When King William IV died on June 20, 1837 Princess Victoria was just 18 years old and unmarried. When she died on January 22, 1901 few could remember back to her coronation.

Her son Prince Albert Edward succeeded to the throne at the age of 59 and his coronation was set for June 26, 1902 but had to be postponed just two days before the ceremony as he developed appendicitis and needed an emergency operation for peritonitis. He was named after his father, Prince Albert, and known in the family as Bertie, but was finally crowned King Edward VII on August 9, 1902.

Minnie Roberts was born in Epping in 1896 and she told me: “I can remember when Queen Victoria died and everyone talked about it. The newspaper had black all round it, and it was all about her life. Then we had the coronation of King Edward VII, but he was ill so it had to be put off. He was crowned king some time later. There was a celebration then, up on Epping Plain (of course, there were no trees there then) and I can remember running in a race, and I was winning ... and then I fell over, and I cried! I think there was a bonfire too.”

Vestry House Museum in Walthamstow has a printed programme for a Fête to be held in the grounds of Oak Hall, Buckhurst Hill, on Thursday, June 26, 1902. Elaborate arrangements were made for a day of celebration with a military band and procession through the village to Oak Hall (off Epping New Road) where the National Anthem would be sung. There was to be a dinner for old people and tea for school children who were to be given a meat pie. ‘Parents will be responsible for the custody of children after dismissal.’ There were athletic sports and many amusements such as roundabouts, swings, Punch & Judy etc all free for the children to enjoy. The day was to conclude with a display of fireworks (kindly supplied by Mr E.N.Buxton) and a huge bonfire. Commemorative medals (kindly provided by N Powell Esq) were to be given to the school children at their respective schools. One can imagine the consternation when all of this had to be postponed at such short notice!

When the day finally arrived King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, wearing their robes of state, rode in the state coach from Buckingham Palace, down the Mall via Whitehall to the west entrance of the abbey. They had a bodyguard representing all parts of the Imperial Dominions as celebrated by Queen Victoria at her Jubilee and the King was crowned their Emperor. Thousands lined the route, cheering and waving flags.

The service was shortened so that Edward was not too fatigued after his recent operation. It was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury who was elderly and almost blind so the prayers were printed in large letters on card for him. (He could have done with an autocue!) After Queen Alexandra had also been crowned and the royal couple had celebrated communion, they adjourned to replace their crowns with lighter ones and changed their robes. They then left the abbey by the West door to be greeted by the cheering multitude who sang the National Anthem. The royal procession returned to Buckingham Palace via Pall Mall, St James’s Street, Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner and Constitution Hill.

The Coronation of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was televised and people born after 1950 might remember it. The radiant smile of the young Queen with her handsome husband captured the hearts of the whole world. Like King Edward VII, her son has an impossible task in taking over from such a much-loved and respected lady, but we wish him and Queen Camilla a happy and glorious reign.

  • Georgina Green has been involved with local history in Redbridge, Waltham Forest and the Epping Forest area for 40 years and is the author of several local history books. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2021.