Kings and queens of Britain have been crowned in the hallowed Westminster Abbey ever since William the Conqueror’s coronation in 1066. Yet not every coronation in history has gone off without a hitch. Plenty of unfortunate incidents have blighted these high-profile events over the centuries: one queen was barred from her own husband’s coronation, an official once dropped the crown during the ceremony, and an angry mob disrupted the coronation of a king in the 1800s. We can only be glad Charles’ big day passed without any of these disasters.
1. William the Conqueror
William I, better known as William the Conqueror, seized the English crown in 1066 by defeating his predecessor King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Harold’s death ensured that William would be the next King; the latter has the distinction of being the very first monarch to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. William’s coronation was on Christmas Day, just a couple of months after his Hastings victory, but the ceremony did not go to plan.
A general melee
At William’s big day, things went wrong when those inside the abbey cheered the new monarch to the rafters. The King’s bodyguard, stationed outside the abbey, mistook the tumult as a threat to their master. So they started burning down buildings in Westminster and a general melee broke out. Although many now fled the ceremony, somehow the coronation was completed amid the pandemonium.
2. King George IV
Matrimonial tribulations have been far from rare for members of the royal family in recent times, but the coronation of George IV in 1821 took royal marital strife to new heights. In 1795 George had married Princess Caroline of Brunswick, brutally described by website Historic UK as “fat, ugly, and tactless.” The truth was that George IV was up to his ears in debt, but Parliament would only agree to help him if he produced an heir. For that, he needed a wife, but his marriage to Caroline was a disaster.
Just a year after George and Caroline had wed the two separated, living entirely apart. When George IV became King on the death of his father George III in 1820 he started divorce proceedings. But he needed approval from the House of Lords, which was not forthcoming. Caroline, now officially Queen, planned to attend the coronation. Yet when she arrived, to the great embarrassment of all, she was denied entry to Westminster Abbey. Nineteen days later, the King’s marital woes were ended by the unfortunate Caroline’s death.