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And each, with mingled blush and smile,
Twas for the sage no easy matter,
The miser chuckled when alone
The richest ladies of the place
And tears of joy bedewed his face.
"I never told you they would stay,»
W.B. LE Gros. Naples, February, 1838.
CORONATION MISERIES ;
OR, REMINISCENCES OF THE INAUGURATION OF GEORGE THE FOURTH.
" For the coronation, if a puppet-show could be worth a million, that is."
AMONG the memorably uncomfortable days I have seen, I remember none more distinctly than that which placed the crown of England on the head of George the Fourth. Still, from the view which I obtained of part of the ceremony, and the proceedings relating to it, I look back to the whole with feelings of peculiar interest ; with a jealous anxiety not to forget, and a strong disposition to say, * Memory, set down that."
* The Court of Claims," over which the late Duke of York presided, had given its decision on the pretensions of the aspirants to render service on the coronation day, which was fixed for the first of August 1820 ; and the Dymoke, whose privilege it was to act the champion's part, being too young to undertake the duty, a performer from Astley's was engaged to represent him, and to throw down the gauntlet in Westminster Hall, defying to mortal combat whoever should deny the right of George IV. to sit on the throne of England.
But the proceedings instituted against Queen Caroline, and their uncertain issue, caused it to be felt that the time fixed was not the fittest that could be chosen for a scene of gorgeous pageantry and national rejoicing. It was in consequence postponed till after her majesty's trial should have closed. A delay of a year was the consequence, and the 19th of July 1821, was the day finally named. That a coronation should always be a most attractive spectacle in England, can excite no surprise. The great wealth of the country, and the inducements held out on such an occasion to the affluent to vie with each other in magnificence, that their splendour, in connection with the national pageant, may become matter of history, naturally produce a superb assemblage of whatever is costly and beautiful ; a collection of all the realities of courtly pomp, the tinsel imitation of which we are accustomed to admire on the stage.
The attraction of the coronation was heightened on this occasion by various circumstances, some of which it may be worth while briefly to
Sixty years had elasped since an English coronation. The fame of the display which marked the inauguration of George the Third, perpetuated, as it had been, by the labours of the pencil
, and by exhibitions on the stage, under the management of that king of spectacles, Rich, filled every mind ; and, though there are some who talk very philosophically of the “ gew-gaws of pomp, trappings of royalty,” and “ strains that die upon the ear,” there will be found a far greater number who agree with Sir Walter Scott in liking " sights of splendour, and sounds of harmony.” It is truly said by Shakspeare that “ nothing pleaseth like rare accidents ;” and a coronation is not an affair which missed once, can with certainty be looked for at any stated period. It does not return with the regularity of the Olympic games ; it may be witnessed more than once in a couple of years, or, as in the case before us, half a century may elapse, generations may be born, and die, without having an opportunity of beholding such a celebration.
" 6 the
But the excitement which prevailed in 1821 did not wholly arise from a thirst for a grand show.
grand show. Other feelings and expectations mingled with those which ordinarily prevail on such occasions. Queen Caroline had been acquitted of the charges preferred against her ; the bill of pains and penalties having been carried by so small a majority as nine, the Earl of Liverpool had thought it prudent to declare it“ null and void, and of none effect.” But, thus exonerated by the House of Lords, she was still unreconciled to George IV. She claimed to be present, as queen-consort, at the coronation of her husband; and, though on an appeal to the privy-council her right to be included in the ceremony was denied, it was whispered that she would not be restrained from appearing in the hall as well as in the abbey. Hence it was thought that a scene of national importance, leading to results most momentous, in which real princes and nobles would be the performers, might be acted on the coronation-day.
All those who had houses which commanded a view of the ex. pected procession considered themselves the peculiar favourites of fortune. I do not mean the mere occupants, for many of these, by a covenant in their leases, were temporarily to relinquish all, or the greater part of their houses, in favour of their landlords on the oc. casion. Wherever the right might lie, all considered that a trump, and not a low one, turned up for those who had the means of accommodating visitors to see the spectacle. Carpenters were in conse. quence put in requisition, and innumerable seats and stages erected in front of most of the houses in all the principal streets.
The speculation proved anything but what it had been confidently anticipated, in consequence, perhaps, of the enormous sums which in the first instance it was proposed to extort. Three guineas, and in some places five guineas, were demanded for a single seat ; and news of this reaching parties who till then had not thought of com. ing forward in the same way, induced them to strain every nerve to share in the expected benefit. Saint Margaret's churchyard, covered with booths and other tempory erections, exhibited the appearance of a fair. The enclosed grounds opposite Palace-Yard were lined with ranges of seats, and every house became a theatre.
It was clear to those who started somewhat late in the race that it would be a very proper thing to supply accommodation to the public at half the price originally claimed ; but it never entered into their thoughts, that it might occur to others to offer below them. Nevertheless, this came to pass, till in their downward race, prices so declined that they came to shillings, perhaps I might say to one shilling only! The disappointment of the seat proprietors was great in the extreme. In Bridge-street, Westminster, one householder, to gain custom on the last day, exhibited a placard, announcing that“ Coronation tickets might be had at a reasonable price.” His next door neighbour, continuing the under-selling game, improved even upon this by the announc nt of “ Ruination tickets at any price !"
The exterior of Westminster Hall was at that period but imper. fectly renewed, and one of the towers had been taken down. To remedy this defect, a wooden erection 'of the same size and shape as the stone one which remained was run up. But the most conspicu. ous feature in the preparations out of doors, was the platform, on which the procession was to move when it left the hall to proceed to the abbey. This was of great length ; commencing from the north door of Westminster hall, it traversed the centre of Palace-Yard, then turning to the right, it passed to Great George Street, and thence to the left, to the front of St. Margaret's church, whence it was carried, following the line of the churchyard, to the west entrance of the abbey, opposite Tothill Street. Such an immense platform was in itself no small curiosity. So, the Londoners, and their countrycousins of that time thought, and hundreds daily repaired to watch its progress. From the uncertain character of our climate, it was decided that this boarded way should be surmounted by a frame-work, over which an awning could be thrown in case of rain.
The interest of the approaching ceremonial was kept up by the descriptions which from time to time came forth of the progress made by the workmen, and by the arrival of foreign princes and noblemen, not less anxious to witness the evidences of England's opu. lence, than to astonish by their own.
Innumerable were the applications made for tickets of admission to the hall and the abbey, and stern and decisive were the refusals. It was for a time a matter of doubt whether even the representatives of the press would find a place within the walls. A decision favourable to their hopes was in due time pronounced, and one or more than one card given to all the recognized London papers.
· It was not till the day before the great day that the sages of the press (of whom I was one upon the occasion) received their tickets. They were delivered to them from an office near the House of Lords, and the receivers, to prevent confusion, proposed an arrangement which was thought very judicious, that they should go by water in a barge by themselves, and be admitted from Cotton garden-stairs. The barge, which was to be at a boat-builder's on the Surrey side of the river, was there to receive those who might reside in that neigh. bourhood, and at four o'clock in the morning drop down to Waterloo Bridge, where the rest of the fraternity were to join.
That night, in consequence of having to rise unusually early, I went to bed by nine o'clock. A vastly prudent step I thought this, for I considered that retiring at my usual time, and getting up at three o'clock, which would be necessary under the above plan, as I could not hope satisfactorily to array myself in a lace coat, with waistcoat and inexpressibles to match, with bag and sword, in less than an hour-I say I naturally judged that I should feel sleepy and fatigued before the day reached its close. My prudence and foresight proved of little value. From courting my pillow at so unusual an hour, or from thinking too much of courts and kings, or from some other circumstance, I could not rest. Not a moment's sleep did I have that night, and I arose at three o'clock, feverish and unrefreshed, but still not worse off than my friends, for, of twenty cronies whom I encountered in the course of that day, and who were present at the ceremony, I do not think there was one who had not the same lament to breathe.
It was four o'clock in the morning, when, wondering at the superb figure I made in my gay attire, I approached the river side at Lambeth, near the Waterman's Arms, to seek the barge engaged for the " gentlemen of the press.” I found it; but learned that the time fixed upon for starting was full early, as the barge was aground, and it wanted an hour to ihe period of the tide at which we could move.
The day was then just breaking, and one or two of those only
whom I expected to meet had arrived. We were accommodated with a seat in the cabin of the Lord Mayor's barge, which lay there, till our own could be got off. At that early hour the guns had begun to fire, and the bells to ring, which they continued to do without intermission through the whole of the day.
The tide came up, and our bark at length floated. The voyage to Waterloo Bridge was on the point of being commenced, when, putting my hand in my pocket, I discovered with horror that my card of admission was not there. Had the “ crack of doom” been announced in that awful moment, I could hardly have known more .consternation than I now experienced. My home was distant at least three quarters of a mile. To go and return I had to pass over a mile and a half of ground. No hackney-coach was then to be found, and public cabs were at that period unborn. If I went home for my card, it was necessary that I should go and come on foot ; and before I cou'do this, I had reason to fear that the tide, and my companions who had been waiting for it, relentless as Old Time himself, would have carried away “the vessel of my hope,” which I had no expectation of being able to follow, to overtake, or to meet. On the other hand, to go with the barge, having no ticket to produce, would be useless, as I could anticipate no result but being turned back, while
friends were admitted. I had no alternative but to recover my card at the risk of losing the opportunity of using it, or to save my passage and lose my place. Whichever course I took the danger was great. As my mind fidgeted from one to the other alternative I felt that it was
"Only change of pain, A bítter change securer to secure;' but, desiring to choose the smaller of two evils, as, in the one case I had some chance of saving my distance, and, in the other, so it appeared to me, must of necessity be excluded from beholding what I had coveted to see, I did not hesitate long, but started for my home, having requested my friends not to move till my return, and received from them an equivocal assurance that they would attend to my request if I did not detain them too long.
Off I went in great haste, with the best disposition in the world to run, but so hampered with my sword dangling by my side, and my cocked hat—which was not the best fit in the world—tottering on my head, that I could not advance much faster than at my ordinary walking-pace. Under the most favourable circumstances I had abundant reason to dread that before I could travel a mile and a half my intended companions would proceed on their way; but I had another reason for being alarmed. Lest I should oversleep my. self, or to see Mr. H. T. in his court-dress, all the inmates of my house had remained out of their beds. I judged that they would be too happy at my exit to betake themselves to their repose. To with draw them from the arms of Morpheus would, as I feared, be a work of time, however vigorously I might agitate the knocker.
But I had the happiness to find this conjecture unfounded. The moment I entered the street in which my residence was situate, to my infinite comfort I saw a friend posted at the door, my card having been found,
awaiting my return. She-for it was a lady—ad. yanced to meet me, and with breathless eagerness I clutched the