Following the death of his father King George III on the 29th January 1820, the then Prince Regent succeeded his father as King George IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. By the time of his coronation George was 57 and had been ruling as Prince Regent for almost 10 years following the deterioration of his father’s mental health. As a Prince, George was known for his extravagant tastes and exuberant lifestyle. His coronation in 1821 was an excellent example of the new King’s appetite for self-indulgence.
The Prince spared no expense for his coronation which took place on the 19th July 1821. He spent approximately £243,00 on the ceremony which equates to about £21,751,000 in today’s money! In comparison his father spent only £10,000 on his coronation. A significant proportion of the cost was spent on were the costumes worn by the participants in the procession. Each item was an Elizabethan or Stuart styled piece made up of red, blue and gold fabrics. George’s costume was an extravagant 16-foot silk, velvet and fur robe which had to be carried by page boys, who were instructed to spread out when carrying his robe so that the spectators could view its elaborate embroidery, as he made his way through the procession. He also wore a brown curled wig and a black cap with ostrich and heron feathers.
A notable missing person from his coronation was his wife Caroline of Brunswick from whom he had long been estranged from for many years following the birth of their only daughter Charlotte. He had sort a divorce for many years but was advised against it as it would bring to light some of his own adulterous relationships. Instead he bared Caroline from attending the coronation and from being crowned Queen. She did attempt to gain entry to Westminster Abbey but found all of the entrances blocked by guards who were given strict instructions not to permit her entry. The only women present at the coronation were the flower girls, who by tradition sprinkled herbs and flowers along the processional route to ward off pestilence and disease.
To celebrate the new King’s coronation John Whittaker, a printer and publisher, created an illustrated book in 1823. He commissioned brothers James and Frances Stephanoff to create the drawings which were taken from the coronation procession. Shortly after publication Whittaker became bankrupt due to the high costs in producing the book as the printing method used real gold to emboss the illustrations. Later in 1837 the book was republished by George Nayler and Henry Bohn. Guildhall Library holds copies of both books which are available to consult in the library (proof of ID required).