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Press release

Coronations: An exhibition in the Drawings Gallery, Windsor Castle

Release date: Saturday, 8 February 2003

The crowning of the Sovereign at the start of a new reign is an ancient ceremony, rich in religious significance, pageantry and historic associations.  It has changed little in form since  medieval  times.   To  mark  the  50th anniversary  of  the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen, a special exhibition at Windsor Castle brings together material from the Royal Archives, Royal Library and Royal Photograph Collection to illustrate the ritual and symbolism of Coronation from the 17th century to the present day.

Ancient traditions, for example that of the King's Champion, form an integral part of a coronation.  Until the time of George IV (r.1820-1830), a knight would ride into the coronation banquet in Westminster Hall in full armour, throw down his gauntlet three times and issue a challenge on the King's behalf.  A contemporary watercolour by Denis Dighton records the glorious pageantry of the event.  (The 16th-century armour worn by the hereditary King's Champion is on display in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle.)

Monarchs' personal records of their own coronations include Queen Victoria's sketchbook filled  with  her  drawings  of  the  day's  events.  A  poignant  extract  from  the  diary  of King George V describes how his coronation 'brought back many sad memories of 9 years ago when the Beloved Parents were crowned'.

Among the other treasures are William III and Mary II's Order of Service from 1689, the sumptuously bound Coronation Bible upon which George III took his coronation oath, the manuscript of the music composed by Edward Elgar for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, and the original poem written by John Masefield, the Poet Laureate, for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937.

The exhibition also includes historic and highly decorative admission tickets and  invitations  to  coronation  services,  including  a  charming  painted  invitation  to  Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation addressed to the young Prince Charles.  This will be displayed alongside Her Majesty The Queen's own Order of Service together with the pen she used to sign her Coronation Oath.

The Coronations exhibition is shown alongside a selection of treasures from the Royal Library, including drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Holbein.

Windsor Castle is open daily.  As the Castle is a working royal palace, opening arrangements may change at short notice.  It is advisable to check before planning a visit.  Details of admission and tickets are available from or 020 7321 2233.

Further press information is available from Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, telephone: 020-7839 1377, e-mail: [email protected]