Coronations in our Collections

As King Charles III’s coronation approaches, we take a moment to reflect on the rich history of coronations in our collections. From the earliest days of official record keeping, to the illustrated newspapers of the 20th century, we have lots of interesting material documenting the ceremonies and celebrations surrounding these momentous occasions.

Some of the earliest material can be found in the London Gazette, which has published official accounts of every British monarch’s coronation for over 300 years. We have a complete collection of this historic newspaper, allowing visitors to touch the same copies that existed at the time of the Great Fire of London, the capture of Blackbeard, and the death of King Charles II.

Charles was the first British monarch whose death was announced in a newspaper and the Gazette in 1685 then provided a brief but detailed account of the coronation of James II and his wife Mary. It tells us that the Crown was “put on just at three of the clock in the afternoon, all the people shouted, the Drums and Trumpets sounded, and the Guns in St. James’s Park, and great Guns at the Tower were discharged, and all the Peers put on their Coronets.”

Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 warranted a special multiple-page supplement, which breaks down the ceremony into various sections and lists all those in attendance.  

The most extravagant coronation souvenir we hold is the ‘History of the Coronation of James II‘ printed in 1685. This lavishly illustrated book took so long to produce that it was only published two years after the coronation. The detailed engravings depict the full procession, crown jewels, and even the table settings. Alongside the illustrations are fascinating descriptions, for example that the King’s shoes were lined with crimson taffeta and the feast included mangos, caviar and 24 cold puffins!

Proclamations were another effective way of announcing important events to the public. We have a 1702 proclamation that was distributed stating that following the death of King William III ‘the Imperial crowns of England, Scotland, France and Ireland are solely and rightfully come to the high and mighty princess Anne of Denmark’.  We also hold a sermon preached by the Archbishop of York at Queen Anne’s coronation, which discusses the obligations of a sovereign to her people. John Sharp, the Archbishop of York was born in Bradford and attended Bradford Grammar School He had the reputation of being one of the most accomplished preachers of his day.

Coronations have always been big news and moving into the 20th century, there are many colourful illustrated newspapers and special editions from the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II. The Illustrated London News was the world’s first illustrated newspaper and was famous for its coverage of royal events. The Sphere was another illustrated paper and its coverage of Elizabeth II’s coronation included glossy black and white photographs and full-colour advertisements. Companies created royal themed adverts with curious results, for example, Capstan Cigarettes commissioning royal needleworkers to create an embroidery commemorating the Queen’s coronation.

Finally, our pamphlet collection contains local souvenirs, such as a programme for music in Roundhay Park and a souvenir programme for local festivities, demonstrating how Leeds has celebrated coronations in the past.

All of these items are available to view by appointment, providing an incredible opportunity to delve into the history of coronations in our collections. For more information please send us an email at

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