A spectacular coronation

Westminster Hall during the celebrations after the Coronation of James II in 1685, showing the Serving of the First Course

The coronation feast of James II on 23 April 1685 was a huge event with an extensive menu, which included hot and cold foods and room for spectators in the galleries above the tables.

Westminster Hall during the celebrations after the Coronation of James II

Courts and shops removed

Prior to the day, the courts and shops were removed and the Hall was furnished with the royal table at the top of the great stairs and two rows of tables stretching almost to the north door. At the sides of the Hall stood 16 cupboards for dishes and cutlery.

On the day, participants had to be present by eight in the morning and were marshalled into the Hall in columns. When the King and Queen entered the Hall (at 11.30am), they were presented with the sword of state and the coronation regalia, and were subsequently borne in procession to Westminster Abbey.

Tables laid

Once the procession had departed, the tables were laid and cold food (which was nearly all the food provided) was set out. Once the coronation service in Westminster Abbey was over, the King and Queen returned to the Hall for the banquet.

The coronation banquet

During the banquet, the King and Queen sat at the royal table, wearing their crowns. At the other tables sat peers and peeresses, bishops, judges, barons, the King's Council, the Lord Mayor and the heralds; they were attended by about two hundred servants (each nobleman also had one of his own servants present).

The first course consisting of 46 dishes of hot meat was brought in by a procession of 73 people, including three officers on horseback.

Dymock family

Between courses, the king's champion (always a member of the Dymock family of Lincolnshire) entered the Hall on a white horse. Dressed in white armour, he threw down his gauntlet three times, challenging anyone present who disputed the King's right to succeed.

The King then drank to the champion from a silver-gilt cup, which he gave to the latter as his fee. Following the washing of hands, grace, and the return of the regalia, the King and Queen withdrew at about seven in the evening.

Also within Living Heritage

Learn about the events that followed James II becoming King

Biography

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James II

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.