CORONATION OF EDWARD VII 1902
Queen Victoria died on January 22nd 1901, whereupon her eldest son Edward immediately became King and Emperor of India.
The Coronation of Edward VII and that of his wife Alexandra was planned to take place in the following year, on June 26th 1902, and the nation’s towns and villages accordingly made elaborate preparations for celebrating the event on that day.
In Effingham the Parish Council began planning in May, committing to raising money for the event from the parishioners, but by voluntary subscription only:
Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of the Parish Council
on May 17th 1902:
It [was] moved by Mr Brown seconded by Mr Tyrrell that a public subscription should be raised in the Parish for the purpose of Celebrating the Coronation of King Edward VII. No rate should be levied for that purpose. Unanimous.
It was proposed by Mr Bristol seconded by Mr Brown that a Parish Meeting be called on May the 26th at 7.30 p.m. to take in consideration the best way of Celebrating the Coronation of King Edward the VII. The clerk [to] get 25 bill[s] printed for publication of meeting – carried.
C. E. Lambert
Effingham’s National School (later St Lawrence) was also making plans. The head teacher now was Mr William Blaxland, successor to Mr Jestyn Griffiths. In the school’s log book he recorded on June 16th that the school would close for a week for the celebrations:
School Log Book 1862–1923
Entry on June 16th 1902:
Many children absent on account of wet weather & illness.
Rev E F Bayly visited the school in company with another clergyman on Tuesday. The weather being finer there is much better attendance. Elem. Sc. lesson on ‘Clouds’.
To celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII the school will be closed next week as requested by his Majesty.
Just a few days before the expected Coronation the local newspaper published details of the celebrations scheduled to take place in Effingham and nearby villages. For Effingham the published Programme was as follows:
Meat tea to the parishioners; sports and amusements; torchlight procession; fireworks and bonfire.
Then, to huge disappointment across the nation and, indeed, the Empire, it was officially announced on June 24th that the King had been taken ill with an inflamed abdominal cyst and had been operated on: the Coronation had been postponed.
Large delegations had arrived from abroad to take part in the formal proceedings and would now have to return home. In Britain there were many who had invested, and now stood to lose, significant amounts of money to rent sites along the processional route and to provide various services to the spectators. Later, very many cases would pass through the courts in pursuit of compensation for these losses.
In many towns and villages planned events were replaced or supplemented by hastily devised church services to pray for the King’s recovery, and much pragmatism deployed to adapt arrangements to the changed circumstances. In other cases planned local celebrations were postponed altogether, as was the case in Effingham. Below is Mr Blaxland’s log book entry on June 30th where he notes that all festivities had been postponed but the children had nevertheless been given “cake & oranges etc.”
Nearby Ranmore provided an example of adapting activities to retain a degree of festivity, as seen in the cutting on the right.
Back in Effingham special Coronation cups and plates had been obtained. Mr Blaxland recorded that on July 7th some of these had been distributed to the children:
A new date was fixed for the Coronation – August 9th. For whatever reason, Effingham staged its own celebration a little earlier, on July 31st, as shown by the following entry in the Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Parish Council held on August 2nd:
Evidently things had gone well, although we do not know what took place; the festivities may have followed their original intended course or may have been re-planned.
The Coronation itself was a sumptuous affair, albeit scaled down to be an essentially national event rather than, as had been intended, a widely international one. At Westminster Abbey the service was watched by nearly ten thousand people and enlivened by a choir of over 4oo singers and a full orchestra.
The Coronation Service as painted by Edwin Austin Abbey.
King Edward and Queen Alexandra on the day of the Coronation.
The Service was followed by a great Procession of State made by several tens of thousands of people.
We have no images of the Coronation celebrations in Effingham or nearby villages, but some photographs survive showing the festivities in Guildford. A sample is shown below of several that were published by the Guildford historian David Rose on The Guildford Dragon website in May 2012. Use the button to view the full-size images and his article.