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Happy and Glorious: Coronations at The Whitaker

With King Charles III’s coronation being celebrated across the country this weekend, our wonderful team have been looking through some past coronation items in our collection to see how the local area has signified these historically momentous occasions.

We found some fascinating objects including these wonderfully ornate printed fabrics; one a commemorative headscarf for the coronation of George V in 1911 and the second a handkerchief commemorating the coronation of George VI in 1937.

They both include the colours of the nation; red white and blue as well as gold to show the link to royalty and in the middle we see formal portraits of the Kings and Queens.

These images also show some brightly coloured commemorative ceramics. These represent the various souvenir items that were made and how people wanted to mark the occasions through objects. These also showcase the diverse range of ceramics and glassware collections that we hold at The Whitaker.

However, as much as we were delighted to find these objects, our search also uncovered a group of photographs that unexpectedly caught our attention!

These portray local workers in a shoe factory in Rossendale. The contrast between the black and white images and the brightly decorated coronation celebratory items really struck us, and the grand portraits of the Kings and Queens we had just seen suddenly seemed to look distant and posed, whilst the photographs of these workers were candid and real.

With the coronation being a significant and historical event likely to be remembered and celebrated into the future, it made us wonder about how much we remember of the everyday lives of the people in these photographs and what they considered important to them.

For example, it can be inferred that the people of Rossendale enjoyed celebrating coronations as can be seen in the Borough of Bacup’s souvenir programmes in which we discovered people were holding processions and performances to mark the occasions and this photograph showing a tram and decorated shopfront which show some revelry associated with the event.

However, the programmes and photographs also highlight a sense of duty to the royals which introduces a question around who really serves who and why?

Indeed, these contrasting items force us at The Whitaker to ask who the coronations are really for, who do they benefit and the extent to which the structure of society serves ordinary people, like those in these images.

In our current society which is facing a cost of living crisis we can ask is the coronation as ‘Happy and Glorious’ for the every-day people as we are led to believe?

We are so pleased to hold such varied and engaging collections at The Whitaker that can spark debate and discussion. We hope that you enjoy the Bank Holiday coronation weekend.

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