King Charles III’s coronation will occur in Westminster Abbey on the 6th of May, 2023.
The coronation service is almost 1000 years old and has been largely unchanged during that time.
Since 1066, every single monarch of England has been crowned in Westminster Abbey….all apart from two.
Which Kings were never crowned and why?
King Edward V
Edward V is better known as the elder of the two Princes in the Tower.
Immediately on the death of his father, King Edward IV, on the 9th of April 1483, the young Edward V became King. He was just twelve years of age.
As Prince of Wales, young Edward was at Ludlow Castle at the time of his father’s unexpected death. It was traditional then for the heir to the throne to learn the art of Kingship at Ludlow.
Edward IV wanted his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to act as a regent for the young king in the event of his death.
However, Edward IV’s widow, Queen Elizabeth Woodville, had other ideas.
She wanted Richard to have no part in the role of her son.
There then became a race to secure the person of the young king.
Elizabeth Woodville was in the driving seat. Edward V was under the care of her brother, Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers. When news reached Ludlow of the old King’s death, arrangements were made for Edward V to go to London.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was up in York. Richard basically held the north for his brother and acted almost as a king in the North.
News reached Richard of his brothers’ death, and he also headed South. He intercepted the young king’s party at Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire. He dined with the King, Lord Rivers and Richard Grey (Elizabeth Woodville’s son from her first marriage) that evening. The following morning Richard arrested the Woodvilles and secured his nephew.
Richard’s argument was that he was simply obeying his dead brother’s wishes.
He took the young king to the Tower of London. Initially, there was nothing suspicious about this. It was normal for Kings of England to reside in the Tower before their coronation at Westminster Abbey. By this stage, the Tower of London had not yet achieved its grizzly status and was more like a royal palace than a prison.
Gloucester managed to secure the young king’s brother Richard, Duke of York. The two boys were now in the Tower.
Plans for the coronation of Edward V went ahead. But delay after delay occurred.
On 22nd June, a preacher gave a sermon in London stating the old king, Edward IV, had a pre-contract to marry Eleanor Butler. This meant the King’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid, and therefore their children were illegitimate.
On the 25th of June, an assembly of Lords and Commons declared Gloucester to be the legitimate King.
A coronation occurred at Westminster Abbey in 1483, but it wasn’t of Edward V. It was for Richard III.
The fate of the young Princes in the Tower (always a strange term, as one was the King of England) has never been resolved. Bones were found in a chest in the Tower during the reign of Charles II. They were declared to be the remains of the Princes. If this is true or not, we don’t know. There has been recent speculation that King Charles III might allow DNA testing to take place on the bones. However, even if they can be formally identified as Edward V and his brother, it won’t resolve the mystery of who killed them.
After the death of his father, King George V, on 20th January 1936 at Sandringham House, the new king was Edward VIII.
However, there was soon a problem. He wanted to marry his lover, the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
During his time as Prince of Wales, Edward VIII was followed by Special Branch (the UK equivalent to the FBI) to monitor his activities with Simpson. The fact that Wallis Simpson was a divorcee was a matter of concern. Back then, divorcees were never received at court (crazy, considering the history of certain monarchs in the past – notably, King Henry VIII.)
Special Branch also discovered that unknown to Edward VIII, Wallis was having an affair with Guy Trundle, who is sometimes described as a used car salesman. The German ambassador had also developed an obsession with her and sent her daily gifts of flowers.
Of course, Simpson was already married. She had already been divorced once and now filed for divorce again to marry Edward VIII.
The government would not allow the marriage of Edward VIII to Simpson to take place.
Edward VIII found this situation intolerable.
By this stage, plans for King Edward’s coronation ceremony were already well advanced. It was due to occur in Westminster Abbey on the 12th of May, 1937. Souvenirs were produced and were on sale.
In view of the government’s refusal to allow him to marry the woman that he loved, Edward VIII abdicated the throne on 11th December 1936. It was the first time in British History that the King had taken this action willingly.
This resulted in Edward’s younger brother becoming king. He became known as King George VI
He never expected to be King. At times he found the role challenging due to a speech impediment that has been well documented in films such as the King’s speech. He was also forced to deal with the consequences of the Second World War. His daughter became Elizabeth II.
As opposed to the crowning of Edward VIII on 12th May 1937, George VI was crowned alongside his wife, Elizabeth.
Others who were never crowned
There are, of course, some other monarchs who have not been crowned in England. However, they have never been officially recognised as monarchs.
Lady Jane Grey
Lady Jane Grey is probably the most famous of the rest.
Jane is known as the nine-day queen. After the death of King Henry VIII’s only male heir, Edward VI, attempts were made to put Lady Jane Grey, Edward’s cousin, on the throne. This was as opposed to allowing the crown to pass to the rightful heir, Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary.
This was done purely for religious and political reasons. However, the attempted coup failed, and Jane Grey is no longer recognised as being a real Monarch of England. Mary I’s reign is dated from the death of her brother.
Jane Grey was, of course, never crowned.
The Empress Matilda
Matilda was the daughter of Henry I. After Henry’s death, she had a rightful claim to the crown. Henry’s son and heir and Matilda’s brother, William Adelin, died in the White Ship disaster of 1120.
Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois arrived back in England and managed to get himself crowned King before she had arrived in the country.
She didn’t give up hope there was a long and brutal Civil War in England called The Anarchy.
Matilda’s forces captured King Stephen, and she tried to be crowned at Westminister Abbey. However, the London crowds were riotous. There was a fear for her safety, and so the coronation was cancelled. Matilda was never crowned.
The situation was ultimately resolved with the agreement that Matilda’s son, Henry, would take the throne after Stephen.