Regalia

Regalia

Much of the royal regalia was destroyed by parliamentarian commissioners in 1649 when the order was given to take it from the Abbey to the Tower of London. At the time it was intended that the monarchy would be abolished forever, so it was no longer needed. The gold from most of the items was delivered to the Mint and the jewels were sold to various private jewellers.

A list of the regalia was taken at the time of the Commonwealth and begins:

Queen Edith’s Crowne formerly thought to be of Massy Gold, but upon tryale found to be of silver Gilt, Enriched with Garnetts, foule pearls, Saphyrs & Some odd Stones weighing 60 oz 1/2

This was valued at £16 in 1649, about £2,250 today. The next item was:

King Elfred’s Crowne of Gold wyreworke Sett with Slight Stones and two little Bells

This crown was valued at £248 10s, or about £34,850 today. It is thought that this was St Edward’s crown, which was believed to have been originally the crown of Alfred The Great.

The total valuation of the regalia was only given as £2,647 18s 4d, or £372,066 today. This was an incredibly small amount and no doubt vastly under valued at the time.

The only two pieces to survive were the Ampulla and the Anointing Spoon, which were presumably kept with the Abbey plate and escaped notice. These two pieces were recovered and used again at the coronation of Charles II after a ‘certain amount of embellishment’.

Eleven years later, in 1660, Charles II was restored to the throne and new regalia had to be made. It is thought that some of the gold from St Edward’s crown was recovered and incorporated into the new one. Several of the original jewels were also recovered, including The Black Prince’s Ruby, which was set in the centre of the State Crown.

Queen Elizabeth I of England in her coronation robes, patterned with Tudor roses and trimmed with ermine, by an unknown artist, first decade of the 17th century.

Chapter 1

THE MONARCH'S Regalia

St Edward’s Crown

From 1066 onwards each monarch had their own crown made for coronation and each one is considered to be forerunners of the State Crown, which is now worn by the monarch on the return from the Abbey and at State Openings of Parliament. The exact form of some of these earlier crowns can be deduced from monumental effigies and other sources. Replicas of these early and now lost regalia were made before the 1937 coronation but were widely regarded as rather fanciful. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.

The crown of coronation only became known as St Edward’s Crown from the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). The crown in use today dates from 1661 and is only used at the moment of crowning. It is made of gold and adorned with various jewels and pearls. The cap is of purple velvet turned up with ermine. It is considered a fairly exact replica of the one which was destroyed in 1649. It was made for the coronation of Charles II and last used to crown Elizabeth II in 1953.

The Imperial State Crown 1937

This crown was made for the Coronation of George VI in 1937 and is now worn by the monarch as they leave the Abbey. It is also the one used on state occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament.

It is made of gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pears and 4 rubies, including the Black Prince’s Ruby, a survivor from the 1649 destruction. One of the sapphires, St Edward’s Sapphire, which is set in the centre of the topmost cross, is believed to have been worn in a ring worn by St Edward the Confessor.

Coat of St Edward

Apparently removed from the tomb of Edward The Confessor when his body was re-enshrined by Henry III. Regarded as sacred and used as the chief instruments of coronation for Edward I and each monarch down to Charles I, by which time it must have been quite shabby considering it had been first buried for 200 years prior to Edward I’s coronation.

Ring

There are three coronation rings in the crown jewel collection: the Sovereign’s Ring, Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring and the Queen Consort’s Coronation Ring.

As part of the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury will step forward and place the Sovereign’s Ring on the fourth finger of the monarch’s right hand. The ring was made in 1831 for William IV and is of pure gold with a large sapphire surrounded by diamonds with baguette-cut rubies forming a cross affixed to the surface of the sapphire to represent the cross of St George. Two more diamonds are set in the shoulders of the ring. The ring is sometimes referred to as the ‘wedding ring of England’.

Historically, new rings were made for each coronation, until 1831 when this ring was created. None of the earlier rings survive.

The only monarch not to use this ring at her coronation was Victoria. It was found to be far too big for her and so a new ring, Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring, was created just for her. It has a similar design to the Sovereign’s Ring, but on a much smaller scale. In the event, this ring was too small for Victoria, and the Archbishop had to force the ring onto her finger, causing it to swell. She records in her journal that she had to soak her right hand in ice water in order to remove it:

I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, which I at last did with great pain.’

Swords

The Jewelled Sword of Offering or Curtana, dates from 1820 and was first used at the Coronation of George IV. It is invested during the ceremony after the anointing, and when the Sovereign is robed and presented with the regalia. The Archbishop will bless the sword before presenting it to the Sovereign with instruction that it should be used ‘for the protection of good and the punishment of evil’.

The sword is straight, with a narrow sharply tapering blade of blued and gilt steel. It is decorated on both faces with the national emblems (roses, thistles and shamrocks) with scrolls, the royal arms, a royal crown, the cyphers GR and WR, a trophy of arms and the figure of Britannia.

The hilt is made of gold and chased with lion masks densely set with diamonds and ruby-set eyes. There is a large central emerald on each side. The scabbard is entirely encased in sheet gold and lined with red velvet silk, chased with roses, thistles and shamrocks, set with many precious stones (diamonds, rubies and emeralds).

The Sword of State is a large two-handed sword, with a scabbard of crimson velvet, decorated with gold plates of the Royal badges. The length of the blade is 32" and its breadth is about 2". The guard, hilt and pommel of the sword are of gilt metal with one side of the guard being fashioned as a lion the other as a unicorn. The ornamentation of the scabbard is ornate with the full Royal coat of arms of England with supporters on the centre plate. This sword is borne by the Lord President of the Council.

The Sword of Spiritual Justice, Second Sword, or Sword of Justice to the Spirituality, is about 40" in length. The pommel, handle, guard and scabbard all similar to the Curtana.

The Sword of Justice to the Temporality, or Third Sword, is again similar to the Curtana. All the swords are carried erect during the procession and all, apart from the Curtana are naked.

Sceptres

The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, or Royal Sceptre, dates from 1661 and has been used at every coronation since Charles II’s. An additional diamond was added in 1910 for the coronation of George V.

The Royal Sceptre is made of gold and nearly three feet long. The upper part is wreathed with two bands of gems and enamel, while the lower end widens into a highly ornamented boss, adorned with many precious stones. At the very top sits a large amethyst orb, resting on an arched crown, the cross pattée set with diamonds.

The Virge, or Rod, which is also called the Sceptre with the Dove, and is made of gold and over three feet long. This sceptre is much plainer than the Sovereign's Sceptre, except in the centre, and the pommel, where it is encrusted with jewels. The top of this sceptre is surmounted with a globe and a cross on top of which is perched an enamelled dove. It is placed in the monarch's left hand during the ceremony of investiture. 

It will be presented to the Sovereign during the ceremony after the anointing.

St Edward's Staff

This is the walking staff of Edward the Confessor, which was probably taken from his tomb. It was mentioned in an inventory of 1606 as ‘a long scepter with a Pike of Steele in the bottome’.

Destroyed by Cromwell’s parliamentarians, this description was used as a model when a new one was created for the Coronation of Charles II. The staff is about four and a half feet in length and made of gold with a foot of steel and a mound and cross at the top. 

The exact function of the staff has long been forgotten. During the coronation procession, it is carried before the sovereign with the other regalia and placed on the altar.

Orb

The orb was probably introduced soon after the coronation of Edgar in 973, certainly by the reign of Edward the Confessor in 1042. The present orb dates from 1661 and is a gold globe surmounted by a cross. It is intended to remind the Sovereign that their power to rule is derived from God. Many jewels are encrusted around the orb in a gold band. The cross is set atop a large oval amethyst bound with four bands of gold. The cross itself is set with diamonds and pearls with a sapphire set in the centre of the cross on one side and an emerald on the other.

It is placed into the left hand of the monarch immediately before they are crowned with St Edward's Crown.

Ampulla

One of only two elements of the regalia which predates the reign of Charles II. The Ampulla is a flask or bottle made of solid gold in the form of an eagle. The head unscrews to allow it to be filled with holy oil for the sovereign’s anointing.

Of late 14th century workmanship and first used a the coronation of Henry IV. It escaped destruction in the 17th century when the rest of the regalia was taken to the Tower to be melted down. For Charles II’s coronation it was embellished, with the eagle's outspread wings being realistically engraved to represent feathers. There is a hole in the beak through which the oil is poured into the Anointing Spoon.

Anointing Spoon

One of only two elements of the regalia which predates the reign of Charles II. The holy oil is poured from the Ampulla into the anointing spoon. During the Coronation ceremony, the Archbishop dips his fingers into the oil for the anointing.

Made of silver gilt it is of an earlier creation than the Ampulla and is of late-12th century style. There are four pearls set into the broadest part of the handle. It escaped destruction in the 17th century when the rest of the regalia was taken to the Tower to be melted down, as it was kept by one of the commissioners entrusted with the task. He returned the spoon for Charles II’s coronation, at this time it was chased in a ‘typical seventeenth-century style’.

The Ampulla and the Spoon are not carried in the procession with the rest of the regalia, but placed on the altar on the morning of the coronation.

Detail from an illustration of the State Procession prior to the Coronation of James II and Mary of Modena at Westminster, 23 April 1685

 

Chapter 2

QUEEN CONSORT'S REGALIA

Crown

Queen Mary’s Crown will be used for the coronation on 6 May 2023. This is the first time an existing crown will be used for the consort since the 18th century. It was usual for a new crown to be made for each consort.

This crown was made in 1911 for the Coronation of George V and Queen Mary. The design is based upon that of Queen Alexandra’s crown of 1902. It is understood that several diamonds from the late Queen Elizabeth’s collection are to be set into the crown, as a tribute to her late Majesty.

Ring

The Queen Consort’s Ring has been used since Queen Adelaide in 1831. Prior to this, new rings were made for each consort. The Queen Consort’s Ring has a large pinkish-red ruby surrounded by diamonds with additional rubies set into the ring’s gold band. It was last worn by Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, at her coronation in 1937.

Queen Consort’s Sceptres

Used for every Queen Consort since Mary of Modena in 1685. There are three sceptres: The Queen Consort's Sceptre with the Cross, the Queen Consort's Sceptre with the Dove and the Queen Consort's Virge or Ivory Rod.

The Sceptre is made of gold and is just under three feet long tapering towards the top. It is surmounted by a gold mound and cross issuing out of a fleur-de-lis. This sceptre is similar to the Royal Sceptre in its embellishments, but is smaller and not wreathed.

The Sceptre with the Dove is similar in design to the Sceptre with the Cross, except that the mound at the top is surmounted by a cross on which sits a white enamelled dove with outstretched wings.

The Queen Consort's Virge or Ivory Rod is a sceptre of white ivory, just over three feet in length. The pommel and ornaments are of gold, as also the mound and cross at the top, but the dove on top of the cross is enamelled white and has folded wings. 

Top: Coronation Banquet of George IV, 1821, Sir George Nayler

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