St Edward's Crown: The historic centrepiece of King Charles's Coronation
The rarest and most sacred of all the royal crowns will take centre stage during King Charles’s Coronation on Saturday.
Following royal tradition dating back to the 17th Century, Charles will wear the St Edward’s Crown at the moment of crowning - the only time it is ever used.
Created in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, it is one of the oldest symbols of the British monarchy.
It is a replacement of an earlier mediaeval crown that was melted down by parliamentarians in 1649 after the execution of King Charles I, during the English Civil War.
The original crown was thought to date back to the 11th century royal saint, Edward the Confessor, who was the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
After 1685, the crown did not feature at a coronation for over 200 years. However, George V revived the tradition for his own coronation in 1911, and the crown has been used by every monarch since.
In early December last year, the crown was removed from the Tower of London secretly to be resized for the King ahead of his coronation.
Buckingham Palace only revealed the operation after it had been safely delivered for the modification work.
The crown features a solid gold frame, weighs 2.23kg and is adorned with 444 precious stones. It features four crosses pattee and four fleurs-de-lis, and the arches are surmounted by a cross.
Prior to 1911, the crown was fitted with rented jewels for coronations, but George V had it set permanently with a collection of rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnets, topazes and tourmalines.
The crown is finished with a velvet purple cap and an ermine band.
Which Kings and Queens have worn the crown?
The existing St Edward’s Crown has been used during the coronations of a number of British monarchs since 1661.
It was first used for the crowning of Charles II in 1661, followed by James II in 1685, and William III in 1689.
It was subsequently used for George V in 1911, George VI in 1937, and Elizabeth II in 1953.
However, a number of British monarchs have opted not to wear the crown.
Queen Mary II and Queen Anne were both crowned with small diamond crowns of their own.
George I, George II, George III and William IV were all crowned with the State Crown of George I.
George IV was crowned with a new large diamond crown made specifically for the occasion.
Meanwhile, Queen Victoria and Edward VII also opted not to wear the St Edward’s Crown because of its weight, and instead opted to wear the lighter Imperial State Crown.
Edward VII had intended to wear the St Edward’s Crown in 1902, but he was still recovering from an operation for an appendicitis on coronation day, so opted to wear the lighter headpiece.
Which other crowns will feature in the Coronation?
While the St Edward’s Crown takes centre stage at the moment of crowning, it will not feature during the rest of the ceremony.
Charles will leave Westminster Abbey wearing the Imperial State Crown, which features at other prominent events, including the annual State Opening of Parliament.
This crown was made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937, replacing the crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838.
It is made of gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.
The crown contains some of the most famous jewels in the royal collection, including the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Stuart Sapphire and the Cullinan II diamond.
Meanwhile, the Queen Consort will wear the crown of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V, which was made by Garrard’s for her 1911 coronation.
At the time it was mounted with the Koh-i-Noor diamond. But this time, it will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds in tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth.
You can read our detailed analysis of all the Crown Jewels set to feature in the King’s coronation in May here.
Where else does the St Edward’s Crown feature?
The crown is often used as a heraldic symbol of the United Kingdom, and features widely on emblems and insignia.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, an image of the crown was found on the royal cypher, the royal coat of arms, and the royal badges of England.
The crown also featured on the badges of the police forces of England and Wales, NHS ambulance services, His Majesty’s Coastguard, the British Army, the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, and HM Revenue and Customs. It also formed the logo of the Royal Mail.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth last year, the design for King Charles’ new royal cypher was revealed in September, featuring the Tudor Crown rather than the St Edward’s Crown.
It is envisaged that the Tudor Crown will now feature on the royal coat of arms, badges and military uniforms.
Why was the new crown created?
During the English Civil War, Parliament sold the mediaeval crown, which was regarded by Oliver Cromwell as symbolic of the “detestable rule of kings”.
When the monarchy was later restored in 1660, a new crown was provided by the royal goldsmith, Sir Robert Vyner, ahead of the coronation of Charles II, who had been living in exile.
The newer crown resembles the medieval crown closely, featuring a heavy gold base and many precious stones, but the arches are decidedly more baroque in nature.
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