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John Ogilby (1600-76)

The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II 1662

48.2 x 33.0 x 3.8 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1046719

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  • A year after his restoration to the throne in 1660, Charles II's procession through London the day before his coronation was an elaborate, spectacular piece of theatre. The diarist Samuel Pepys, watching from a house in Cornhill, wrote, 'So glorious was the show with gold and silver, that we were not able to look at it'.  The procession took 5 hours to travel 5 miles, and contained thousands of people, from officials of the royal household to almost the whole of the nobility. Charles was the culmination of the procession, in a plumed hat. 'The King,' wrote Pepys, 'in a most rich embroidered suit and cloak, looked most noble.'  £70,000 had been granted to the Crown for the pageant, around double that used by James I for the last great Coronation entry in 1604. The procession, missed out of Charles II's father Charles I's coronation celebrations, was an opportunity for the restored king to display himself as both magnificent and accessible.

    The procession dazzled from the Tower of London to Whitehall. It included four massive triumphal arches, nearly 100 feet high and constructed out of wood. They were provided by the aldermen and companies of the City of London, which paid £10,000 for them, and they depicted in sequence monarchy, naval power, concord and plenty. Each arch was decorated with pictorial, symbolic scenes, and as the king passed through them players performed pageants and gave speeches.

    The arches' decoration and the performances which took place at them are described by John Ogilby in this book, The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II. Ogilby had been a dancing-master and Master of the Revels in Ireland, before becoming a poet, translator and printer. He was appointed by the Committee of Entertainment to compose the speeches, mottoes, emblems and inscriptions of each arch. His iconography stressed the healing of wounds.

    Charles himself took an interest in Ogilby's publication. Appended to the details of the procession is an account of the coronation, written by Elias Ashmole. Twice, Charles wrote to Ogilby to order him to submit the text of the account of the Coronation to Edward Walker, Garter King of Arms and the senior herald who had drawn up the proceedings. Substantial changes were made to the text before Walker approved it. His note to show his agreement to the publication is on the imprimatur on the verso of the title page. It would have been important to Charles that the account of his coronation was given accurately, because of the political importance of his anointing at this moment of restoration.

    Binding details

    Rebound in the 20th century in brown pigskin with the crowned addorsed (back-to-back) G cipher of King George V. The addorsed Gs, in imitation of Charles II's binding marks, indicate a reflection of the contents of the book, if not actually a sign of the book previously being decorated with Charles II ownership marks.

    Further reading

    - Fredson Bowers, "Ogilby’s Coronation Entertainment (1661-1689): Editions and Issues", in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 47 (1953)
    - Charles II: art & power (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2017)


    Acquired during the earlier part of the reign of Queen Victoria, before 1860

  • Measurements

    48.2 x 33.0 x 3.8 cm (book measurement (conservation))

    49.0 x 4.0 cm (book measurement (inventory))

  • Alternative title(s)

    The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II, in his passage through the City of London to his coronation : containing an exact accompt of the whole solemnity, the triumphal arches and cavalcade, delineated in sculpture ; the speeches and impresses illustrated from antiquity. To these is added a brief narrative of His Majestie's solemn coronation, with his magnificent proceeding, and royal feast in Westminster-Hall.