Marble Arch and the Coronation Processions

The Marble Arch has a long coronation tradition, hosting processions of monarchs for well over 100 years.

John Nash (1752-1835) began designing Marble Arch in 1826, to serve as a grand gateway to an expanded Buckingham Palace and an exuberant celebration of British victories in the Napoleonic Wars – a Triumphal Arch. Marble Arch stood as the formal gateway to Buckingham Palace for 17 years, but in 1850 the decision was taken to move Marble Arch to its current location.

It is often said that Marble Arch was removed from Buckingham Palace because it was too narrow to accommodate Queen Victoria’s State Coach. In fact, Queen Victoria’s coronation procession passed easily through the Arch as it left Buckingham Palace on its way to Westminster Abbey in 1838. King George VI’s coronation procession in 1937 and Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation procession in 1953 also travelled safely through the Arch in its new location at the top of Hyde Park.

The Coronation of George VI

A controversial coronation

In one of the most controversial coronations to take place, George VI ascended the throne upon the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, on 11 December 1936. King George VI had spent his entire life believing his brother would become king, but when his brother met Wallis Simpson, the course of history changed forever as he abdicated the throne in 1936 so he could marry the woman he loved. Edward’s coronation had been planned for 12 May 1937 and it was decided to continue with his brother and sister-in-law’s coronation on the same date.

A display of the British Empire

The event was designed to be not only a sacred anointing and formal crowning, but also a public spectacle and a display of the British Empire. Celebrations in May 1937 included a programme of royal events lasting nearly the entire month to commemorate and mark the occasion.

The first coronation procession to be filmed

The Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937 was the first coronation procession to be filmed, as well as the first to be broadcast on radio, although the BBC’s cameras were not allowed inside Westminster Abbey and covered only the procession outside. The BBC deployed three cameras – half the total number it owned at that point – each side of Apsley Gate. The control van was nearby, with a second van on stand-by with a wireless link to Alexandra Palace, in case any of the cables failed.

The procession

The coronation was followed by a procession through London’s streets from Westminster Abbey to the Royal residence. From Westminster Abbey, it passed around Parliament Square and up the Victoria Embankment and then along Northumberland Avenue, into Trafalgar Square, up Cockspur Street through to Pall Mall; from there, the procession went up St James’ Street, joining Piccadilly, then up Regent Street, then west along Oxford Street, before turning past Marble Arch and then down East Carriage Road, alongside Hyde Park; from there, the procession passed through Hyde Park Corner and then through Wellington Arch, on to Constitution Hill and then back into Buckingham Palace.

Marble Arch and the Coronation Processions

Map of the Coronation Procession of King George VI.

The Coronation of Elizabeth II


The one-day ceremony took 14 months of preparation and was estimated to cost £1.57 million (c. £41,710,000 in 2019), which included stands along the procession route to accommodate 96,000 people, lavatories, street decorations, outfits, car hire, repairs to the state coach, and alterations to the Queen’s regalia.

The procession

The procession included foreign royalty and heads of state riding to Westminster Abbey in various carriages, so many that volunteers ranging from wealthy businessmen to rural landowners were required to supplement the insufficient ranks of regular footmen.

The first royal coach left Buckingham Palace and moved down the Mall, which was filled with flag-waving and cheering crowds. It was followed by the Irish State Coach carrying Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Queen Elizabeth II proceeded through London from Buckingham Palace, through Trafalgar Square, and towards the abbey in the Gold State Coach drawn by eight grey geldings. The Royal Mews staff placed a hot water bottle under the coach’s seat to keep the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh warm.

The return procession followed a route that was 4.5 miles (7.2 km) in length, passing along Whitehall, across Trafalgar Square, along Pall Mall and Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner, via Marble Arch and Oxford Circus, down Regent Street and Haymarket, and finally along the Mall to Buckingham Palace. 29,000 service personnel from Britain and across the Commonwealth marched in a procession that was 2 miles (3.2 km) long and took 45 minutes to pass any given point. A further 15,800 lined the route. 

The flypast

After the end of the procession, the royal family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a flypast. The flypast had been altered on the day due to the bad weather, but otherwise took place as planned. 168 jet fighters flew overhead in three divisions thirty seconds apart, at an altitude of 1,500 feet.

Marble Arch and the Coronation Processions

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Marble Arch, London

Marble Arch and the Coronation Processions

The Queen's carriage passes through Marble Arch. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty Images.

Marble Arch and the Coronation Processions

Map of the Coronation Procession of Queen Elizabeth II, from souvenir programme. HMSO London.

10 Fascinating Facts About British Coronations

1. Coronations have been held at Westminster Abbey for over 950 years.

When Edward the Confessor had Westminster Abbey built in 1050, he probably didn’t realise that it would become the site for all future British coronations. The first documented coronation at Westminster was that of William the Conqueror on 25 December 1066. King Charles III will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned in May 2023.

2. Westminster Abbey gets a makeover for each new monarch.

Interior furnishings and temporary external extensions are necessary upgrades for Westminster Abbey. Additions to the Abbey include an annexe and additional seating designed to accommodate all the extra guests. The annexe for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation featured all the animals from her heraldry, and special grandstands had to be built within the Abbey to accommodate all 8,000 of her guests.

3. Only three British monarchs have not had a coronation.

In 950 years since the first recorded coronation, there have only been three monarchs who have not had a coronation. The first, Edward V, was locked in the Tower of London with his younger brother. Missing and presumed to have been murdered by their uncle, Richard III, the princes disappeared before the ceremony.
The next monarch not to receive a coronation was Lady Jane Grey, who inherited the throne from her cousin Edward VI. Named in his will as his legitimate heir, Lady Jane Grey had originally arrived at the Tower of London to prepare for her coronation only to find herself a prisoner of Edwards’s older sister, Mary. Ruling for just nine days, six months after arriving at the Tower as a queen, Lady Jane Grey was executed for high treason.
The final monarch without a coronation was Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne following a scandalous love affair with Wallis Simpson. His brother, George VI, ascended to the throne in his place and was coronated on the same date that had been planned for Edward’s inaugural ceremony.

4. In the 18th and 19th centuries, public spectacle sometimes overshadowed religious significance.

At George III’s coronation some of the congregation began to eat a meal during the sermon.
George IV’s coronation was a great theatrical occasion but he flatly refused to allow his estranged wife Caroline to enter the Abbey.
William IV had to be persuaded to have a coronation at all and spent so little money on it that it became known as ‘the penny coronation’.
With Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838 came a renewed appreciation of the true religious meaning of the ceremony.

5. Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first to be televised.

King George VI’s coronation ceremony itself was not televised as the BBC’s cameras were not allowed inside Westminster Abbey, but it the first coronation procession to be filmed and the first coronation service to be broadcast on radio. 
Following her father, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation brought the ceremony into the homes of the general public by being the first to be televised on 2 June 1953. Most homes before the coronation had no television and many people bought or rented a television for this special occasion. 27 million people in the UK (out of the 36 million population) watched the ceremony on television and 11 million listened on the radio.

6. Some people who attended Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation had witnessed several of the prior coronations.

Some guests in the Abbey witnessed their fourth coronation. For instance, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Marie Louise, also saw the Coronations of King Edward VII in 1902, King George V in 1911 and the Queen’s father, King George VI in 1937.

7. We can thank Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation for Eurovision.

The first major world event to be broadcast live, the coronation was also shown across Europe thanks to new relay links. The success of this test broadcast went on to inspire the birth of the Eurovision Network, which eventually led to the creation of the Eurovision Song Contest.

8. Coronation Chicken was invented for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation.

If you’ve ever wondered why Coronation Chicken has that name, the dish was invented by florist Constance Spry for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation. Designed to appeal to foreign guests and with it having to be prepared in advance, Constance suggested a dish of cold chicken in a creamy curry sauce along with rice, mixed herbs and green peas. After getting the approval of the Minister of Works, it has since been known as the dish we know today – Coronation Chicken. However, the famous dish wasn’t actually served to the Queen as part of her Coronation day banquet. Instead, she had a more simple menu of soup, steak and salad, followed by ice cream.

9. Not every coronation has gone to plan.

Queen Victoria’s coronation was nicknamed ‘the last of the botched coronations’ as so many things went wrong that a special committee of historians was tasked with drawing up a more regimented plan for future monarchs to follow.
Hiccups on the day included the archbishop having to painfully force the coronation ring on her finger because it had accidentally been made too small, elderly peer Lord Rolle falling down the stairs, and a bishop announcing the end of the ceremony at the wrong moment.

10. While the British monarchy has a number of crowns, the most important is St. Edward’s Crown.

It is used only at the moment of crowning during the coronation. The original crown was believed to have belonged to Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. However, it was destroyed during the English Civil Wars, so—as with most of the original regalia—a replacement had to be made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661. Fragments from the original were reportedly used.
The current St. Edward’s Crown consists of a solid gold frame with four crosses pattée and four fleurs-de-lis—nods to the original—and arches surmounted by a cross. For past coronations the frame was fitted with rented jewels, but in 1911 George V had it permanently set with semiprecious stones, including rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes, and tourmalines. The crown is finished with a velvet purple cap and an ermine band. It weighs nearly 5 pounds (2.23 kg).
The original design for the replacement was for a much simpler crown. However, Charles II wanted an extravagant coronation to mark the restoration of the monarchy and demanded a crown that fit the occasion.
As per tradition, King Charles III will be crowned with St Edward’s Crown during the Coronation Service at Westminster Abbey.

Marble Arch marks the Coronation of King Charles III on 6 May 2023 with a majestic crown installation.

To celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III, Marble Arch London BID has installed a giant 16ft bespoke replica of the St Edward’s Crown that forms a key element in the ceremony on Saturday 6 May 2023.

The Marble Arch crown weighs 300kg and features 36 different coloured glass stones. The giant replica is also adorned with lights which will create a stunning illuminated display during the evening.

Displayed at Marble Arch until Thursday 11 May, the bespoke crown has been designed to represent the current St Edward’s Crown – made for King Charles II in 1661 – which will be placed on King Charles III’s head by the Archbishop of Canterbury towards the end of the Coronation ceremony.

The replica crown is located at Marble Arch, near Speakers’ Corner, a short stroll through Hyde Park to the screening site where the ceremony and procession will be shown on four large screens on Saturday 6 May.

Visitors are encouraged to share photos of the Marble Arch crown on social media using the hashtag #MarbleArchCrown and can scan the QR code around the installation to learn more about Marble Arch’s royal connections.

To celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III, Marble Arch London BID has installed a giant 16ft bespoke replica of the St Edward’s Crown that forms a key element in the ceremony on Saturday 6 May 2023.

Local restaurants & pubs

Feeling hungry (or thirsty!) after your royal visit to the Marble Arch Crown? Discover the best restaurants, pubs and cafes near Marble Arch with our Marble Arch Loyalty Scheme, in partnership with the LoyalFree App.  Search for ‘LoyalFree’ on the App Store or Google Play to download the app.

The app features exclusive deals and discounts from nearby eateries and pubs including:

Restaurants & pubs:

  • BKC Biryani Kebab Chai, 7 Edgware Rd, Tyburnia, London W2 2ER
  • Chourangi, 3 Old Quebec St, London W1H 7AF
  • The Gate Marylebone, 22-24 Seymour Pl, London W1H 7NL
  • Hard Rock Cafe Oxford Street, Great Cumberland Pl, Marble Arch, London W1H 7DL
  • The Italian Greyhound, 62 Seymour St, London W1H 5BN
  • Duke of Kendal, 38 Connaught St, London W2 2A
  • The Portman, 51 Upper Berkeley St, London W1H 7QW


  • Coffee by Real Eating Co, 15 Great Cumberland Pl, London W1H 7AS
  • Creams Cafe Marble Arch, 76 Edgware Road, Paddington, London, W2 2EG
  • So French, 21 Seymour Pl, London W1H 5BH
  • T by Tamara, 17 Seymour Pl, London W1H 5BF
  • Le Pain Quotidien, 30-31 Kendal St, London W2 2AW
  • The Gentlemen Baristas, 5 Marble Arch, London W1H 7EJ

Explore more restaurants, bars and cafes in our Eating Out Guide.