On 23rd April 1661, a decade after fleeing the country following defeat by Oliver Cromwell, Charles II was crowned king, heralding the restoration of the monarchy and the end of political turmoil. The Abbey was resplendently adorned in reds that day, and the finest of garments were worn by those privileged enough to witness such a display of royal grandeur—an experience they would likely not see again in their lifetime. Among those fortunate to attend this historic event was renowned diarist Samuel Pepys, who, having climbed atop some scaffolding in the Abbey, secured a unique vantage point to observe the dazzling ceremony. He later described in some detail the unforgettable day—and drunken evening that followed—in his diary.
The Diary Entry
23d. About 4 I rose and got to the Abbey, where I followed Sir J. Denham, the Surveyor, with some company that he was leading in. And with much ado, by the favour of Mr. Cooper, his man, did get up into a great scaffold across the North end of the Abbey, where with a great deal of patience I sat from past 4 till 11 before the King came in. And a great pleasure it was to see the Abbey raised in the middle, all covered with red, and a throne (that is a chair) and footstool on the top of it; and all the officers of all kinds, so much as the very fidlers, in red vests. At last comes in the Dean and Prebends of Westminster, with the Bishops (many of them in cloth of gold copes), and after them the Nobility, all in their Parliament robes, which was a most magnificent sight. Then the Duke, and the King with a scepter (carried by my Lord Sandwich) and sword and mond before him, and the crown too. The King in his robes, bare-headed, which was very fine. And after all had placed themselves, there was a sermon and the service; and then in the Quire at the high altar, the King passed through all the ceremonies of the Coronacon, which to my great grief I and most in the Abbey could not see. The crown being put upon his head, a great shout begun, and he came forth to the throne, and there passed more ceremonies: as taking the oath, and having things read to him by the Bishop; and his lords (who put on their caps as soon as the King put on his crown) and bishops come, and kneeled before him. And three times the King at Arms went to the three open places on the scaffold, and proclaimed, that if any one could show any reason why Charles Stewart should not be King of England, that now he should come and speak. And a Generall Pardon also was read by the Lord Chancellor, and meddalls flung up and down by my Lord Cornwallis, of silver, but I could not come by any. But so great a noise that I could make but little of the musique; and indeed, it was lost to every body. But I had so great a lust to…. that I went out a little while before the King had done all his ceremonies, and went round the Abbey to Westminster Hall, all the way within rayles, and 10,000 people, with the ground covered with blue cloth; and scaffolds all the way. Into the Hall I got, where it was very fine with hangings and scaffolds one upon another full of brave ladies; and my wife in one little one, on the right hand. Here I staid walking up and down, and at last upon one of the side stalls I stood and saw the King come in with all the persons (but the soldiers) that were yesterday in the cavalcade; and a most pleasant sight it was to see them in their several robes. And the King came in with his crown on, and his sceptre in his hand, under a canopy borne up by six silver staves, carried by Barons of the Cinque Ports, and little bells at every end. And after a long time, he got up to the farther end, and all set themselves down at their several tables; and that was also a brave sight: and the King’s first course carried up by the Knights of the Bath. And many fine ceremonies there was of the Heralds leading up people before him, and bowing; and my Lord of Albemarle’s going to the kitchin and eat a bit of the first dish that was to go to the King’s table. But, above all, was these three Lords, Northumberland, and Suffolk, and the Duke of Ormond, coming before the courses on horseback, and staying so all dinner-time, and at last to bring up [Dymock] the King’s Champion, all in armour on horseback, with his spear and targett carried before him. And a Herald proclaims “That if any dare deny Charles Stewart to be lawful King of England, here was a Champion that would fight with him;” and with these words, the Champion flings down his gauntlet, and all this he do three times in his going up towards the King’s table. At last when he is come, the King drinks to him, and then sends him the cup which is of gold, and he drinks it off, and then rides back again with the cup in his hand. I went from table to table to see the Bishops and all others at their dinner, and was infinitely pleased with it. And at the Lords’ table, I met with William Howe, and he spoke to my Lord for me, and he did give me four rabbits and a pullet, and so I got it and Mr. Creed and I got Mr. Michell to give us some bread, and so we at a stall eat it, as every body else did what they could get. I took a great deal of pleasure to go up and down, and look upon the ladies, and to hear the musique of all sorts, but above all, the 24 violins: About six at night they had dined, and I went up to my wife, and there met with a pretty lady (Mrs. Frankleyn, a Doctor’s wife, a friend of Mr. Bowyer’s), and kissed them both, and by and by took them down to Mr. Bowyer’s. And strange it is to think, that these two days have held up fair till now that all is done, and the King gone out of the Hall; and then it fell a-raining and thundering and lightening as I have not seen it do for some years: which people did take great notice of; God’s blessing of the work of these two days, which is a foolery to take too much notice of such things. I observed little disorder in all this, but only the King’s footmen had got hold of the canopy, and would keep it from the Barons of the Cinque Ports, which they endeavoured to force from them again, but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albemarle caused it to be put into Sir R. Pye’s’ hand till tomorrow to be decided. At Mr. Bowyer’s; a great deal of company, some I knew, others I did not. Here we staid upon the leads and below till it was late, expecting to see the fire-works, but they were not performed to-night: only the City had a light like a glory round about it with bonfires. At last I went to Kingstreet, and there sent Crockford to my father’s and my house, to tell them I could not come home tonight, because of the dirt, and a coach could not be had. And so after drinking a pot of ale alone at Mrs. Harper’s I returned to Mr. Bowyer’s, and after a little stay more I took my wife and Mrs. Frankleyn (who I proffered the civility of lying with my wife at Mrs. Hunt’s to-night) to Axe-yard, in which at the further end there were three great bonfires, and a great many great gallants, men and women; and they laid hold of us, and would have us drink the King’s health upon our knees, kneeling upon a faggot, which we all did, they drinking to us one after another. Which we thought a strange frolique; but these gallants continued thus a great while, and I wondered to see how the ladies did tipple. At last I sent my wife and her bedfellow to bed, and Mr. Hunt and I went in with Mr. Thornbury (who did give the company all their wine, he being yeoman of the wine-cellar to the King) to his house; and there, with his wife and two of his sisters, and some gallant sparks that were there, we drank the King’s health, and nothing else, till one of the gentlemen fell down stark drunk, and there lay spewing; and I went to my Lord’s pretty well. But no sooner a-bed with Mr. Shepley but my head began to hum, and I to vomit, and if ever I was foxed it was now, which I cannot say yet, because I fell asleep and slept till morning. Only when I waked I found myself wet with my spewing. Thus did the day end with joy every where; and blessed be God, I have not heard of any mischance to any body through it all, but only to Serjt. Glynne, whose horse fell upon him yesterday, and is like to kill him, which people do please themselves to see how just God is to punish the rogue at such a time as this; he being now one of the King’s Serjeants, and rode in the cavalcade with Maynard, to whom people wish the same fortune. There was also this night in King-street, [a woman] had her eye put out by a boy’s flinging a firebrand into the coach. Now, after all this, I can say that, besides the pleasure of the sight of these glorious things, I may now shut my eyes against any other objects, nor for the future trouble myself to see things of state and show, as being sure never to see the like again in this world.
This transcript has been taken directly from the 1893 edition of Pepys’ diary, as edited by Henry B. Wheatley, which can be read in its entirety over at Project Gutenberg. Text in square brackets was added not by me, but by Wheatley. This was already the sixth edition of his diary to be released, and for the first time it included passages that were previously considered too vulgar to publish, e.g. the section above, near the end, in which Pepys vomits all over himself.
I highly recommend visiting the Pepys Diary website, run by Phil Gyford. It contains everything you could wish to know about the diary, including the text of the diary itself and copious footnotes and extra information, and the website is a joy to browse. This particular entry can be found here.
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