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Quirk of history

Sorry your majesty: no ticket, no admission

Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation, by Charles Robert Leslie

Coronation planners have had to deal with their fair share of last-minute hiccups, says Smithsonian Magazine. George IV’s estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, tried to gatecrash his 1821 coronation, but was told rather brusquely by a doorman: “No ticket, no admission.” Victoria’s 1838 coronation was so “badly rehearsed” that a bishop mistakenly told the Queen the service was over too soon – she had to be “hastily retrieved” by a red-faced official – before accidentally wedging the coronation ring on the wrong finger. At the end of the service, “an elderly nobleman fell down the steps of the throne while paying homage”.

Her son’s wasn’t much better, says Tatler. King Edward VII was diagnosed with appendicitis just two days before his coronation in 1902 – “by any standard, the most shockingly bad timing”. When the ceremony eventually went ahead six weeks later, the ageing and almost blind Archbishop of Canterbury could barely read the prayers. After appearing to drop the crown, he eventually managed to place it on the King’s head – but got it the wrong way round.

⛴️😵‍💫 The final event of George VI’s coronation in May 1937 was the royal review of the naval fleet, off the coast of Portsmouth. To provide commentary, the BBC hired a former lieutenant commander called Thomas Woodrooffe, who prepared for his big moment with a heavy drinking session. In the four minutes before a panicky BBC producer faded him out, the drunken sailor roved between repetition (“it’s lit up by fairy lamps”), mumbling, and sudden bursts of shouting (“The fleet’s gone! It’s disappeared!”). Listen here.