To mark the coronation of King Charles III this week, we are taking a look back at the coronation of King Charles II in 1661, an event to which Samuel Pepys bore witness. In addition to Pepys’s detailed account of the celebrations in his own diary, the Pepys Library also holds printed books and engravings relating to the coronation.
In the weeks leading up to the coronation, Pepys describes the construction of four ‘very fine’[i] triumphal arches on the route of the coronation procession – a secular event which took place on the day before the coronation itself. The procession set off from the Tower of London, and at each of the triumphal arches, the procession halted for a short ceremony of welcome to the King[ii]. This was the final time that this route for the coronation procession was used[iii]. On the day of the procession, the 22nd April 1661, Pepys breaks from his usual shorthand to announce the ‘King’s going from the Tower to White-hall”[iv] . Pepys recounts that he has a good view from the premises of Mr John Young, an upholsterer and flag maker, residing in Cornhill. While there, Pepys and his party had ‘wine and good cake’ and said of the event, ‘it is impossible to relate the glory of that this day’[v]. It can be supposed that Pepys chose to view the procession at this location due to its proximity to the Royal Exchange, where the triumphal arch dedicated to the navy was positioned. The engraving of the arch shown above, engraved by David Loggan after a drawing attributed to Balthazar Gerbier, appears as an illustrative plate in the book The Entertainment of His most excellent Majestie Charles II, in his passage through the city of London to his coronation… by John Ogilby, which is present in the Pepys Library.
The procession which Pepys viewed from John Young’s premises is painstakingly depicted in a series of engraved plates by Wenceslas Hollar, which also appear in Ogilby’s Entertainment. In the book the procession is called the ‘cavalcade’, and the titles and ranks of those taking part are helpfully printed alongside, guiding the viewer through the pageantry of the event.
Pepys recalls seeing George Monck (1608-70) in the procession, who had previously served Oliver Cromwell in the English civil wars, but who became secretly involved in the restoration of Charles II after Cromwell’s death. As a reward, the King gave him the title of Duke of Albemarle, which is indicated on Hollar’s engraving. Pepys describes Monck as leading a spare horse in his hand ‘as being Maister of the Horse’,[vi] which is shown accurately in the engraving. Monck’s facial features, too, are well observed when compared to contemporary oil portraits, such as this example from the National Portrait Gallery.
The coronation itself took place on the 23rd April 1661, and in his diary Pepys recalls how he arrived at Westminster Abbey just after four o’clock in the morning to secure a good seat (and how he had to leave the ceremony slightly early due to a call of nature). Nevertheless, he does describe the solemnity of the occasion: ‘The crowne being put upon his head, a great shout begun. And he came forth to the Throne and there passed more ceremonies: as, taking the oath and having things read to him by the Bishopp, and his lords (who put on their capps as soon as the King put on his Crowne) and Bishopps came and kneeled before him’[vii].
Pepys gives a lively and personal account of the coronation day, however a more detailed and formal description of the same part of the ceremony is apparent in Ogilby’s Entertainment.
Pepys’s acquisition of Ogilby’s Entertainment is recorded in his diary. On the 19th February 1666, Pepys writes: ‘Thence to the Change, and from my stationer’s thereabouts carried home by coach two books of Ogilbys, his Aesop and Coronacion, which fell to my lot at his lottery’[viii]. Ogilby used a wide variety of methods to fund his publications, such as subscriptions and lotteries, and a printed record of the lottery in which Pepys’s lot was drawn survives at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. As the person chosen to commemorate the coronation in printed form, Ogilby evidently enjoyed the support of the King.[ix]
By Catherine Sutherland
Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections
[i] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 77.
[ii] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 77, footnote 2.
[iv] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 81.
[v] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 82.
[vi] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 82.
[vii] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1970. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 2, page 84.
[viii] Latham, R., Matthews, W. eds. 1972. The Diary of Samuel Pepys London: G. Bell and Sons. Volume 7, page 48.