It was, I think Cecil Rhodes who, without a trace of irony, stated:
Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.
He might have said those words with more than a hint of arrogance but as we have seen these past few weeks we are still blessed with the continuity that a Constitutional Monarchy gives and pride we can have by being British.
With such a long pedigree as a nation, it is not surprising that we have many traditions surrounding our Monarchs and some remarkably remain with us to this day while alas many barmy ones have been abandoned. It is those curious and quirky anachronisms which bind us together and make us proud to live in this Sceptred Isle.
Here is my Continuity Constitutional Trivia:
A Monarch’s spurs
Samuel Pepys loved to see a lady who ‘showed off her pretty, neat legs and ankles’, unfortunately for brandy-loving Queen Anne when her turn came to be crowned her ankles had grown too fat for a functionary to buckle on a new pair of spurs and so this quaint custom was abandoned.
Quiet at the back
When George III was crowned the service went on for so long – six hours – that the congregation decided they were hungry and sat down to eat, drowning out the ceremony with the clattering of their knives and forks.
Who nicked the silver?
When Charles II was to be crowned, marking the restoration of the monarchy, the ceremony had to be postponed as Cromwell had disposed of all the appropriate regalia.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is usually a fellow well past his prime, and thus it proved when Queen Victoria was crowned. The Coronation Ring had to be made smaller for her dainty finger, the incompetent cleric then jammed on the ring on the wrong finger and as a result, it got stuck and remained on the wrong finer for the rest of the ceremony.
Somebody has to clear up the mess
In 1953 after the Queen’s coronation, cleaning in the Abbey found three ropes of pearls, twenty brooches, six bracelets, twenty golden balls from peers’ coronets, most of a diamond necklace, numerous sandwich wrappers and an undisclosed but impressive quantity of empty half-bottles of spirits. It is not recorded who kept the booty.
Regal rag on bone men
Three families share the role of the Lord Great Chamberlain a title that has been in existence since Norman times. The present holder the Marquess of Cholmondeley – Lord Carrington’s family and the Earl of Ancaster stand in the wings chomping at the bit – in return for some minor coronation ceremonial duties has the right to demand anything the sovereign wears during the ceremony (including underclothes), also his or her bed, and incredibly the throne.
On the throne
Queen Anne was unable to sit on the throne (presumably left behind by the Lord Great Chamberlain) as she was so fat and gout-ridden she had to be carried into the Abbey in her own chair. Her statue outside St. Paul’s west front doesn’t do her justice, at the time of its creation she was at least twice that size. Catholic Mary I refused to park her trim bum on the seat asserting that it had been defiled by the ‘Protestant heretic’ her brother Edward VI.
Henry IV trying his best to appear regal was hard pressed when he lost a shoe, followed by a spur from the other foot and finally to complete the indignity the wind blew the crown clean off his head.
The trouble with the ex
At the coronation of George IV prizefighters were engaged to bar his estranged and enraged wife who proceeded to spend much of the day battering the doors of Westminster Abbey, while wailing loudly that she had been barred.
George VI’s big day was ruined when the Lord Chamberlain, whilst having an attack of nerves, couldn’t fix the Sword of State his Majesty completed the task in hand. Next, a chaplain fainted and finally completing a hat trick the Archbishop of Canterbury put the crown on back to front.