King Charles III Coronation: who was the last King to be coronated?

With King Charles III’s Coronation taking place on May 6, we have taken a look back at previous coronations throughout history and picked out some unique examples.

King Charles III will be coronated on Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Westminster Abbey in London where there are expected to be 2,000 guests in attendance, a stark contrast to the 8,000 guests present at the Queen’s coronation in 1953.

The last coronation of a British monarch was Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation, which took place on June 2, 1953, again at Westminster Abbey. It was the first to be televised and was watched by over 20 million people in the UK alone. The ceremony was attended by 8,251 guests who represented 129 nations and territories.

The last King to be coronated, however, was King George VI, crowned on May 12, 1937. George VI was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London, in a ceremony that was attended by many dignitaries and members of the royal family.

The coronation of George VI was a significant event in British history, as it marked the beginning of a new era for the monarchy. George VI was seen as a steady and reliable leader who could provide stability in a time of great change and uncertainty. His reign saw the country through the difficult years of World War II, and he was widely admired for his courage and determination during that time.

The coronation ceremony itself was a grand and elaborate affair, steeped in tradition and symbolism. It included a procession through the streets of London, the anointing of the king with holy oil, the presentation of various regalia and symbols of office, and the taking of various oaths and vows.

Though George VI’s coronation was one typical of royal events, each coronation has its own distinct character and significance, reflecting the historical context in which it took place. There have been several unique coronations of kings and queens in the history of the United Kingdom, here are a few examples:

  1. William the Conqueror (1066)

William I was the first Norman King of England, and his coronation in 1066 was the first to take place in Westminster Abbey, which had just been built by Edward the Confessor. William’s coronation also marked the beginning of the Norman era in English history.

  1. Henry VIII (1509)

The coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 was notable for its lavishness and extravagance. Henry spent a great deal of money on the event, which included a procession through the streets of London, a banquet at Westminster Hall, and a jousting tournament.

  1. Charles II (1661)

The coronation of Charles II in 1661 was the first coronation to take place after the English Civil War and the Restoration of the monarchy. The ceremony was designed to emphasise the continuity of the monarchy and the restoration of the Church of England as the country’s official religion.

  1. Victoria (1838)

The coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 was notable for being the first after the Industrial Revolution. The ceremony was held in Westminster Abbey and was attended by thousands of people. It also marked the beginning of a new era of prosperity and expansion for the British Empire.

  1. James II (1685)

The coronation of James II in 1685 was the last coronation to include the ritual of “touching for the King’s Evil,” a ceremony in which the king would touch the skin of people with scrofula (a form of tuberculosis) in the belief that it would cure them. This ceremony had been a part of English coronations since the time of Edward the Confessor.

  1. George IV (1821)

The coronation of George IV in 1821 was the first coronation to include a specially composed anthem by a well-known composer (in this case, the composer was George Frederick Handel). The anthem, “Zadok the Priest,” has been performed at every British coronation since then.

  1. Edward VII (1902)

The coronation of Edward VII in 1902 was the first coronation to be filmed (albeit only a short excerpt of the actual ceremony). The filming was done by the newly formed British film company, Pathé Frères, and marked the beginning of the use of film as a medium for documenting important events.

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You may think that the biographical genre of literature is something relatively new, but, in fact, The Life of Samuel Johnson, written by James Boswell and published in 1791, is considered one of the earliest and most significant modern biographies.

The reason for its significance is that it was the first of its kind to adopt a new biographical approach, as Boswell’s style was “very modern”, giving a psychological insight into “what made Johnson tick”.

This differed from early biographical writing, such as the literature of ancient Greece and Rome that was characterised by a reverence for both their deities and renowned individuals. Whether victorious or defeated, the actions of these figures were regarded as either emulable or cautionary and the biographical writing served as an analysis of this.

Another example of early biographical writing is Einhard’s The Life of Charlemagne, composed around 817 AD, which is widely regarded as one of the era’s most illustrious biographies. Though Einhard is clearly enamoured with Charlemagne’s accomplishments, the biography solely focused on these accomplishments rather than providing personal insight. Despite this, Einhard’s work has retained its value for historians over the centuries.

The Life of Samuel Johnson

The work is a comprehensive account of the life and times of Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest literary figures of the 18th century. The biography is famous for its detailed and intimate portrayal of Johnson’s personality and for its contribution to the art of biography as a literary genre.

James Boswell, a Scottish lawyer and writer, met Samuel Johnson in 1763 and was immediately captivated by his intelligence, wit, and charm. Boswell became a close friend and admirer of Johnson, and he began to record his conversations and observations about Johnson’s life and character. Over the years, Boswell amassed a vast collection of notes, letters, and anecdotes about Johnson, and he eventually decided to publish a comprehensive biography of his friend.

The Life of Samuel Johnson is divided into two volumes, each containing detailed descriptions of Johnson’s life and works. The first volume covers Johnson’s early life, his struggles with poverty and illness, and his rise to fame as a writer and scholar. The second volume focuses on Johnson’s later years, his relationships with his friends and family, and his thoughts on politics, religion, and philosophy.

What makes The Life of Samuel Johnson so significant is the way in which Boswell approaches his subject. Unlike previous biographies, which tended to focus on the external events of a person’s life, Boswell’s biography is concerned with the inner life of Johnson. Boswell is interested in Johnson’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations, and he seeks to understand Johnson’s complex personality in all its nuances.

Boswell’s approach to biography was groundbreaking in its time, and it set the standard for modern biographical writing. Rather than simply recounting the facts of a person’s life, Boswell sought to create a vivid and engaging portrait of his subject, bringing to life the unique qualities that made Johnson such a remarkable figure. In doing so, Boswell demonstrated the power of biography as a literary genre, and he set a new standard for the art of storytelling.

Today, The Life of Samuel Johnson is regarded as a classic of English literature and a masterpiece of biography. It remains one of the most vivid and compelling portraits of a literary figure ever written, and it has inspired generations of writers and readers to explore the lives and works of great men and women. Through his meticulous research, his keen insight into human nature, and his masterful storytelling, James Boswell created a work that continues to fascinate and captivate readers to this day.

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From the birth of ‘Top of the Pops’, to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, the 1950s were a decade of change and progress in many areas of life. People were trying to recover from the devastating effects of World War II and life in the UK was characterised by a time of rebuilding and prosperity as our society was eager to return to a sense of normalcy.

In this blog post, we will explore what life was like for people living in the 1950s, including their living conditions, notable events, and popular culture.

Living Conditions

In the 1950s, living conditions in the UK were vastly different from today, and the standard of living for most people was improving in comparison to the standard of living during wartime. Many people were moving from rural areas to urban areas to find work in factories and offices.

Most homes were modestly furnished with basic amenities, such as a coal-fired range for heating and cooking, a single shared bathroom, and much like in the 40s, an outdoor toilet. Running water and electricity were available but not universal, and many families lived in cramped conditions, with several generations sharing one or two rooms.

Housing was also in short supply, but as the decade progressed, the government implemented policies to improve living conditions. The post-war years saw a boom in home construction and suburban development, and many families had access to improved housing, sanitation, and healthcare, and the quality of life improved significantly.

Notable events of the 50s

The 1950s were marked by many significant events that shaped the world we live in today. The decade also saw a wave of social change, including the beginning of the civil rights movement.

The Korean War, which began in 1950, dominated the news headlines and was a significant conflict that pitted the United States and its allies against communist forces led by China and the Soviet Union.

Her Majesty’s Coronation – June 1953

Her Majesty was crowned Queen at the age of 25 on June 2, 1953, at Westminster Abbey, which is the traditional setting for coronations since 1066. The news was broken whilst she was on holiday in Kenya, becoming the first Sovereign in over 200 years to accede while abroad.

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth was the first to be televised and was watched by over 20 million people (about the population of New York) in the UK alone. The ceremony was attended by 8,251 guests who represented 129 nations and territories.

Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation is an example of how the 1950s was a period that saw the beginning of a change in society. From here on, memorable events covered worldwide were televised and meant that the world was now connected.

In 1955, there was a change in leadership in the UK, with Winston Churchill resigning due to ill health, and Anthony Eden taking over as Prime Minister. The same year saw the birth of television advertising with ITV becoming the first commercial channel available. A Gibbs SR toothpaste commercial ran on September 22, 1955, the same day as the inauguration of the ITV broadcast and was the first of its kind in the UK.

Worldwide, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. This event marked the beginning of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

1958 was the year of the Munich air disaster, where 22 out of 40 people on board BEA Flight 609 died at take-off from Munich airport. Those killed included eight members of Manchester United’s football team who were nicknamed ‘the Busby Babes’.

Other notable events in the 1950s included:

  • 1953 – Ian Fleming published the first James Bond book, Casino Royale.
  • 1953 – Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first ever ascent of Everest
  • 1954 – The end of food rationing following WWII.
  • 1956 – the Suez Crisis in 1956.
  • 1958 – the founding of the National Health Service.

Popular Culture

The 1950s were a time of cultural change and innovation. The rise of television brought new forms of entertainment into people’s homes, and many families spent their evenings watching shows like the BBC’s ‘The Grove Family,’ a drama series about a working-class family in London.

Other popular shows included the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” which began airing in 1954, showcasing the top chart hits of the week which emerged as one of the UK most beloved TV show of the next few decades.

Rock and roll music, led by Elvis Presley, exploded onto the scene in the mid-1950s, and teenagers embraced the new sound and style. The 1950s saw the rise of rock and roll with artists like Bill Haley and the Comets with ‘Rock Around the Clock’ dominating the airwaves. Other popular genres included jazz, swing, and crooning – a smooth style made possible by advancement in microphones which picked up quieter sounds and a wider range of frequencies.

Fashion also underwent a transformation in the 1950s. Women’s clothing became more form-fitting, and the hourglass figure was in vogue. Men’s clothing became more casual, with the adoption of the “preppy” style.

Named the “Teddy Boys” style for boys, it featured coloured velvet collars and cuffs, trousers that were so tight they couldn’t sit down in them, belts on the back of their jackets, and long narrow ties like bootlaces. For girls: petticoats, poodle skirts, bobby sox, saddle shoes, and ponytails was the style of the time.

In conclusion, life in the 1950s was a time of change and progress. The standard of living for many people improved, but there were still significant disparities in living conditions. The decade was marked by significant events that shaped the world we live in today; the emergence of television as an information source and entertainment medium helped form cultures and stereotypes, for better or for worse.

Learning about the disparities in people’s lives is something we love about what we do at My Story Told. Creating a biography is a great way to capture your life and remember them in your own words.

Our aim is to provide a lasting document that can serve as a token of your or your legacy for generations to come. It is a way to tell life stories in the form of the written word, backed up by meaningful images and documents helping paint the picture of each chapter. For more on our process, please click here.