Westminster Abbey has been Britain’s coronation church since 1066. From William the Conqueror through to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, all but two monarchs have been crowned in the Abbey.
Bayeux Tapestry - King William Coronation (12th century)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Edward V was presumed murdered in the Tower of London before he could be crowned and Edward VIII abdicated 11 months after succeeding his father.
Since the 14th century every coronation ceremony has followed the same order of service laid down in the Abbey’s magnificent medieval illuminated manuscript, the Liber Regalis, and every ceremony takes place on the Cosmati mosaic pavement.
Liber Regalis - King being crowned
The Coronation Chair commissioned by Edward I faces the High Altar to symbolise the link between the sovereign and God.
Coronation Chair at the High Altar
In the 18th and 19th centuries, public spectacle sometimes overshadowed religious significance. At George III’s coronation some of the congregation began to eat a meal during the sermon, and George IV’s coronation was a great theatrical spectacle but he flatly refused to allow his estranged wife Caroline into the Abbey.
Coronation of King George IV
William IV had to be persuaded to have a coronation at all and spent so little money that it became known as ‘the penny coronation’.
By the time HM Queen Elizabeth II was crowned the world was able to witness her coronation on television.
HM The Queen's Coronation 1953
The biggest challenge we face is maintaining such a large physical collection of material within a historic building – believe it or not, there’s just not enough space for it all.