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Drawings supplied to Soane in preparation for the coronation of George IV (12)

As the Attached Architect with responsibility for Westminster and Whitehall it was expected that Soane would oversee the preparation of Westminster Hall and Abbey for the coronation of George IV. The coronation was to be modelled on those of James II (r.1685-8) and George III (r.1760-1820), with a procession from Westminster Hall to the Abbey and then a return to the Hall for the coronation banquet.* On 1 March 1820 B. C. Stephenson, Surveyor-General of the Office of Works, sent Soane copies of "all plans in this office, that relate to the preparations for coronations in Westminster Hall and Abbey". It is not always clear to which coronation each drawing relates.

Two months after despatching the drawings the Office of Works had still received no response from Soane and Stephenson was forced to direct Robert Browne and John William Hiort to conduct the necessary works. Soane's inaction might have been related to a dispute about Buckingham House, which had been given over to his fellow Attached Architect, John Nash, despite explicitly coming within Soane's area of jurisdiction. He later claimed that his failure to act was due to the fact that he had never received explicit authority to do so, and that he had indeed prepared designs but that these had never been called for. This explanation seems unlikely; no designs survive at Sir John Soane's Museum.

George IV's coronation - a famously ostentatious affair - took place on 19 July 1821, having been postponed due to the trial of the king's estranged wife, Queen Caroline (q.v. London: Palace of Westminster: House of Lords: alterations and additions, 1817-28: Alterations to the House of Lords to increase accommodation for the trial of Queen Caroline, 1820).

*James II's coronation "was performed on so extensive a plan, that, says a writer upon this subject in the year 1761, 'it was, questionless, designed for the model of all future Coronations, and accordingly, by the King's express command, was recorded in the most pompous manner, which has been followed, with little variation, in the several Coronations since'." (Thomson, pp. iv-v).

Literature:
F. Sandford, The History of the Coronation of... James II, 1687; R. Thomson, A Faithful Account of the Coronation of... King George the Third, 1820; R. Huish, An Authentic History of the Coronation of His Majesty, King George the Fourth, 1821; G. de Bellaigue, "A royal mise-en-scene: George IV's coronation banquet", Furniture History, 29, 1993, pp. 174-83

Tom Drysdale, November 2014
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