From the diary of King George V.
June 22nd, 1911
It was overcast and cloudy with some showers and a strongish cool breeze, but better for the people than great heat. Today was indeed a great and memorable day in our lives and one we can never forget, but it brought back to me many sad memories of 9 years ago, when the beloved Parents were crowned.
May and I left B.P. [Buckingham Palace] in the Coronation coach at 10.30 with 8 cream-coloured horses. There were over 50,000 troops lining the streets under the command of Lord Kitchener. There were hundreds of thousands of people who gave us a magnificent reception. The Service in the Abbey was most beautiful, but it was a terrible ordeal. It was grand, yet simple and most dignified and went without a hitch. I nearly broke down when dear David* came to do homage to me, as it reminded me so much when I did the same thing to beloved Papa, he did it so well. Darling May looked lovely and it was indeed a comfort to me to have her by my side, as she has been ever to me during these last eighteen years.
We left Westminster Abbey at 2.15 (having arrived there before 11.0) with our crowns on and sceptres in our hands. This time we drove by the Mall, St. James’ Street and Piccadilly, crowds enormous and decorations very pretty. On reaching B.P. just before 3.0 May and I went out on the balcony to show ourselves to the people. Downey photographed us in our robes with Crowns on.
Had some lunch with our guests here. Worked all the afternoon with Bigge and others answering telegrams and letters of which I have had hundreds. Such a large crowd collected in front of the Palace that I went out on the balcony again. Our guests dined with us at 8.30. May and I showed ourselves again to the people. Wrote and read. Rather tired. Bed at 11.45. Beautiful illuminations everywhere.
‘King George the Fifth, His Life and Reign’, Harold Nicolson. Constable, 1952.
Quoted in ‘They Saw it Happen 1897 – 1940’, compiled by Asa Briggs. Basil Blackwell, 1960.
* David was one of a list of names for eldest son Edward, later to abdicate in 1936 as Edward VIII, and was the one used by his family.
Downey’s photograph “with Crowns on” from the National Portrait Gallery.