The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Coronation Regalia is a collection of sacred and secular objects that play a crucial role in the Coronation Services of the British Monarchy.

These objects symbolize the service and responsibilities of the monarch and are housed in the Tower of London, where they are kept on public display.

As part of the Royal Collection, the Regalia is held in trust by the Monarch on behalf of the nation.

In this article, we will explore the various items in the Coronation Regalia and their significance.

The Maces

Two Maces, made of silver gilt over oak, date between 1660 and 1695 and are the ceremonial emblems of authority which are carried before the Sovereign at events such as the State Opening of Parliament.

The maces are among the oldest and most important objects in the Regalia, and they symbolize the monarch’s authority and power.

The Sword of State

Also carried before the Sovereign on formal occasions is the Sword of State, symbolising Royal authority.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The steel blade has a silver-gilt hilt and is enclosed in a wooden scabbard covered in velvet. In 1660 and 1678, during the reign of King Charles II, two such swords were made, the elder of which has not survived.

The remaining sword has been used at several Coronations and, in 1969, the Investiture of The Prince of Wales.

The sword is carried with the point upwards, and the scabbard carries the coat of arms of King William III.

The Swords of Justice

Three further swords are used during the Coronation Procession at Westminster Abbey; the Sword of Temporal Justice, signifying the Monarch’s role as Head of the Armed Forces, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, signifying the Monarch as Defender of the Faith, and the Sword of Mercy or Curtana, which has a blunted tip, symbolising the Sovereign’s mercy.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The swords were first used at the Coronation of King Charles I in 1626 and are carried without their scabbards, with their points up.

The St Edward’s Staff

The golden St Edward’s Staff, with its steel spike, was created by the Crown Jeweller, Robert Vyner, in 1661.

It derives from an earlier staff which was often referred to as the ‘Long Sceptre’ and carried in fifteenth and sixteenth-century Coronation processions as a relic of the Royal saint, Edward the Confessor.

The Ampulla

The Chrism oil with which The King and The Queen Consort will be anointed, which was consecrated in The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in March, will be contained within the Ampulla, made from gold and cast in the form of an eagle with outspread wings.

The oil is poured through an aperture in the beak.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Ampulla was supplied for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661 by the Crown Jeweller, Robert Vyner, and is based on an earlier, smaller vessel.

The Coronation Spoon

The silver-gilt Coronation Spoon is the oldest object in use at Coronations, having been first recorded in 1349 among St Edward’s Regalia in Westminster Abbey.

It was used to anoint King James I in 1603 and at every subsequent Coronation.

In 1649, the Spoon was sold to the Yeoman of King Charles I’s Wardrobe, who returned it for King Charles II’s Coronation in 1661 when small seed pearls were added to the decoration of the handle.

The Spurs

The Spurs were made in 1661 for King Charles II and symbolize knighthood.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The gold, leather, and velvet Spurs have been altered over the years for different monarchs, including King George IV.

The Sword of Offering

The Sword of Offering was made in 1820 and has a steel blade mounted in gold and set with jewels that form a rose, a thistle, a shamrock, oak leaves, acorns, and lion’s heads.

The sword is contained in a gold-covered leather scabbard and was first used at the Coronation of King George IV.

The Armills

The two Armills are bracelets made from gold, champlevé, and basse-taille enamel, lined in velvet.

They are thought to relate to ancient symbols of knighthood and military leadership and have been referred to during previous Coronations as the ‘bracelets of sincerity and wisdom’.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Armills date back to 1661 and have been used at every Coronation from King Charles II’s until King George VI’s in 1937.

The Sovereign’s Orb

A representation of the Sovereign’s power and symbolising the Christian world, the Sovereign’s Orb was made from gold in the seventeenth century and is divided into three sections with bands of jewels for each of the three continents known in the medieval period.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Sovereign’s Ring

The Sovereign’s Ring is composed of a sapphire with a ruby cross set in diamonds.

A symbol of kingly dignity, the ring was made for the Coronation of King William IV in 1831, and all Sovereigns from King Edward VII onwards have used it at their Coronations.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Sovereign’s Sceptres

The two Sovereign’s Sceptres will be used at the Coronation. The Sovereign’s Sceptre with a Cross represents the sovereign’s temporal power and is associated with good governance.

It comprises a gold rod, surmounted by an enamelled heart-shaped structure that holds the Cullinan I diamond. The sceptre was created for King Charles II, and the Cullinan I was added in 1901.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove, traditionally known as ‘the Rod of Equity and Mercy’, represents the Sovereign’s spiritual role, with the enamelled dove with outspread wings representing the Holy Ghost.

It was created by the Crown Jeweller, Robert Vyner in 1661.

St Edward’s Crown

As previously announced, St Edward’s Crown will be used to crown His Majesty The King at Westminster Abbey on 6th May, according to tradition.

The crown was made for King Charles II in 1661, as a replacement for the medieval crown that had been melted down in 1649.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

The original was thought to date back to the eleventh-century Royal Saint, Edward the Confessor.

The crown is made up of a solid gold frame set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes and tourmalines, and it has a velvet cap with an ermine band.

St Edward’s Crown was worn by Queen Elizabeth II at the Coronation in 1953. The crown has been removed from the Tower of London to allow for modification work ahead of the Coronation.

The Queen Consort’s Regalia

The Coronation Regalia also includes items for the Queen Consort.

The Queen Consort’s Ring, a ruby in a gold setting, was made for the Coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide in 1831 and has been used by three further Queens Consort; Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Mirroring the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove, the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove is symbolic of ‘equity and mercy’, and the dove, with its folded wings, is symbolic of the Holy Ghost.

The Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross was originally supplied for the Coronation of Mary of Modena, Queen Consort of James II, in 1685 by Robert Vyner and is inlaid with rock crystals.

Queen Mary’s Crown

Queen Mary’s Crown has been chosen by The Queen Consort for the Coronation, marking the first instance in modern times of an existing crown being used for the Coronation of the Consort.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

Minor changes and additions to Queen Mary’s Crown are being undertaken, such as the inclusion of the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds, which were part of Queen Elizabeth II’s personal jewellery collection for many years.

The design was inspired by Queen Alexandra’s Crown of 1902.

Like Queen Alexandra’s Crown, it can be worn without the arches in the form of a circlet, which Queen Mary wore for the Coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937.

The Imperial State Crown

The Imperial State Crown, or Crown of State, is the crown the monarch exchanged for St Edward’s Crown at the end of the Coronation Service.

The Imperial State Crown is also used on ceremonial occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament.

The term “imperial state crown” dates back to the fifteenth century when English monarchs chose a crown design closed by arches to demonstrate that England was not subject to any other earthly power.

The Significance of the Coronation Regalia In The British Monarchy

This Imperial State Crown was made for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937 but is closely based on a crown designed for Queen Victoria in 1838 by the Crown Jewellers of the time, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.

Conclusion

The Coronation Regalia is a collection of sacred and secular objects symbolizing the service and responsibilities of the monarch.

The regalia is kept on public display at the Tower of London and has played a central role in Coronation Services for hundreds of years.

The collection includes various items such as swords, staffs, rings, sceptres, and crowns, including the iconic St Edward’s Crown, which will be used to crown His Majesty The King at Westminster Abbey on 6th May.

Each piece of regalia has a rich history and has been used in numerous Coronations and ceremonial occasions, with some items dating back to the medieval period.

The Queen Consort also has her own regalia, including Queen Mary’s Crown, which will be used for the first time in modern times for the Coronation of the Consort.

The Coronation Regalia is a testament to the rich history and traditions of the British monarchy and continues to be an integral part of the Coronation ceremony, symbolizing the sovereign’s authority and power.

Images: Buckingham Palace

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