Coronation Mugs

The tradition of souvenir coronation mugs dates back at least to the coronation of King Charles II in 1660. England had had a civil war and was effectively a republic under Oliver Cromwell, although the monarchy was never technically abolished. The monarchy was restored as a constitutional monarchy with less power. Coronation mugs were originally made for drinking a loyal toast to the new king. Very few survive. However, last year, one turned up at a car boot sale in north Buckinghamshire and was bought for £2. The new owner thought it might be worth a few bob more! He sold it for £14,808 at Claydon Auctioneers near Buckingham.


Receiving a commemorative royal mug, marking a Coronation or Jubilee, has long been part of the tradition of local schools. Generations of local people have one or more in their cupboards which they received as children, from school or Sunday School, and maybe pass on as heirlooms.

Queen Victoria

A few coronation mugs survive from Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. Mugs were also made for her Jubilee in 1887. Upto then jubilees were only celebrated for 50th anniversaries, according to the original biblical definition of a jubilee, but in 1897 when she reached her 60th anniversary a Diamond Jubilee was held for the first time.

Edward VII

After a long reign of 63 years, Queen Victoria died in 1901, and her 59 year-old son, Edward, Prince of Wales, became Edward VII. The coronation was set for 1902. Coronation mugs for Edward VII showed him and Queen Alexandria. His coronation was planned for June 26, 1902, and that is the date on the mugs. However the king was suffering from appendicitis and was strongly recommended to undergo an operation, because it was considered life-threatening. The Coronation was postponed.

Many coronation events went ahead anyway. On Sunday June 30, 1902, 500 children from Ashley Green, Whelpley Hill and Lye Green, were each given a coronation mug at celebration events in Ashley Green. On Wednesday July 16, 350 Children from the Lee, Lee Common and Swan Bottom received their coronation mug at a united children’s event at Lee Manor. The coronation mugs had the right king on them but the wrong date. Edward VII’s coronation actually took place on August 9. Edward VII was not in the best of health and he reigned for only 9 years. When he died in 1910, his son George, Prince of Wales, became George V.

George V

George was crowned on June 22, 1911, then aged 46. The mugs show a bearded King George V and his wife Queen Mary. Margaret of Chesham showed me her mother’s George V Coronation mug from 1911. George V lived long enough to celebrate his Silver Jubilee in 1935. The king died on January 20, 1936, after many years of poor health, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales.

Edward VIII

Edward, Prince of Wales became king as Edward VIII in 1936. The coronation was set for May 12, 1937. The commemorative mugs show just himself, because he was a bachelor king. However his desire to marry a twice-divorced American socialite led to his abdication in December 1936. He left the country and went to live in France. His coronation never happened, although the mugs had already been manufactured.

George VI

After his abdication, Edward VIII’s next eldest brother Albert became king. Rather than be King Albert, he took the regal name of George VI. The original coronation date that had been planned for his brother Edward VIII, was kept and it was George VI who was crowned on that date instead. This time the royal mugs had the right date but the wrong king, unlike the mugs for Edward VII which had the right king and the wrong date. The coronation took place on May 12, 1937. Hurriedly, companies produced souvenirs for George VI’s coronation. His wife Queen Elizabeth later became the Queen Mother and died aged 101 in 2002.

In villages such as Ballinger, Chenies, Cholesbury, Hawridge, Lee Common and St Leonard’s children were each given coronation mugs. Sam from Ley Hill showed me her coronation cup and saucer which she has from George VI’s coronation.

Elizabeth II

George VI died on February 6, 1952, aged only 56, and the king was succeeded by his elder daughter, Princess Elizabeth. She was in Kenya at the time. She was married to Prince Philip, but because prince consorts are not usually crowned, only the queen appears on the coronation mugs. The coronation took place on June 2, 1953.

In planning events for the coronation a local newspaper reported that the Mayor of Aylesbury, Councillor Mrs K.M. White said “It would not be a Coronation year without mugs!” Buckinghamshire Education Committee ordered 50,000 coronation mugs to supply one to every schoolchild in Bucks. Many children received another one from their parish council or church. Margaret from Chesham showed me the mug which she had been given by her village school in Bucks, and another she received from her chapel Sunday School.


The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee and lived long enough - like Queen Victoria before her - to celebrate her Golden Jubilee and Diamond Jubilee. However for the first time in British history she also celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. Mugs were made for these events and also the weddings of her son Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer, and the wedding of her grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton.

Charles III

King Charles III’s Coronation followed the traditions of street parties, events and souvenirs including coronation mugs.

l Thanks to Margaret from Chesham and to Samantha from Ley Hill for showing me their mug collections, which led to this story.