Celebrated in Stitch: The Coronation of George VI

To mark the occasion of the Coronation of King Charles III – a look back at the celebration of his grandfather’s Coronation

King George VI and Queen Mary

This year, His Majesty King Charles III will be crowned in Westminster Abbey on the 6th of May, the occasion formalising his role as the head of the Church of England and marking the formal transfer of both title and powers from his mother Queen Elizabeth II.  Souvenirs of the occasion will abound: mugs, candles, t-shirts, and even a themed hamper or two can be easily ordered on-line.

Eighty six years ago, the country was celebrating the coronation of his grandfather, King George VI.  Papers and magazines promoted the occasion – and in the Embroidery world, needlewomen were encouraged to create their own souvenirs, with patterns appearing in magazines, along with free transfers and the ability to purchase pre-printed linen, ready to stitch.

Embroidery also played a notable part during George’s coronation.  Workers at the Royal School of Needlework had spent weeks embroidering both a canopy for the occasion, and working on the dress that Queen Mary wore.  The Queen’s dress was decorated with traditional designs embodying the national emblems of the UK, and the editorial in the April issue of ‘Needlewoman’ expressed the hope that it would ‘find it’s way to the London Museum to join the collection of Royal gowns which have been a source of inspiration to needlewomen for many years.’

That same editorial noted that both the King and Queen were interested in embroidery and were themselves engaged in working on chair covers, as were the Princess Royal and the Earl of Harewood.

It is only fitting that with such royal interest in needlework, needlewomen should commemorate this memorable Coronation year in stitchery.

Needlewoman Editorial April 1937
Fancy Needlework Illustrated no. 138: Coronation Sampler
Embroideress No 61: Coronation Sampler Design by Miss D. Milne

The Embroiderers’ Guild was among those celebrating.  The Embroideress Issue No 61 featured an article on Coronation Samplers, and had created three designs for the occasion, available as transfers, but also ready traced onto Old Bleach Linens.

THE scintillating decorations, the pageantry, to say nothing of the love and admiration displayed by the people for our Beloved King and Queen, produced a large number of topical Jubilee designs for decorative panels, and not a few good samplers. We are fortunate in being able to reproduce one as an illustration to the article on Coronation Samplers.

Editorial: The Embroideress issue 61
Coronation Sampler in Embroideress No 61. This piece was also featured on the front cover of the magazine

That April issue of ‘Needlewoman’ included patterns for several coronation themed samplers, including one designed for children, a striking embroidered cushion design, using the national floral emblems, and even a Coronation blotter cover, complete with heraldic lion.

Needlewoman April 1937: Coronation Cushion design
Needlewoman April 1937: Cover.

The cover of Needlewoman, like that of The Embroideress, was illustrated by a sampler based on the royal coat of arms.  A transfer for a similar design was given away free in issue no 138 of ‘Fancy Needlework Illustrated,’ and we have created a pdf of this design which can be downloaded free from this page and easily adapted for the celebrations this year.

Fancy Needlework Illustrated 1937: Transfer of a Coronation Coat of Arms

Even the manufacturers joined in the celebration.  This back cover of that issue of Fancy Needlework Illustrated sports an advertisement for Sylko ‘machine twist’ threads available in Coronation colours!

Back cover of Fancy Needlework Illustrated 1937

We send good wishes to King Charles and Queen Camilla for their momentous day.  Perhaps today’s embroiderers will be celebrating the event in stitch, just as those dedicated needlewomen did back in 1937.  Our members’ project to produce a stitched piece ‘Fit for a King’ will be exhibited at the Knitting and Stitching shows at Alexandra Palace (5-8 October) and Harrogate  (16-19 November). Do come along and see their interpretations.

Long live the King!

Classic Image / Alamy Stock Photo

George VI seen here with his grandson Prince Charles, on the Prince’s third birthday, 1951. George VI, Albert Frederick Arthur George, 1895 -1952. King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles Philip Arthur George) 1948. Heir apparent to the British throne as the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II. From The Queen Elizabeth Coronation Book, published 1953.