Coronation banquets

Painting depicting George IV's coronation banquet in Westminster Hall in July 1821

From 1189 to 1821, Westminster Hall was the traditional venue for coronation banquets honouring newly-crowned monarchs. The earliest recorded being those of Prince Henry (crowned in the lifetime of his father, Henry II) in 1170 and of Richard the Lionheart in 1189.

George IV's coronation banquet in Westminster Hall

Queens' coronation feasts

Queens crowned separately from their husbands also had coronation feasts, from Eleanor in 1236 to Anne Boleyn in 1533. By 1377, Westminster Hall had replaced the Lesser Hall (a ceremonial chamber in the medieval palace) as the venue for coronation preliminaries.

The monarch sat on the marble throne at the end of the Hall and was presented with the coronation regalia, and was subsequently borne in procession to Westminster Abbey.

Attendants

Many features of these banquets persisted from early times until that of George IV, the last to be held in the Hall. Music was usually played by the king's minstrels.

The citizens of London acted as butlers to the King at every feast, from Richard I to George IV. The Earl Marshal always rode about on his horse keeping order, and he was sometimes accompanied by other officials on horseback.

Richard III's coronation

However, one change over the centuries was a probable decline in the numbers taking part from the 3,000 or so fed at Richard III's coronation. As the only surviving royal feast, the coronation banquet also became more of a spectacle, with new galleries built for invited guests.

The king's champion

During these banquets, it was traditional for the king's champion to ride into the hall in full armour and challenge anyone to deny the King's right to succeed.

This position has been held for over 600 years by the Dymock family; they still hold it today, although they have not been called upon to perform this ceremony since George IV's coronation in 1821.

Too expensive

His successor William IV abandoned the coronation banquet altogether in 1830 because he felt that it was too expensive, a precedent followed by all his successors. The presentation of regalia and the procession from the Hall to the Abbey disappeared along with the banquet.

Biographies

You can access biographies of

Henry II
Henry III
Richard the Lionheart
Eleanor of Provence
Anne Boleyn
George IV
Richard III
William IV

from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for free, online, using your local library card number (includes nine out of ten public libraries in the UK) or from within academic library and other subscribing networks.

Art in Parliament

View images from the Parliamentary Art Collection.

Did you know?

The horse ridden by Dymock, the king's champion, at the coronation banquet of George IV (1821) was hired from a circus. When greeted with applause, it went into its routine of tricks.