‘My family has attended every coronation since 1066 – Waiting for my invitation’

Francis Dymoke with a painting of Henry Dymoke, King's Champion for George IV, July 19, 1821 - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Francis Dymoke with a painting of Henry Dymoke, King’s Champion for George IV, July 19, 1821 – Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

For the 2,000 people who will receive an invitation to Westminster Abbey on Saturday, May 6th, it will be exciting to hear the envelope land on the mat – inside they are tickets for front row seats. For Francis Dymoke, it will be more of a relief-like feeling. If invited to the coronation, it will be the 34th Dymoke to watch a King or Queen be crowned since William the Conqueror.

Francis, a 67-year-old accountant-turned-farmer in Lincolnshire, says the Dymokes were specifically mentioned at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. “When my father came in [Queen Elizabeth’s] “This is Captain John Dymoke, whose family has been doing this for nearly 1,000 years,” said Richard Dimbleby at his coronation bearing the Union Standard.

Francis Dymoke’s family history begins on Christmas Day 1066. Dymoke’s 34th great-grandfather, Robert De Marmion, had been the King’s Champion – William’s right-hand man in France. On Coronation Day, he was asked to get on a charger and challenge anyone who thought he should be the real King to a duel. Dymoke was just kind of theatrical—”They needed to liven it up a bit,” he says.

Francis Dymoke's father John carried the banner at his 1953 Coronation - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Francis Dymoke’s father John carried the banner at his 1953 Coronation – Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

The family was given an estate in Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, in exchange for their services, and from that day forward, whenever there was a coronation, he was called “Dymoke of the day” to don the family’s armor and take on the role. King’s Champion. They would go to the banquet at Westminster Hall, stop, throw off their gloves, and stop to see if anyone wanted to challenge them. “They do this three times and for the last time in front of the King or Queen. […] in the third [monarch] drank a toast from a goblet and gave it to us.”

Dymoke holds the fringed glove in the bright, modern kitchen in Scrivelsby, right where his family has been farming for 957 years; it looks more like something one of the three musketeers would wear. “One of the problems is 33 great-grandfathers looking over my shoulders saying, ‘You gotta do the job, man,'” he says, raising the frayed glove. “You have to do it properly, represent the family, and keep it going.”

Invitation to role-play at the coronation is no longer guaranteed. After George IV was crowned in 1821, the banquet at Westminster Hall, and with it the job of putting a knight on a charger, was cancelled. “Since then, we’re in a borrowed time,” Dymoke says. “All I can do is want to participate.”

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He used to send a letter to the Duke of Norfolk (Norfolk have held coronations since 1386), but the year 2023, two weeks ago he went to www.gov.uk and submitted a form to prove it. had a hereditary right to play a ceremonial role. Waiting to hear back. “I wrote along the lines […] my family has been doing this since William the Conqueror, and while I appreciate it, it’s no longer a right […] It would be nice to be involved.”

A glove thrown as a challenge at numerous coronations and a golden trophy for The Telegraph given to Henry Dymoke by George IV - Heathcliff O'Malley

A glove thrown as a challenge at numerous coronations and a golden trophy for The Telegraph given to Henry Dymoke by George IV – Heathcliff O’Malley

Dymoke can still remember his late father, John, speaking of his pride when he was asked to edit the Union Standard at the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Return from Sumatra, where your regiment is stationed, to take on the role of champion.

On that day, John, “a young captain the same age as the Queen,” was “hanging out at the Convent for three hours” in his red uniform, which was “probably a little annoying.”

“She was 27 years old and nervous, but she always wanted to, of course, like all of us.

“The part he told me he found most important was the sincerity that the Queen promised. He was pretty close when he fulfilled his vow and you could see that he was really serious and he’s proven that in 70 years, right?

Dymoke is completely humble. He’s a father of three and a grandfather, who moved from a nearby house to what’s left of the family seat two years ago (only the entrance door still stands, the original medieval structure burned down in the 1400s). Spanish dog Stan is at his feet, and his wife, Gail, by the stove, making a stew of her own venison. “All the wealth we have is gone and gone centuries ago,” says Dymoke as we talk over coffee. He got up early this morning, working on the farm where electricity is the main crop these days – he and his eldest son, Henry, were running an anaerobic digester fueled by their corn.

George V - An invitation to Frank Dymoke for the coronation of Heathcliff O'Malley

George V – An invitation to Frank Dymoke for the coronation of Heathcliff O’Malley

He realizes that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to family connection with coronations. “I personally didn’t have the right to do that,” he emphasizes.

Unlike earldoms or baronets, an odd quirk of the title is that it is tied to land, not family. “It’s my right as the owner of this property, not your family… I think I could sell it to an American.” It’s also a role that only exists for one day, and depending on how the Champion’s life overlaps with the length of a monarch’s reign, that day may never come. For Dymoke, this has been an uncertain, unknown point on the horizon since he was born.

Dymoke is not the King’s right-hand man, as his ancestors might have been; she and Gail don’t “make smart circles”. She had to teach herself about family history and is constantly finding new information. “One of my favorites is that Robert Dymoke is a friend of Henry VIII,” says Gail. “He was the Champion of the Three Henrys, but despite being Catholic, he managed to keep his faith.

When Henry divorced Catherine of Aragon, he was sent to a monastery in Northamptonshire. Robert Dymoke was sent to be the inspector of the house, to keep an eye on him, I think probably because he was trusted but also because he was still Catholic and there was obviously all the worry about him getting in touch with his brother. to cause trouble. I think he was an early double agent.

Francis and Gail at their home in Scrivelsby - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Francis and Gail at their home in Scrivelsby – Heathcliff O’Malley for The Telegraph

Today, there are some clues to this remarkable family history – one of our ancestors had IV. A painting of George standing proudly in his armor at his coronation hangs in the hallway; Gail remembers when they first moved into the house, they found her great-grandfather’s invitation to George V’s coronation in the downstairs bathroom.

“The family went more or less bankrupt in 1870 and sold everything. Everything was sold when my father inherited it. We hold a set of armor found in Leeds Castle’s arsenals. But that’s nobody’s business.”

Before I leave, he is eager to show me what he thinks is the most precious piece of the family memory that remains. He leaves the room, returning with a large, locked wooden box. Above the key hangs a paper tag that says ‘The Coronation Trophies’ in neat handwriting. It contains seven sparkling glasses. “This is what matters,” he says. “This is what’s left. I’m not losing that.”

Each one is finely engraved with a coat of arms. There’s one for James II and Queen Anne. There is a William and Mary trophy, a George II, a George III and a George IV. Where are the rest? “Tragically, the story is that there were 21 of us and one of the Dymokes fell asleep in his chaise lounge. [in the 17th century] and someone came and stole a lot of stuff.

What about the Union Standard that his father carried when he walked into Westminster Hall 70 years ago? “He was given the chance to buy it but he had no money, which is a pity. He was captain with £150 a year.”

What will it mean for him if Dymoke’s claim is accepted and he is given a chance to join on May 6? “I think…” he pauses. “This is the only moment in my life that really matters.”

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