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Queen Victoria's Palace
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The Coronation of Queen Victoria in Westminster Abbey, 28 June 1838

Signed and dated 1839

Oil on canvas | 255.3 x 381.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 405409

This painting captures the moment in the Coronation of Queen Victoria in Westminster Abbey when, after the Crowning, 'the people with loud and repeated shouts, will cry "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN": and immediately the Peers and Peeresses present will put on their Coronets' – in the Queen's words, 'a most beautiful and impressive moment'. The Queen is seated on the Coronation Chair, wearing the Imperial State Crown and holding in her right hand the Sceptre with the Cross and in her left the Sceptre with the Dove.

Sir George Hayter was offered the commission less than a week before the event, on 22 June 1838, for a fee of 2,000 guineas. He witnessed the ceremony in Westminster Abbey from the Lord Great Chamberlain's box, which was above the box occupied by the royal ladies. He sketched a great deal during the ceremony and later returned to the Abbey with his son, Angelo, to draw and measure the parts he needed for the picture. There is a collection of drawings in the British Museum connected with the composition. Unlike Charles Robert Leslie, however, who painted the same event (RCIN 406993), Hayter made no attempt to accurately record the shape or scale of the box in which the royal ladies sat. The canopy above this box and the temporary Gothic canopy above and behind it are fairly faithfully recorded by Leslie, but Hayter dispensed with them both and set the ladies in stalls under a high and imaginary Gothic canopy. In part this space had been taken up at the Coronation with a bank of spectators seated in huge temporary boxes, similar to that seen on the right of Hayter's painting.

Lord Aberdeen advised Hayter to alter the design to show the actual moment of crowning, but the Queen was adamant that she would not go down to posterity in the act of bowing her head. Hayter included portraits of 64 participants at the ceremony, arranging sittings for them in the years after the event. The artist's family modelled the gowns and robes for him – his daughter Louisa modelling for the Queen's hands.

The painting was completed in 1840 and the Queen was delighted with it. In March 1840 The Times newspaper pronounced it 'a very splendid picture'.

Signed and dated on the base of the Coronation Chair: GEORGE HAYTER.PINXIT.1839; and, on the altar frontal: PAINTED / BY / GEORGE / HAYTER / 1839.

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