Charles Spencer is the brother of the late Princess Diana as well as a historian who writes about the royals – including the “terrible” discovery he made about one of his ancestors.
As he previously revealed, though, he isn’t attending his former brother-in-law King Charles’ coronation. He did discuss his interest in the topic of coronations in general on Wednesday, however, highlighting some times when they’ve gone especially badly.
Speaking on Rabbit Hole Detectives, the podcast he co-hosts with Reverend Richard Coles and historian Cat Jarman, the father-of-seven shared some fascinating facts, including details of why Queen Victoria’s coronation proved to be a “catastrophe”.
As Charles explained, on the day she was crowned in 1838, “there wasn’t really a rehearsal, the Queen was woken up at four that morning by them practicing cannon fire in the park outside [and then] 400,000 people turned up in London because the train had just opened up the capital to people.
“She was stuck in a traffic jam for 45 minutes; the service went on for five hours and she needed to retreat to a chapel but everyone forgot that the chapel was being used for wine and sandwiches… The whole thing was an absolute disaster… All in all, a complete catastrophe”.
However, he noted: “People loved it, it was a four-day party.” Charles also shared what he’d learned about the “botched” coronations of two other royals, William the Conqueror and George IV.
He said: “William the Conqueror sets the tone for botched coronations quite firmly… He brought in a sort of ecumenical service in French and English but a lot was lost in translation… the [priests] hadn’t really run through it”.
Even worse, when his supporters shouted their appreciation for the King, the Normans mistook this for an assassination attempt and “set fire to London” so Westminster Abbey had to be evacuated. George IV, meanwhile, spent £240,000 [the equivalent of £33million today] on his 1821 ceremony but it was considered “underwhelming”.