Victoria became Queen of the British Empire on 20 June 1837 when her uncle, William IV, died. She was just 18. The coronation took place a year later at Westminster Abbey, on Thursday 28 June 1838.
Overall the day was considered a success, though the five-hour ceremony in the Abbey was criticised by many of those present as chaotic and under-rehearsed (critics included the MP Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), later Prime Minister). Victoria herself noted in her diary that the Archbishop of Canterbury placed a ring on the wrong finger, causing ‘the greatest difficulty in taking it off again, which I at last succeeded in doing, but not without great pain’.
Out in the streets, however, there was pageantry and entertainment for the 400,000 crowd, shown by the processional list of dignitaries and foreign ambassadors illustrated here. The road route for the coaches and entourage – used for all subsequent coronations – went from the newly-completed Buckingham Palace to the Abbey via Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly, St James's Street, Pall Mall, Charing Cross and Whitehall.
The weather was fine and the occasion good humoured, reported The Globe
, and for the ambassadors of the various countries attending, ‘a running comment on the policies of their respective governments was freely indulged in’ by the crowd.
The young woman’s reign was to last over sixty years, and the term ‘Victorian’ has come to denote the era of social, scientific, technical, artistic and moral change.