Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Question: Court Mourning and Coronation planning

What is the mourning length the british government do have to wait when a monarch dies to crown the next king or queen? What are the steps to the next coronation please?
Thanks for your question.

There are four categories of mourning - general, court, service or family.

General Mourning: A period of mourning to be observed by the general public but nowadays usually restricted to the death of the Sovereign, lasting only a few days until the funeral. Formally adopted for other members of the royal family and sometimes lasting several weeks

Court Mourning. Observed by members of the Royal Family, Households of the Royal Family, The Queen's representatives both at home and abroad and their staffs. With instructions on dress codes and official and social engagements prescribed. But length of court mourning varies. In King George VI's case it lasted from his death, February 6th, 1952 until May 31, 1952.

Service mourning: Observed by the Armed Services on the death of the Sovereign

Family mourning Observed by the Royal Family and by Households of the royal family when in personal attendance only.

The length of mourning varies greatly. Queen Victoria practically made mourning into an art form, mourning her husband Prince Albert for 40 years. Mourning could go on for months, sometimes up to a year in the case of the death of a Sovereign, during which time the court would move through degrees of mourning (full to half-mourning) with strict provisions for appropriate attire and social engagements for both the royal court and for the public. At the time of Queen Victoria's death court mourning was prescribed to last until January 24, 1902. The public was directed to wear deep mourning until March 6th, 1901 and half-mourning until April 17, 1901.Nowadays the period is significantly reduced and the length of time for public mourning and appropriate attire is left up to the individual.

Funerals are arranged through the Lord Chamberlands office. Funerals of sovereigns are organized by the Earl Marshall who is also responsible for the Coronation arrangements. The coronation of the new Sovereign follows some months after his or her accession. The length of time vs the date of Coronation probably has more to do with the complex planning involved than with any particular period of mourning. Some examples of the length of time between accession and coronation are:

Queen Victoria: Acceded to the throne on June 20, 1837. Coronation held on June 28, 1838

King Edward VII : He became King upon the death of his mother, Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901. His Coronation was planned for June 26, 1902 but postponed to August 9, 1902 following an attack of appendicitis which required an emergency operation.

King George V: Date of accession May 6, 1910. Coronation June 22, 1911

King Edward VIII succeed to the throne on January 20, 1936. He abdicated while his coronation was being planned. The date for this was May 12, 1937. Upon his abdication on December 11, 1936, his younger brother became King George VI. Instead of postponing the coronation, the date was kept the same.

Queen Elizabeth II - Date of accession February 6, 1952. Date of Coronation June 2, 1953.

Examples of current length of royal mourning. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother died on March 30th, 2002. Her funeral on was on April 9th and members of the royal family observed mourning until April 19th. Her daughter, Princess Margaret, died on February 9th 2002 and mourning was observed from that date to the day of her funeral February 15, 2002.

As for the preparation surrounding coronations, the official site is your best resource.

For more information on Coronations, you might find the following book useful: Coronation: From the 8th to the 21st Century by Roy Strong

Thanks again for your question

© Marilyn Braun 2008

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