in your memories, that you will treasure this book, and that the example set by Their Majesties will inspire you as you grow up to live, like them, a life of service to your fellow men and women.













Photo: Bertram Park


From the

Proclamation of the Accession of King George VI

read on December 12th, 1936

“Whereas by an instrument of abdication dated the tenth day of December, his former Majesty King Edward VIII did declare his irrevocable determination to renounce the Throne for himself and his descendants . . . We therefore . . . with one voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim

THAT THE HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE ALBERT FREDERICK ARTHUR GEORGE is now become our only Lawful and Rightful Liege Lord, George the Sixth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, to whom we do acknowledge all faith and constant obedience with all hearty and humble affection; beseeching God, by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Prince George the Sixth with long and happy years to reign over us.”



On May 12th, 1937, George VI will pledge himself to the service of God and his people and be consecrated solemnly to his high office in the Abbey of Westminster.

This coronation service, with its elaborate ceremonial and ritual, its beautiful and stately pageantry, has its origins far back in the misty beginnings of our history. As one studies its inner meanings and its developments, one realises that the changes which have taken place during the centuries in the coronation service are part of the story of our national life.

On May 12th, 1937, the Coronation ceremony will in some respects resemble those crownings of Kings and Queens which for nearly a thousand years have given chapter headings to our history books, and so built up that table of the Kings and Queens of England and Great Britain which is so often a cause of anxiety to school boys and girls; but in at least one respect it will be different from any other Coronation yet held in the history of the world. The miracle of broadcasting will permit tens of millions of the King’s subjects to listen to every word of the Coronation Service. Thousands of miles away from Westminster, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa, in the valleys of the Himalayas, in Ceylon, in the bazaars of the Far East, on the Pacific coast of Canada, in Prairie farms, in ships at sea, even in air-craft in flight, millions of men, women and children may be taking part in this great historic ceremony. King George’s Crowning will be an event which will give it for all time an unique position in history.


This picture shows the procession of Bishops carrying the Royal Regalia to Westminster Abbey. The foremost Bishop is carrying the Communion Cup, the second carries the Bible, and the third and last carry the crowns.

I have laid some stress upon the significance of this new element in the Coronation, this 1937 addition to the centuries-old ceremony, because it is a fact which makes it especially important that the details of the ceremony should be known to all before the event. A knowledge of what is going to take place at successive stages in the ceremony, why it is taking place, how it is taking place, is indispensable if those who cannot be inside the Abbey wish to participate as fully as possible in the ceremony. Let us also remember that in witnessing this linking of the scientific marvels of the twentieth century to the traditions of the tenth century, we shall be watching an example of that adaptability and flexibility of British Constitutional usage which is its most valuable characteristic.

Ever since the Coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day, 1066, the Kings and Queens of England have been crowned at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey, founded by William’s predecessor, King Edward the Confessor, has always been in a special sense a Royal Church, and the custom started by the Conqueror soon came to be regarded as a fixed and unalterable right.

Until the Reformation, the Crown Jewels were kept in an ancient strong room in the Eastern Cloister at Westminster; since then they have been removed to the Tower of London and are only brought to the Abbey on the day before each Coronation. Immediately before the Service begins, they are carried to the West end of the Church by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, accompanied by the officiating Archbishops and Bishops in procession, and there they are delivered to the Peers, who are to bear them before the King and Queen.

Crown Copyright of Photographs Reserved]    [Colour Reproductions, Copyright Evans Bros.


St. Edward’s Crown is the official Crown of England, and is used for the actual crowning of the King at the Coronation. It is very heavy and is only worn during the Coronation ceremony. The Crown is made of gold and is ornamented with precious stones. Inside the crown is a cap of velvet, turned up with ermine.

This Crown is supposed to be a copy of one which is said to have belonged not only to Edward the Confessor, but also to Alfred the Great, a hundred and seventy years earlier still. This ancient Crown was destroyed, together with almost all the old Regalia, at the time of the Commonwealth. After the Restoration, new articles of the Regalia were manufactured for the Coronation of Charles II, among them a Crown named “St. Edward’s” in memory of the one which it replaced. The present St. Edward’s Crown is thought to be mainly the same as that made for Charles II in 1661.

Crown Copyright of Photographs Reserved]   [Colour Reproductions, Copyright Evans Bros.


This beautiful Crown is worn by the King after the Coronation for his drive back to the Palace from Westminster Abbey, and for all other State occasions during his reign, such as the Opening of Parliament. It was made for Queen Victoria’s Coronation in 1838.

The Crown consists of a circlet of openwork silver filled with clusters of jewels surrounded with diamonds. In the front of this circlet is set the second largest portion of the Cullinan diamond, known as the “Star of Africa.” The cross, in the front of the Crown, contains the Black Prince’s Ruby, and in the centre of the cross on top of the Crown is St. Edward’s Sapphire. The Crown also contains four large egg-shaped pearls, said to have been the ear-rings of Queen Elizabeth.

In addition to St. Edward’s Crown and the Imperial State Crown, there is also the Imperial Crown of India. This was made for King George V to wear at the Durbar in India to which he went after his Coronation, and is a very beautiful crown, containing many valuable jewels.

When the Princes and Princesses and all the vast concourse of people who are to be present at the ceremony have arrived and taken their places in the Abbey, the Royal Procession is formed outside the West door; and as soon as “notice is given of the approach of his Majesty,” it begins to move into the Church.

No statelier or more splendid pageant is ever seen in England than the Coronation Procession. As this glittering array advances up the nave, the beautiful anthem from the hundred and twenty-second Psalm (v. 1-3, 6, 7) is sung to greet the King and Queen as they enter the West door and pass up the Church. The Queen enters first, her Regalia borne in state before her, and her train carried by the Mistress of the Robes; the Ladies of her Household follow. Next come the highest dignitaries of the realm, bearing among them the King’s Regalia, and followed by three Bishops carrying the Bible, and the Chalice and Patina for the Communion Service. Then, clad in a flowing Crimson Robe, with a cloak of ermine hanging from his shoulders and the crimson silk Cap of State upon his head comes—The King. On his either hand walk the Bishop of Durham and the Bishop of Bath and Wells; and his train is borne by eight young pages of noble blood, assisted by the Master of the Robes. On either side of both the King and the Queen march a bodyguard of Gentlemen-at-Arms, carrying gold-tipped halberts. Following the King, the rear of the procession is brought up by a brilliant company of nobles, officers, and members of the King’s Household, followed last of all by the Yeomen of the Guard.


Here we see Queen Victoria immediately after she has been crowned. In the background the Peers are acclaiming her as their Queen. Such a scene as this will be witnessed when King George VI and Queen Elizabeth are crowned.

The Procession passes up through the Choir to the “Theatre,” where galleries and tiers of seats are erected between the pillars and in the transepts for the privileged guests—Peers and Peeresses, Members of the House of Commons and their wives. Here, beneath the central tower and mid-way between the Choir and the Sanctuary, a platform is raised, in the centre of which is the King’s Throne. The Queen’s Throne is to the left of the King’s and on a slightly lower level. Farther up, within the Sanctuary and facing the Altar, is placed King Edward’s Chair, the historic Coronation Chair containing the Stone of Destiny, in which every Sovereign of England, with the exception of Mary I,[1] has been crowned since the time of Edward II. The two Chairs of Estate for the King and Queen are placed on the south side of the Altar, with their faldstools before them.

Mary I was crowned in a chair which was sent to her from Rome after having been blessed by the Pope. It is now preserved in Winchester Cathedral.

As first the Queen and then the King approach the entrance to the Choir, the boys of Westminster School, who, according to ancient custom, are placed high in a gallery near the great organ, cry out in greeting. “Vivat! Vivat! Vivat! Regina Elizabeth!” and “Vivat! Vivat! Vivat! Georgius Rex!” they will shout on May 12th, 1937, using the time-honoured Latin words of salutation for their shrill, startling cry. This acclamation of the Sovereigns, which is supposed especially to represent the part played by the crowd at a medieval Coronation, is one of the most interesting features of the ceremony. It is now rehearsed beforehand, and is extremely effective, but it seems likely that a century ago the results were left to chance—judging from the comment of a guest at the Coronation of Queen Victoria, who reported that “a more murderous scream of recognition than that which they” (the Westminster boys) “gave Her Majesty . . . was never before heard by civilized ears!”

When the Procession reaches the “Theatre,” the King and Queen pass immediately to their Chairs of Estate, and the Service at once proceeds. After the Recognition, the Regalia (all but the Swords) is delivered to the Dean to be placed upon the Altar, and the Peers and others, except those who are to take part in the ceremony, pass to the seats allotted to them. A summary of the service is given in Chapter Five.


The Coronation Service can be divided into three main stages, as follows:—


The Recognition and the Oath. The new King is formally accepted by the people, and this acceptance is sealed by his pledge to govern them well and truly according to the Constitution. This stage of the Service is an important and necessary preliminary. It also includes the Litany and the beginning of the Communion Service.


The Anointing, the Investiture and the Crowning. These ceremonies constitute the most important and significant part of the Service—that in which the King is consecrated as the Lord’s Anointed, and receives the Insignia of his royal office.


The Enthronement and the Homage. This stage follows as the natural sequel to what has gone before. The King, having been acclaimed, anointed, and crowned, is “lifted up into” his throne and receives the homage of his subjects.

This concludes “the solemnity of the King’s Coronation.” As there is a Queen Consort, her Coronation follows immediately, and the Communion Service then proceeds. After the final blessing the Te Deum is sung.



It may occur to some people to ask, why is all this elaborate ceremonial of the Coronation necessary, when George VI is already our accepted King, who will have been exercising all the functions of Kingship for several months before he is crowned? Before answering this question we shall have to look back across the centuries and discover why it is that George VI is King at all—which is another question to which very many people do not know the whole answer.

In Saxon times the King’s accession did not, as now, follow automatically on the death or abdication of his predecessor. Each new King had to be elected by the Witan, or Witenagemot, a body which was supposed to represent the wisdom and general opinion of the whole people, but which really consisted of nobles,[2] bishops, and officials. But though theoretically the Witan had a free choice, in reality they were bound by convention to choose some member of the royal family—though not necessarily the last King’s eldest son. When, however, first Canute and later William I conquered the land, they forced the Witan to elect them, and so established a good legal title to the Throne.

I.e. ealdormen and thegns.

After the Norman Conquest the Witan was replaced by the Commune Concilium or Great Council, which took over the business of electing Kings. As the years went on, the idea of hereditary right grew stronger, but during all this time neither election nor hereditary right nor both together were considered sufficient of themselves to make a King. Right up to the time of Henry VII, it was usual to reckon the years of a King’s reign from the day of his Coronation.[3] The Coronation Oath was regarded as the compact made between the King and his people, sealing his election to the Throne, and the whole Coronation Ceremony confirmed the election with the support of the Church, and gave it a divine sanction. The Homage of the nobles which closely followed the Coronation gave practical support to the King’s hereditary, legal and religious claims.

There were exceptions to this, e.g. in the case of Edward I, who was away in Palestine when his father died, and could not be crowned for nearly two years.

It followed from this that each would-be King was anxious to get himself crowned as soon as possible after the death of his predecessor. Witness the indecent haste of Henry I, son of the Conqueror and a younger brother of William Rufus, who was hunting with Rufus in the New Forest when the latter was accidentally killed. In his anxiety lest their eldest brother Robert should claim the Crown, Henry abandoned his brother’s corpse and rushed to London; and having seized some treasure as he passed through Winchester, he bribed the Bishop of London (the Archbishop of Canterbury being in exile) to crown him King at Westminster Abbey. This was effected on the third day after Rufus’ tragic end—quick work for the year 1100.

When from the days of Simon de Montfort Parliament began to be a power in the land, the claims of various Kings were strengthened by Acts of Parliament which settled the Crown on them and their heirs. Henry VIII even obtained from Parliament the power to dispose of the Crown by will. For several centuries two opposing views were held with regard to the right to the Throne. According to one view, the King owed his title to Act of Parliament—the old “election” idea in a new form, with the important difference that whereas election was the act of the people alone, the Acts of Parliament that later controlled the succession were acts of the King and People. According to the other view, the King’s claim was hereditary; and this view came to be supported in the seventeenth century by the theory of the Divine Right of Kings.

After all the turmoils of the seventeenth century, considerations of common sense and practical convenience won the day, and in 1701 was passed the Act of Settlement which has controlled the succession ever since. By the provisions of this Act, the Crown passed after the death of Queen Anne to the heirs of Sophia, widow of the Elector of Hanover, and daughter of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, the daughter of James I. At the same time the succession of Sophia’s descendants was made subject to certain conditions. No King or Queen of England was ever to be a Roman Catholic, or to marry a Roman Catholic, or to subscribe to any specifically Roman Catholic beliefs; further, the Sovereign must “join in communion with the Church of England.” In addition, the King or Queen must take the Coronation Oath at his or her Coronation, thus undertaking to govern the country according to law, and to maintain the Protestant Religion.

It is under the provisions of this statute that George VI is entitled to the Crown of England, for he is the “lineal heir” of the Princess Sophia mentioned in the Act. In other words, he is the eldest son of King George V eligible for the Throne, since his elder brother Edward renounced his rights when he abdicated [Act of Abdication, 1936]. George V was the eldest surviving son of King Edward VII (his elder brother, the Duke of Clarence, having died unmarried); and King Edward VII was the eldest son of Queen Victoria, who was the only child of the Duke of Kent, who was the fourth son of King George III (his three elder brothers having died and left no direct heirs). George III was the eldest son of George II, who was the eldest son of George I, who was the eldest son of Princess Sophia.

If King George VI were to die, the Crown would pass to Princess Elizabeth and failing her children to:—

Princess Margaret Rose;

Duke of Gloucester;

Duke of Kent;

Prince Edward;

The Duchess of Kent’s daughter, born on December 25th, 1936;

Princess Royal;

Lord Lascelles;

Hon. Gerald Lascelles;

Princess Arthur of Connaught;

Earl of Macduff.

The succession having thus been settled by Act of Parliament, the new King accedes to the Throne immediately on his predecessor’s death; and within a few hours of his Accession the members of the Privy Council, the Lord Mayor, Aldermen and other high Officers of the City of London, and various other noblemen and gentlemen, meet together to approve and sign a form of Proclamation which proclaims him King. This done, the members of the Council take the Oath of Allegiance to the new King, who then himself enters the Council Chamber and addresses those present. Next he makes the Accession Declaration, which was altered by an Act of Parliament passed in 1910, and is as follows:—

“I . . . do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my powers according to law.”


The boy sitting on the cushion is King George VI. Queen Victoria, his great-grandmother, is holding Prince Henry, now the Duke of Gloucester. Seated in the chair is the Princess Royal, and standing next to her is the Duke of Windsor.

After making this declaration, the King takes the Oath relating to the security of the Church of Scotland.

These proceedings concluded, the Proclamation is read at four different points in London, and afterwards in the various cities and countries of the Empire.[4]

These proceedings were broadcast in 1936 for the first time in history.

Nowadays the Coronation never follows immediately on the King’s Accession—as it did even as late as the time of Queen Anne, who was crowned ten days after her predecessor’s funeral. In the case of the first two Georges the interval was extended to a few months, and from the time of George III onwards it has been usual for at least a year to elapse between the death of one Sovereign and the Coronation of the next. This is due in part to the observance of a period of mourning after the late King’s death, and in part to the time taken by the elaborate preparations now made before each Coronation. Not least among these preparations is the weaving of the hundreds of yards of crimson and purple velvet, cloth of gold, and delicate silks and satins which are required for the royal robes and for the robes of the Peers and Peeresses who attend the Coronation. It has been estimated that the cost of the robes which will be worn by the Peers and Peeresses alone on May 12th next will be about £160,000. The King’s velvet robes are made of a material at least three times as thick as the velvet usually worn, and the exact method of manufacture of this beautiful fabric is a closely guarded secret handed down through generations of weavers.

The reason why it is possible for the interval between the new King’s Accession and Coronation to be so prolonged is of course that, since the Act of Settlement came into operation, the “election” of each new Sovereign has become entirely theoretical, and the Coronation itself is now, from a legal point of view, a mere formality. So we come back to the question put at the beginning of this chapter—why is the Coronation Ceremony necessary at all?

To understand the answer to this question it is necessary to remember that from earliest times the Office of Kingship has been regarded as possessing a two-fold nature—civil and religious. In medieval times, the King was regarded as half-layman, half-priest; and the similarity between parts of the Coronation Service and the rite of the Consecration of Bishops is very noticeable. Without going as far as this, it is still held that the Office of Kingship is of such an unique and high nature that it requires divine sanction and the special Consecration of the Sovereign. Thus although since 1701 the King’s reign begins, from a legal point of view, at the moment of his predecessor’s death, and much of the Coronation Ceremony may now be called a mere formality, an historical tradition and a national pageant, yet the central fact of the Consecration of the King retains its spiritual value and significance, involving as it does the special dedication of the new Sovereign to the service of God and of his people.



We must now say something of the particular King and Queen whose coronations we commemorate in this book. To write about Kings and Queens is no easy matter, for they have double personalities. Common sense and perhaps our own observations tell us that Royalty only differ from the rest of us to the same extent and in the same manner as every individual in the world differs from his neighbours. One King in a bathing-suit amongst a crowd of bathers is not remarkable unless he happens to be wearing bathing kit embroidered with the coat of arms of Great Britain. One has only to imagine the look of astonishment which would appear on the face of King George VI if anyone made so extraordinary a suggestion to him that he should wear a royal bathing-suit, in order to see the difference between Kings as they really are and Kings as we sometimes like to imagine them to be. I shall have something more to say about this point in Chapter Four.


Here we see the present King, in naval cadet uniform, in the funeral procession of his grandfather, King Edward VII.

If you read almost any book or article about King George VI (or any other King or Queen, for that matter) you will find it full of the most ridiculous stories of a trivial kind, all of which are told to show us that, although he is the King, the hero in this fairy tale of real life is also a human being. You will read, for instance, that our King or Queen were on occasions up to some kind of mischief or other during their childhood days. They would have been very extraordinary children if they always had been as “good as gold,” so extraordinary that they would have been unbelievable both as children and as grown-up people. If there is one thing more than another which we need in our Kings and Queens to-day it is that they shall be people in whom we can believe. King George VI and his Queen are such people. They will stand at Westminster Abbey in front of the Empire and the whole world as examples of a happy British family, and that word family is the secret of a happy and contented nation and Empire. The closer we can bring the nation towards being a contented family, and the more we can make the Empire a family of nations, the better it will be, not only for us, but for the whole world.

*     *     *

Albert Frederick Arthur George is the second son of the late King George V and Queen Mary. He was born at York Cottage, Sandringham on December 14th, 1895, when his parents were still Duke and Duchess of York. He thus celebrated his forty-first birthday three days after his accession to the Throne. He was only six when his famous great-grandmother Queen Victoria died, so it is not likely that he can remember much of the great Queen, but it is interesting to note that it was a new event in English history that whilst Queen Victoria was on the Throne, four future Kings of England were alive. When King George V was a boy and seemed unlikely to succeed to the throne because his elder brother was alive, it was decided that George should make his career in the Royal Navy. A similar plan was adopted in the case of our present King, who spent four years as a naval cadet at the naval colleges of Osborne and Dartmouth. At the beginning of 1913—he was then seventeen years old—he went for the usual six months’ cruise in the training cruiser Cumberland. She visited the West Indies and Canada, and naval cadet Prince Albert was the first of King George V’s sons to set foot in Canada.


When the Great War broke out in 1914 the King was serving as a midshipman on H.M.S. Collingwood. It was on this ship that he saw active service throughout one of the most famous naval battles in history—the Battle of Jutland.

In the Cumberland he learnt both to sling a hammock, and—a far harder process—“to lash up and stow it.” As in the case of countless naval cadets and midshipmen before and after him, he struggled at half past-six in the morning to make a neat job of lashing up a mattress, two blankets, two sheets and a pillow in a hammock which, to the inexperienced hand, seems half the necessary size. He also learnt to take sights with a sextant, to sail a boat, to keep watch on the bridge and in the engine-room and generally to prepare himself for the great day when the thin white stripe on the collar of his monkey jacket which showed that he was a naval cadet (sometimes called the meanest of all the creatures) would be replaced by the white patch showing that he had been promoted to the rank of midshipman. This event occurred in August 1913, and the Prince was appointed to H.M.S. Collingwood, a battleship in the Home Fleet. He was serving in this vessel when war broke out in 1914, and in her he proceeded to the fleet war base at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. Here he took part in the ordinary work of a midshipman—that is to say, he made cocoa and ran errands for his officer of the watch at sea, he had charge of a picquet boat, he worked with his division of men in the hold of a collier when the Collingwood coaled ship. He was usually known in the ship and addressed as “Dr. Johnson” by his messmates, since he was always reading books of a serious character. In the autumn of 1914 he fell ill and was transferred to Aberdeen where an operation for appendicitis was performed. Actually, his trouble was of a more serious nature. He rejoined the Collingwood in February 1915, but in November he was again obliged to go ashore for another operation from which he made a slow but successful recovery. He rejoined the Collingwood in May as a sub-lieutenant, and a few days later his ship was present at the Battle of Jutland. His station was second turret officer in one of the ship’s heavy-gun turrets. The Collingwood, like most of the battle-fleet, was not heavily engaged, but she was subjected to torpedo attack by the German flotillas. The Prince was mentioned in Sir John Jellicoe’s despatch. Once again the Prince was attacked by his old trouble of a gastric complaint and he was obliged to go ashore. He spent the winter and the spring on the staff of the naval Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth. Here he celebrated his twenty-first birthday, and King George V bestowed upon him the Knighthood of the Garter. All this while the Prince was longing to get back to the Grand Fleet, and at last, in May 1917, a medical board pronounced him fit for sea service. He went north and once more “Johnson” was a member of the Collingwood’s ship’s company. But he was not to enjoy a naval career. His health simply would not stand the strain and conditions of life in the Grand Fleet, and at the end of 1917 he had to recognize this hard fact. It is proof of his refusal to lie back and give in that he at once made up his mind to join the Royal Naval Air Force at Cranwell. When the Royal Air Force was formed on April 1st, 1918, it numbered the Prince amongst its officers. His rank was that of Captain. On October 23rd, 1918, he went over to France and took up an appointment with the Headquarters of the Independent Air Force. When King Albert of the Belgians and his Queen made their re-entry into Brussels after the German evacuation, they were accompanied by Prince Albert. During 1919 he was lent to No. 29 Training Squadron at Croydon for instruction in flying. He obtained his pilot’s “A” certificate on August 1st, 1919. It may be as well to mention here that the kind of machine in which a man had to fly in 1919 in order to obtain a certificate would be viewed with horrified alarm by present-day airmen. The Prince has been described as a sound and competent but not brilliant pilot. In October 1919 he ceased his active connection with the fighting services and went to Cambridge University, where he and his brother Henry were in residence as undergraduates at Trinity College. He took a special course in economics, history and civics. Those who were with him during this period describe him as very quiet, hard-working and extremely modest. His shyness was increased by the fact that he suffered from a stammer. This affliction, which is a handicap in life to any person, is a desperate disadvantage to a man who is obliged—as the Prince was bound to be—to make numberless speeches.


In March 1916, the King, then Prince Albert, representing his father King George V, met the Crown Prince of Serbia on his arrival in London.


As soon as the War was over Prince Albert’s many public duties began, and here again we see him representing the King on the arrival of H.I.M. The Shah of Persia, at Dover.

It is without any possible doubt the best proof of all of the determination of the man who is now King that by a long and arduous series of speech exercises, spread over many years, King George VI has conquered this disability. There was a time when those who were obliged to listen to his speeches suffered as much as he did from the slow and difficult nature of his delivery. It was most painful to see him bravely struggling against this handicap. Now, the involuntary pauses in his speech are almost indistinguishable. He has conquered his old enemy.


This is the impressive scene in Westminster Abbey during the marriage ceremony of our King, previously created Duke of York, to his Scottish bride, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, now Queen Elizabeth.

At the end of a twelve months course at Cambridge he was created Duke of York. Incidentally, he is the sixth Duke of York to succeed to the English Throne.

It was now that he first began to take an active part in public life and to develop his own special line of interest. Whilst his brother, the popular and dazzling Prince of Wales, became famous as an Ambassador of Empire, “The Duke” began to serve the nation in the sphere of industry on the home front. A society was formed called The Industrial Welfare Society, designed to bring together employers and employees and to improve in all possible ways the welfare and happiness of those engaged in industry. Although the newly created Duke of York accepted the Presidency of the Society, it was viewed at first with some suspicion by both the owners and the workers. Time has changed these views, and the success which has attended the efforts of this Society has been largely due to the continued interest taken in its work by the Duke of York. At the 1936 Annual Meeting of the Society, held only one day before the Duke had to ascend the Throne so suddenly, the speech he had intended to deliver contained these words:

“I had read this year’s annual report with more than usual interest, for it shows that, while industry is giving greater attention to the human needs of workpeople, we are extending our work to meet this advance. I do not think anybody could read of the numerous matters we have handled without admitting that we are playing a very important part in industry by placing at the disposal of firms information and advice on the daily affairs of the modern factory. That information covers the whole range of working life from the first interview before engagement to the payment of the weekly pension when working days are past.


The marriage of the Duke and Duchess was received with delight by the whole Empire. Here we see them acknowledging the cheers of the huge crowds which gathered in London to see the wedding of their popular prince.


His Majesty, as Duke of York, at the opening of Wolf Cub Day at the Scout Jamboree at Wembley in 1924.


In the intervals between official duties the King and Queen enjoyed themselves in the Amusement Park of the Exhibition.


His Majesty, as Duke of York, playing in the All-England Lawn Tennis Championship at Wimbledon.


The keen interest of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in their Welsh subjects was shown by their visit to the Welsh National Eisteddfod at Swansea in 1926.

“These are but illustrations of the way in which we fulfil our main task of spreading knowledge of all those modern aids which tend to make the workshops better and happier places, or to improve the lot of the workers, whether in health or in sickness. After all, in life’s fabric there are many threads, but unless the employer knows something of them and their effect upon the whole he cannot produce a harmonious working force. A doctor was telling me the other day that when a sick man came to him his first question was: ‘What are you sick about?’ and in this he was wise when we remember that something like 40 per cent. of sickness is due to the mental state of the patient. Therefore it is essential that a friendly atmosphere and sound relationship should surround the worker during the day.


All members of the Royal Family have remembered with gratitude those who fell in the service of their country during the Great War, and here we see the King, then Duke of York, laying a wreath on the Cenotaph on Armistice Day.

“As I look back over the years that have elapsed since we first began our work, I am in no doubt that the Society has done much to remove from industry many of those hardships, anxieties, and insecurities which once threatened to disturb industrial peace and prosperity. We know equally well that a great deal still remains to be done, but the fact that our membership is growing gradually and that we are bringing to our aid new friends who represent the trade unions as well as the employers, enables us to look forward with hope to the future.”

Sir Charles Craven, proposing the adoption of the report, said that those who had watched his Royal Highness in the workshops must be convinced that they had in him a president in fact as well as in name.


Their Majesties are acquainted by personal visits with the Dominions of which they are now King and Queen, and in 1927 they made a lengthy tour of the Empire.


The people of New Zealand gave a hearty welcome to their royal visitors. Here we see the King and Queen talking to some of their Maori subjects.


One of the most important duties of the King and Queen during their Empire tour was to represent King George V and Queen Mary at the historic ceremony of the opening of the new Federal Parliament at Canberra, Australia, on May 9th, 1927. Here we see the Clerk of the Senate reading the King’s Commission in the Senate Chambers.

It was in connection with this industrial welfare work that the Duke had what can truthfully be described as an extraordinarily happy brain-wave. The Society arranged for a team of young workers from factories to play football against the boys of Westminster School. Whilst watching this match, the idea occurred to the Duke that it would be an excellent notion if an annual camp by the seaside could be arranged at which public school boys and young factory workers should be well mixed together in a week of games and general fun. This was put in hand, and during the past fifteen years about 6000 boys from all parts of the country have camped together at the Duke of York’s Camps. Practically every year the Duke has spent forty-eight hours in the camp, and lived the life of its members. Whether or not as King of England it will be possible for him to continue this annual custom, remains to be seen. If his duties make it possible, it would be like him to maintain the visits, for though there is nothing sensational about our new King’s character, he is a man who does not willingly abandon any task to which he has placed his hand. He takes his duties very seriously, and between 1921 and 1926 he visited no less than fifty-five industrial concerns. Few men know more than he does about the conditions which make the difference between a “happy” and a not so happy industrial undertaking.


Scotland was always dear to King George and Queen Mary, and this close relationship is now cemented by the fact that Queen Elizabeth is herself a Scotswoman. Here King George and Queen Mary are seen, with the present King and Queen, then Duke and Duchess of York, at the annual Braemar Games.


In May 1929 the King and Queen took part in the celebration of the six hundredth anniversary of the granting of the Charter to Edinburgh by King Robert the Bruce.


There is no sphere of British public life in which our present King, as Duke of York, has not an intimate knowledge. He is acquainted intimately with our industrial life, as shown by the bottom picture, taken at a cement works, and also he has taken a keen interest in the pastimes of the nation, as shown by his attendance at the International Soccer Match between England and Scotland at Wembley in 1931.


The youth of the nation has always made a special appeal to our present King. As Duke of York he visited many public-school camps, and thus he thought of the idea of forming a camp composed of boys from all classes of society so that they might get to know each other better. In the top picture we see him with his cinema apparatus at the camp which he founded. Below we see him in the centre of a happy group at the camp.

In 1923 King George V and Queen Mary announced that it gave them great pleasure to approve of the engagement of the Duke of York to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghome. The news was received with delight by the Empire, who realized that in marrying a lady outside the circle of Royal Families, he was following the choice of his heart. The Duke had fallen in love with her eighteen months previously, whilst visiting her Scottish home, Glamis Castle. I shall return at a later point in this chapter to the subject of our Queen’s life, and need only say here that it has been a very happy marriage, and that there are two children. Their names are Princess Elizabeth (born April 21st, 1926) and Princess Margaret Rose (born August 21st, 1930). As explained in Chapter Two, the Princess Elizabeth will in the normal course of events succeed to the Throne of England. It is thought by some lawyers that as the law stands to-day, the two little Princesses are joint heirs to the Throne, but this is a matter which, if necessary, can easily be cleared up by Parliament.

Soon after his marriage the Duke and Duchess of York set off on an African tour. They visited Kenya Colony, Uganda and the Sudan. They spent Christmas Day during this tour at an African church, where they were greeted by 2000 natives. On December 27th they had some experience of tropical rain, when a cloud-burst flooded out their shooting camp.

Work in connection with the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley of which the Duke was the President, and various visits to industrial centres kept the Duke and Duchess busy from 1924 to 1926. Then came a long Empire tour. The Australian Government sent a message to King George V saying that the new Commonwealth capital at Canberra was nearly completed, that the first all-Australian Parliament to sit at Canberra would meet on May 9th, 1927, and could one of the King’s sons come to Australia and open Parliament in his father’s name? The Duke of York was given this honourable duty and the Duchess accompanied her husband. At that time the little Princess Elizabeth was only eight months old, and in having to leave her first baby at home, the Duchess made one of those sacrifices of private feelings which are amongst the penalties of occupying a high public position. Queen Mary took charge of the little girl. It was also decided that the Royal Party should visit the Dominion of New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess sailed from Portsmouth in the battle cruiser Renown in January 1927. They travelled via the West Indies, where the Duke reminded the Jamaicans that he had visited their island as a naval cadet, thence by the Panama Canal, across the Pacific to Auckland in New Zealand. The ship therefore crossed the Equator, and no less than 1000 members of the crew were obliged to confess to King Neptune and his bears[5] that they had never crossed the line. Amongst the novices were the Duke and the Captain of the Renown. King Neptune, in accordance with ancient custom, came over the bows of the ship as she crossed the Equator and bestowed upon the Duke “The order of the old sea-dog.” The Duke replied in verse, but even this unusual method of answering addresses of welcome did not cause him to escape the ceremony of installation. He was suitably lathered with shaving-soap, shaved and heartily ducked. The only concession to his rank was the fact that he was dealt with first before King Neptune and his assistants became too exhausted to do justice to the occasion. The Duchess was presented with the “Order of The Golden Mermaid!” On his arrival in Auckland he made a speech in which occurred the words “The Duchess and I want to see as much as possible of the children” and in a speech at Wellington he said: “Take care of the children, and the country will take care of itself.” No doubt because he is so fond of his own family life and children, our new King has on many occasions laid stress on the importance to a nation of its young people. The fact that the Duchess had left Princess Elizabeth at home was not forgotten by the hosts of the Duke and Duchess, and when the Renown sailed for home she carried a substantial cargo of toys for the nursery at home. After New Zealand, the Duke and Duchess visited Australia. At Melbourne 40,000 war veterans marched past the Duke on Anzac Day, and subsequently he proceeded to Canberra, where he opened the new Parliament buildings with a gold key, and then delivered the King’s message to the Senate. At Adelaide he was greeted by 12,000 children, who formed themselves into an enormous map of Australia. Two months were spent in visiting the various states of the Commonwealth, and then the travellers set sail for home via Mauritius, the Suez Canal and Malta. They were welcomed by tremendous crowds on their return to London. The excitement and pleasure outside Buckingham Palace were intense when the Duchess of York appeared on the balcony with her baby in her arms. The Duke and Duchess of York had been away from London for six months. Except for these two long tours, King George VI has not spent much time out of England. He has, however, paid a number of short visits to the Continent either on official missions or for holidays. He has also been to Norway, Bulgaria, Germany, Yugo-Slavia, and Belgium.

The bears are “King Neptune’s” assistants in the ceremony of crossing the line.


The King and Queen have both been determined to investigate industrial conditions at first hand. Here we see them preparing to descend a coal mine in the County of Durham.

Amongst public duties at home which have been memorable must be mentioned the fact that in 1929 he held the office of High Commissioner of the General Assembly. This was specially interesting, because it was in that year that the Church of Scotland made up the quarrel which had split that Church into two since 1843.






Here we see the King and Queen, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, and the Duke and Duchess of Kent leaving St. Paul’s Cathedral after the King George V Jubilee Celebration Service.


A happy picture of Queen Elizabeth among some of the children for whom, in 1936, she opened a playground in the heart of the great city of London.

Mention has already been made of the fact that no trouble is too great for King George VI when it is a question of a matter of duty. This was well shown in the summer of 1936, when the Duke of York—as he then was—travelled all the way down from Scotland to Aldershot to say good-bye as their Colonel to a battalion of the Scots Guards when they were ordered to Egypt.

King George VI is the only one of King George V’s sons who has inherited to any extent his father’s skill as a shot. He is a moderate golfer and fond of dancing and swimming. The game at which he is best is tennis, and here his skill is well above the average. He once figured in the men’s doubles at Wimbledon, but he and his partner Louis Greig had the misfortune to encounter two ex-champions in the first round.

It has already been told how in 1923 the then Duke of York made a very happy marriage. One of the wedding presents he received was a cheque for £2,500 and he gave the money to London, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff and York to be spent on parties for poor children.

The Duke’s bride, now our Queen, was born on August 4th, 1900. Her family is of ancient Scottish descent, one of her remote ancestors being Sir John Lyon of Glamis, who held the office of Chamberlain of Scotland in 1377. Though too young to do much war-work, she helped her mother and sisters when she could, and she saw all her brothers leave for active service. One of them was killed. She later trained a troop of Girl Guides at her home in Scotland, and in due course became a District Commissioner in the Girl Guides. She is keenly interested in this and other organizations for girls and women.

On her marriage she was given the rank of a Princess with the status of Royal Highness. Just as her husband had become known for his interest in work for the benefit of men and boys, the Duchess at once became active in visiting and helping hospitals, clubs, maternity centres, and other institutions serving women and girls. Wherever she went, whatever she did, the Duchess earned and received the affection and respect of all those who came into contact with her. Devoted to her children, she is the last person in the world to allow them to imagine that because they are born to fill public positions they can get fancy ideas into their heads. No child of Queen Elizabeth’s will ever be spoilt, nor will that child ever lack all the devotion and care which can be given to it through a mother’s love. A very close friend of the Queen’s family who has known our new Queen since she was a little girl and watched her grow up, said to me on the morning of Friday, December 11th, 1936, “In our new Queen we have one of the most sensible, finest and nicest of women I have ever met, and though she has always had a dignity befitting a Queen, her sense of humour is delicious.”

*     *     *

There we must leave The King and Queen who will be crowned on May 12th, 1937. In the short space of time during which they have been on the Throne a feeling has grown up amongst the nations of the British Commonwealth that in George VI and his Queen we have monarchs who, without doing anything startling or dramatic, will surely and steadily build up for themselves a position of love and respect in the hearts of their subjects which will one day equal that which was enjoyed by King George V and Queen Mary. An affectionate and united family now holds the priceless heritage of the Crown of the British peoples in trust, and the sadness of the opening weeks of December 1936 is forgotten in the high hopes for the future. The hearts of the new King and Queen are those of a man and woman to whom the word Home has a very real meaning. Circumstances and strange unimagined chances have decreed that henceforth their lives must be lived in the glare of a publicity which neither would voluntarily seek. From the tens of millions of homes of our Empire, good wishes will go forth on May 12th, assuring our King and Queen of the loyal support and goodwill of their peoples. The knowledge of this support will go far to help the King and Queen in the life-long task which it is now their destiny to fulfil.



The purpose of this chapter is that of providing the reader with a brief description of the present-day position of the Throne, using that word in the sense of an institution, and of the Monarch in the political and social life of the British Empire. It should be clearly understood that, like all the important institutions and practices of British life, the subject of this chapter is one which cannot be defined in exact terms, for it varies and changes with the needs of the times. For example, the personal popularity of King George VI is great, and so was that of his brother, father, grandfather and great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, during the closing years of her long reign. But though this popularity of the Royal Family during the past fifty years has been largely due to the characters of the Monarchs who have worn the Crown, this is not all the explanation.

It may surprise some readers to learn that within living memory there was a Republican Party in Great Britain, and that statesmen such as Charles Dilke were associated with the movement. Queen Victoria, who practically retired into private life for many years after the death of her efficient but insufficiently appreciated husband, the Prince Consort, was at various times during the nineteenth century the subject of the most bitter and indeed savage attacks in the columns of the leading newspapers. All that is past history, and after the death of Queen Victoria a process began and is still going on of modernizing and bringing up-to-date the relationship between the King and the People. Also, the relation between the institution of the Throne and our political life has changed and been modernized during the last fifty years.

The present-day functions of the King are in theory almost as far-reaching as they have ever been in our history, but in practice they are now exercised by His Majesty on the advice of his Ministers. For example, the Sovereign is the “fount of honour,” but—except for what may be described as awards of honour made for personal services to the King—honours are awarded on the advice of the Prime Minister, who in his turn receives recommendations from a variety of sources.

It would, however, be a profound mistake to imagine that a King of England in the year 1937 is a figure-head. On the contrary, he and the institution of the Throne are indispensable parts of our constitution. In certain circumstances—and those circumstances arose twice during the reign of George V—the King has to decide whom to invite to be Prime Minister when there are several possible candidates for the task of forming a government. It is arguable that the King still has the right, and therefore the duty, of refusing a Prime Minister a dissolution of Parliament if in the King’s judgment a general election is not desirable in the national interest.

But more important than these considerable relics of the days when the King’s Government was in fact the King’s personal government, is the Sovereign’s position as an adviser to his Ministers. It is the King’s constitutional right to be kept fully informed of all the actions of his Ministers, and this is indeed inevitable, since the Ministers act in the King’s name. Ministers, and even Civil Servants who offer Ministers advice, come and go, but the King and his private office remain in existence for the duration of the reign. As a result of this fact a King of England gradually acquires a store of knowledge and experience concerning the inner story of the government of Great Britain and the Empire which is unique. It is a common and true saying that the Ministers advise the Crown; it is perhaps not so often said that the Crown is in a remarkably good position to advise the Ministers. Many years must elapse before the archives are opened and we learn to what extent Ministers chose to avail themselves of the King’s advice, but that King George V served his country in this manner on several occasions is certain.

In addition to his functions as a Constitutional Monarch, as a person who opens Parliament, presides at Privy Councils, is the head of the fighting services and of the Church established, to mention but a few of his rôles, the King also plays an important part as the leader of society and the centre of Court life. He has great responsibilities as the person who sets the tone of social life, and in so doing exercises an influence which permeates the whole of the nation. If the King extends his patronage to a society or to an organization, it is taken for granted by everyone that the most careful enquiries have previously been made in order to establish the worth-whileness of the society. It is in this capacity that the King is obliged to spend a great deal of time in such duties as unveiling memorials, opening new buildings and exhibitions, and generally gracing with his presence a vast number of not very thrilling public occasions.

So far we have been considering the position of the King in relation to Great Britain, but the Monarch and the institution of the Throne are also matters of great concern to British citizens overseas. We must here make note of a difference between the attitude towards the Monarchy of the inhabitants of the overseas Dominions and Colonies who are of European stock, and the attitude of the vast majority of those overseas British citizens who are of Asiatic or African race.

The Dominion or Colonial inhabitant of European descent looks on the King as a person in much the same way as he is regarded by the inhabitants of Great Britain. That is to say, as a kind of hereditary Civil Servant who spends a busy life engaged in affairs of state and ceremonial. The Dominions (with the exception of the Irish Free State) look on King George VI as every bit as much King of Canada, South Africa,[6] Australia and New Zealand as he is King of Great Britain. It is of particular interest to note that in the new Constitution of the Irish Free State, the King is recognized as the link between that Dominion and the British Commonwealth.

In the Union of South Africa His Majesty was described as “. . . Supreme Lord in and over the Union of South Africa.”

And, if we leave for a moment the case of the King as a person, and consider the Monarchy or Crown as an institution, we find that, so far as the Dominions are concerned, the fact that they share the Crown with Great Britain is perhaps the last strictly constitutional link between the Dominions and the Empire.

This sharing in common and on equal terms of the same Monarchy, the fact that the same person stands both in theory and practice at the head of the constitutions of all Dominions, means that the Crown and loyalty to its traditions are powerful bonds of Empire.

So much for the overseas British citizens of European descent. There are hundreds of millions of citizens of the British Commonwealth of Nations who live in India, the Straits Settlements and the African areas of the Colonial Empire. To the vast majority of these the King is a personal monarch. For centuries in Asia, Kings or Emperors, and in Africa the tribal Chief have ruled as autocrats, and this tradition of a ruler whose power is personal is still very strong. To millions of Indian peasants the will of the King-Emperor, and in his absence his Viceroy, is more real than any Western notions of a King who acts on the advice of Ministers responsible to an elected Parliament. Millions of non-European subjects of the British Crown would be completely bewildered if for some reason or other Great Britain adopted a Republican form of Government, and they would feel that so far as they were concerned the Empire had disappeared. The idea of a King or an Emperor as the head of the State is deep-rooted in human nature, for reasons which are exceedingly interesting, but form no part of this book. It must be sufficient to say that this “King-business”—as it was once described by an American—is linked up with the idea of a high priest for the nation. It is noticeable that even in Republican countries, such as the U.S.A., many millions of people are still much interested in royalty, and it is probably true to say that many an American follows the activities of a King of England with the thought in his heart that “but for the events of 1776 he would have been my King.”


“Your Royal Highnesses, My Lords and Gentlemen—

“I meet you to-day in circumstances which are without parallel in the history of our country. Now that the duties of Sovereignty have fallen to Me I declare to you My adherence to the strict principles of constitutional government and My resolve to work before all else for the welfare of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

“With My Wife as helpmeet by My side, I take up the heavy task which lies before Me. In it I look for the support of all My Peoples.”

From the King’s Declaration to the Accession Council at St. James’s Palace, December 12th, 1936



The Recognition, with which the Service begins, is as follows. The Archbishop of Canterbury, preceded by the Garter King of Arms and accompanied by the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord High Constable, and the Earl Marshal,

“shall turn to the East part of the Theatre, and after . . . shall go to the other three sides of the Theatre in this order, South, West, and North, and at every of the four sides shall with a loud voice speak to the People: and the King in the meanwhile, standing up by his chair, shall turn and shew himself unto the People at every of the four sides of the Theatre as the Archbishop is at every of them, the Archbishop saying:

Sirs, I here present unto you King George, the undoubted King of this Realm: Wherefore all you who are come this day to do your homage and service, Are you willing to do the same?

“The People signify their willingness and joy, by loud and repeated acclamations, all with one voice crying out,

God save King George.

“Then the trumpets shall sound.”

Then follows the Litany, the first part of the Communion Service and the Sermon [to be short and suitable to the great occasion].

After the Sermon, the Archbishop goes to where the King is sitting in his chair south of the Altar, and proceeds to

“administer the Coronation Oath, first asking the King,

Sir, is your Majesty willing to take the Oath?

“And the King answering,

I am willing.

The Archbishop then asks the King three questions, demanding of him first, if he will “solemnly promise and swear” to govern his people according to the Laws and Customs of the Constitution; secondly, if he will do his best to “cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed” in all his judgments; thirdly, if he will to the utmost of his power “maintain the Laws of God, the true profession of the Gospel, and the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law,” and also “maintain and preserve” the Church of England, and the rights and privileges of the Bishops and Clergy and the Churches committed to their charge.

Crown Copyright of Photographs Reserved]    [Colour Reproductions, Copyright Evans Bros.


On the left of this picture is the King’s Orb. This is a gleaming golden ball, 6 inches in diameter. Its polished gold surface is studded with large pearls, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. It is placed in the King’s right hand immediately after he has put on the Royal Robe. The Orb is symbolical of Christianity dominating the world. There is also a smaller Queen’s Orb which will be used when the Queen is crowned.

On the right of the picture is the Royal Sceptre with the Cross. This is of gold and the large diamond in the centre is the largest portion of the Cullinan diamond. This huge, drop-shaped stone was inserted into the Sceptre in the time of King Edward VII. The Sceptre is the emblem of kingly power and Justice.

The Royal Regalia also contains another Sceptre—the King’s Sceptre with the Dove. This, too, is of gold, and bears a white enamelled dove, with eyes, beak and feet of gold. The dove is the emblem of mercy. The Sceptre is also known as the Rod of Equity and Mercy.

Crown Copyright of Photographs Reserved]    [Colour Reproductions, Copyright Evans Bros.


The golden Ampulla contains the consecrated oil for the anointing of the King at his Coronation. It is in the shape of an eagle standing with outstretched wings, mounted on a pedestal. The bird’s head screws off at the neck for filling, and the oil is poured out of the beak.

The Spoon into which the oil from the Ampulla is poured for the anointing of the King, is said to have been used at Coronations ever since the twelfth century. The Bowl of the Spoon is divided by a central ridge into two parts, into which the Archbishop dips his two fingers before anointing the King.

The Royal Regalia also includes several other crowns, a number of swords, the King’s Coronation Ring and St. George’s Spurs. The Spurs are the emblems of Knighthood and Chivalry.

The State Trumpets which are used during the Coronation ceremony, and on occasions of State, such as Public Reading of Proclamations, are made of solid silver. From each hangs a small banner bearing the Royal Arms. Heralds, wearing picturesque traditional costume, carry the trumpets.

To each of these questions the King gives his solemn assent, and then “arising out of his chair” he goes to the Altar, attended by two Bishops and the Lord Great Chamberlain, “the Sword of State being carried before him.” There he makes his Oath “in the sight of all the people . . . laying his right hand upon the Holy Gospel in the Great Bible:

The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep.

So help me God.

“Then the King shall kiss the Book and sign the Oath.”


This picture shows the beautiful thrones in Westminster Abbey which will be used by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at their Coronation. The stalls in the background (left) will be occupied by foreign royalty and ambassadors, while in the chairs on the extreme right will sit the British peeresses.

When the King has taken the Oath he returns to his chair and the second and central stage of the service begins. First the hymn VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS (Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire) is sung as a prelude to the Anointing.

When the hymn is ended, the Archbishop says a prayer.

Meanwhile the King’s robe is taken off him by the Lord Great Chamberlain, and after standing before the Altar the King sits down in King Edward’s Chair, where “a rich pall of silk, or cloth of gold” is held over him by four Knights of the Garter. Then “the Dean of Westminster, taking the Ampulla and Spoon from off the Altar, shall hold them ready, pouring some of the holy Oil into the Spoon, and with it the Archbishop shall anoint the King in the form of a cross:


On the crown of the head, saying,

Be thy Head anointed with holy Oil, as kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.


On the breast, saying,

Be thy Breast anointed with holy Oil.


On the palms of both hands, saying,

Be thy Hands anointed with holy Oil:

And as Solomon was anointed king by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, so be you anointed, blessed, and consecrated king over this People, whom the Lord your God hath given you to rule and govern, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then the King kneels down and the Archbishop says over him a prayer of blessing, after which he sits again in King Edward’s Chair, and the Knights of the Garter give back the pall to the Lord Chamberlain.

When the ceremony of the Anointing is over, the King is invested by the Dean of Westminster with two vestments—the Colobium Sindonis, and the Supertunica with its girdle. Then the Lord Great Chamberlain kneels down and touches the King’s heels with the golden Spurs, emblems of chivalry. The Spurs having been laid again upon the Altar, the Lord who carries the Sword of State gives it to the Lord Chamberlain to be placed in St. Edward’s Chapel, and he receives in exchange another sword in a scabbard of purple velvet, “provided for the King to be girt withal.” This Sword is handed to the Archbishop, who lays it on the Altar and prays that the King may bear it not in vain, but “as the minister of God for the terror and punishment of evil-doers, and for the protection and encouragement of those that do well.” Then the Archbishop takes the Sword again, and going to the King gives it into his right hand, bidding him “receive this kingly Sword.” The King stands up, and the Sword is “girt about him” by the Lord Chamberlain; and then when the Archbishop has exhorted him to use it worthily and faithfully, he ungirds it himself, and going to the Altar, offers it there in its scabbard.

This ceremony concluded, the King is invested with the Armill (or Stole), and the Royal Robe or Pall of cloth of gold. These are put upon him by the Dean of Westminster, who has received them from the Master of the Robes, and it is the Lord Great Chamberlain’s privilege to fasten the clasps of the Imperial mantle. Then the golden Orb, surmounted by its jewelled cross, is put into the King’s right hand by the Archbishop, who at the same time pronounces an appropriate blessing and exhorts him to remember, when he sees the Orb set under the Cross, “that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.”

The next ceremony is the Investing with the Ring and Sceptres. The Orb having been laid back upon the Altar, the Archbishop takes the King’s Ruby Ring from the Keeper of the Jewel House, and puts it on the fourth finger of the King’s right hand, bidding him receive it as “the ensign of kingly dignity, and of defence of the Catholic Faith.”

Next comes the Investing with the Sceptres, the Archbishop placing the first—the Royal Sceptre with the Cross, “ensign of kingly power and justice”—in the King’s right hand, and the second—the Sceptre with the Dove, “the Rod of equity and mercy”—in the King’s left hand. An exhortation to mercy and justice follows.

Now at last the supreme moment arrives. The anointed King is ready to receive the Crown.

“The Archbishop, standing before the Altar, shall take the Crown into his hands, and laying it again before him upon the Altar, he shall say:

O God, the Crown of the faithful: Bless we beseech thee and sanctify this thy servant George our King: and as thou dost this day set a Crown of pure gold upon his head, so enrich his royal heart with thine abundant grace, and crown him with all princely virtues, through the King eternal Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

“Then the King sitting down in King Edward’s Chair, the Archbishop, assisted with other Bishops, shall come from the Altar: the Dean of Westminster shall bring the Crown, and the Archbishop taking it of him shall reverently put it upon the King’s head. At the sight whereof the people, with loud and repeated shouts, shall cry, GOD SAVE THE KING; the Peers and the Kings of Arms shall put on their coronets; and the trumpets shall sound, and by a signal given, the great guns at the Tower shall be shot off.

“The acclamation ceasing, the Archbishop shall go on, and say:

God crown you with a crown of glory and righteousness, that by the ministry of this our benediction, having a right faith and manifold fruit of good works, you may obtain the crown of an everlasting kingdom by the gift of Him whose kingdom endureth for ever. Amen.

“Then shall the choir sing:

Be strong and play the man: keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways.


By the accession of her parents Princess Elizabeth became heir presumptive to the throne, and thereby the second lady in the land. Here we see her amongst the tulips in front of her Welsh cottage in the grounds of Royal Lodge, Windsor.

Immediately after the ceremony of the Crowning, the Archbishop takes the Bible and presents it to the King with these words:

Our gracious King; we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God.

The second and central stage of the service is now completed, and the third and final stage begins. The King stands up, and, turning to the west, appears for the first time before his people invested with all the ensigns of his royal office. With his golden vestments flowing round him, and the light reflected by the hundreds of splendid jewels in his Crown and Sceptres, he passes to his throne, and is “lifted up into it by the Archbishops and Bishops, and other Peers of the Kingdom,” while the Archbishop bids the King “Stand firm, and hold fast from henceforth the seat and state of royal and imperial dignity.

The Peers then do Homage in these words:—

I . . . . . . do become your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship: and faith and truth I will bear unto you, to live and die, against all manner of folks. So help me God.

The conclusion of the Homage is the signal for another outburst of rejoicing. Drums beat, and trumpets sound, “and all the people shout, crying out:

God save King George.

Long live King George.

May the King live for ever.

“The Solemnity of the King’s Coronation being thus ended, the Archbishop shall leave the King in his throne and go to the Altar.”

The end of the whole service is still some way off. As a Queen Consort is to be crowned, her Coronation follows here. The Ceremony is much simpler than that of the King’s Coronation, and while it takes place the Queen kneels before the Altar at a faldstool placed between the Altar steps and St. Edward’s Chair. Four Peeresses hold a pall of cloth of gold over her head during the anointing, which is on the head only. Then the Queen is invested with her Ring, crowned, and invested with her Sceptre with the Cross and Ivory Rod with the Dove; these ceremonies are each accompanied by a short prayer. Immediately after the Queen is crowned all the Peeresses present put on their coronets. When all is completed, the Queen rises and is conducted to the “Theatre,” bowing “reverently” to the King as she passes him; and then “without any further ceremony” she takes her place on her throne.

After the King and Queen have taken Communion, they pass into St. Edward’s Chapel where the King is disrobed of his Royal Robe of State and arrayed in his Robe of purple velvet. Then, wearing his Imperial Crown and carrying the Sceptre with the Cross in his right hand and the Orb in his left, the King proceeds in state through the Choir to the West door of the Abbey, accompanied by the Queen wearing her Crown and bearing her Sceptre and Rod. With this final procession the splendid and dignified ceremony of the Coronation is brought to an end.

[Printed by R. Clay and Sons, Ltd., Bungay, Suffolk.

Transcriber's Notes

The format of the document has been adjusted slightly to accommodate a non-page layout.

[The end of The Crowning of the King and Queen by Stephen King-Hall]