From Queen Victoria to the coronation that never was — a journey through Royal coronations in Tyneside museums
In association with Luxe Magazine. By Victoria Page, Communications Officer.
On Saturday 6 May 2023 the world will witness one of the most significant historical events of the last century in the UK — the coronation of King Charles III.
Preparations are well underway, and we’ve all heard about the conservation of the medieval mosaic where the throne will sit, the provenance of the vegan oil used to anoint the new King, the suspension of the golden carriage and where the street parties are planned.
This national event is sending ripples through communities, provoking discussion and festive anticipation. For some it’s a holiday from work, for others a landmark event which displays tradition, continuity and the start of a new era.
The world — and its technology — has evolved since Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 and the potential exposure of this key moment is unprecedented, with a new crown emoji unveiled recently.
One thing that doesn’t seem to change is the public’s appetite for commemorative memorabilia. The museums and galleries of Tyneside house several objects commemorating Royal Family members, weddings and coronations as far back as Queen Victoria.
Curiously, there’s also memorabilia for a coronation that never was — a consequence of the dramatic abdication of the late Queen’s uncle, King Edward VIII.
The earliest coronation object Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums cares for is an earthenware mug from 1838 commemorating the coronation of Queen Victoria, decorated with mottled pink lustre, portraits of the young Queen Victoria and the crown.
For Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, world famous glassworks Sowerby, in Gateshead, produced this commemorative bowl. Commemorative items were big business for many manufacturers. This bowl has moulded decorations of patriotic symbols and the names of British Empire territories. You can see this on display in Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery.
This black and white photograph of a grocer’s shop on South Frederick Street, South Shields shows how the shop was decorated for Edward VII’s coronation in 1902.
For the first time, in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, chocolate manufacturers Cadbury’s produced a commemorative chocolate tin — and it’s a tradition they’ve since continued (this year they have partnered with Fry’s chocolate for King Charles III’s coronation.)
One of the more unusual pieces of memorabilia is this miniature Bible, produced to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1911. The text is tiny, but legible; it came with a miniature magnifying glass to make it easier to read.
When Edward VIII became king on the death of his father George V, the coronation preparations began; however, this monarch abdicated from the throne before the national celebration. This glass mug was produced by Sowerby’s of Gateshead for the coronation that never was.
World famous Maling pottery was produced in the North East for just over 200 years, originally founded in Sunderland in 1762 by the Malin family, Protestant Huguenots who had fled religious persecution. The ‘Malings’ transferred to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1817, and in the early 20th century refined their outputs, employing in-house artists to hand paint pottery pieces. This earthenware urn celebrates the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Another cherished local North East company Ringtons produced this tea caddy to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It depicts the young Queen and her husband Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth II was the longest reigning monarch in the history of the UK, marking her Platinum Jubilee in June 2022.
Did you know — for 11 years the country currently defined as the UK had no monarch? Charles I was executed by Republicans led by Oliver Cromwell, who held ‘Lord Protector’ status from 1653–1658, until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. A copy of Oliver Cromwell’s death mask can be seen on display in Discovery Museum.