by Scott Mehl
© Unofficial Royalty 2023
The British Coronation Regalia includes the most treasured and sacred items in the royal collection, most of it only used as part of the Coronation ceremony. The majority of the items date back to the 1661 Coronation of King Charles II, with at least one item going back much further in history. This article will give some information about each of the items used in the ceremony – as well as links to some more detailed articles about some of them. We hope you enjoy learning about these magnificent pieces which so greatly define the history of the British monarchy.
The actual crowning of the Sovereign is the most sacred and important part of the Coronation service, and remains largely unchanged for hundreds of years. You can read more about the Coronation and order of service in our Royal Ceremonies section.
The Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone
The Coronation Chair (also known as St. Edward’s Chair or King Edward’s Chair) was commissioned by King Edward I in 1296 to hold the Stone of Scone, which he had seized from Scotland during the First Scottish War of Independence. It was first used for the Coronation of King Edward II in 1308, and has been used for every coronation since.
The Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny or the Coronation Stone) is traditionally believed to have been part of the coronation ceremony for Scottish monarchs for centuries. Originally, the Coronation Chair simply surrounded the Stone, on which the Sovereign sat. In the 17th century, a wooden seat was added above the stone.
Read more about the Coronation Chair and Stone of Scone HERE!
The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon
The formal crowning starts with the Sovereign being anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The coronation oil, which was made and consecrated in Jerusalem. is kept in the Ampulla, and poured into the Coronation Spoon at the time of the Sovereign’s anointing. Both pieces are also used for the anointing of the Queen Consort.
The Ampulla takes the shape of a golden eagle, with its wings outspread. The head of the eagle screws off to allow the oil to be poured in. It then pours out through the eagle’s beak. Dating from the 1661 coronation of Charles II, the Ampulla is based on an earlier version, which was based upon a legend in which the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Thomas a Becket, presenting him with a golden eagle and a vial of oil to be used for the anointing of future Sovereigns.
The Coronation Spoon is perhaps the oldest item in the Coronation Regalia. Dating from at least 1349, it was recorded among St. Edward’s Regalia in the Abbey. While it is unknown when its use in the Coronation ceremony actually began, it has been used for every English and British Coronation since King James I in 1603. Unlike much of the old regalia which was melted down in 1649, the Spoon was sold off. Following the restoration, it was returned to King Charles II in 1661.
The Sovereign is first presented with the spurs, which symbolize knighthood. The use of spurs dates back to the coronation of Richard I in 1189. The current spurs were made in 1661, and altered slightly in 1820. Originally the spurs would have been attached to the Sovereign’s feet, but since 1661, they are simply touched to the ankles of the King (or presented to a Queen Regnant), and then placed on the altar. The golden spurs have velvet-covered straps attached by buckles, with gold embroidery adorning them.
There are several swords carried in the Coronation procession, each representing a different aspect of the Sovereign’s role.
- The Sword of Temporal Justice – symbolizing the Sovereign’s role as head of the Armed Forces
- The Sword of Spiritual Justice – symbolizing the Sovereign’s role as Defender of the Faith
- The Sword of Mercy (also known as the Curtana) – symbolizing the Sovereign’s mercy
- The Sword of State – symbolizing the Sovereign’s Royal Authority
- The Sword of Offering (also known as the Coronation sword)
During the ceremony, the Sword of State is presented to the Lord Chamberlain, and then placed in St. Edward’s Chapel (behind the Altar). In exchange, the Sword of Offering is brought to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who then presents the sword to the Sovereign.
The Sword of Offering was made for the 1821 coronation of King George IV. It features a blade of gilt steel, adorned with 2,141 diamonds, 12 emeralds and 4 rubies arranged for form roses, thistles and shamrocks. Each end of the cross-piece features a lion’s head, set in diamonds, with rubies for the eyes. Additional jewels form oak leaves and acorns.
The scabbard is leather encased in gold, lined with red silk velvet. It features roses, thistles and shamrocks – set in diamonds, rubies and emeralds – along with additional designs of oak leaves and acorns.
The Sword of Offering typically became the personal property of the Sovereign, and a new one made for each new reign. However, in 1902, George IV’s sword was used for the coronation of King Edward VII and became part of the Crown Jewels. It has been used for each coronation since.
The Armills are wide gold bracelets which are placed on the Sovereign’s wrists. They are thought to represent the “bracelets of sincerity and wisdom” referenced in the wording of the coronation ceremony (although their original role and purpose in the coronation ceremony has long been unknown). The pair on the left in the photo above date back to 1661 are decorated in enamel, featuring the national emblems – roses, thistles, fleurs-de-lis and harps – and are lined in red velvet. This pair was used at every coronation through George VI in 1937. A new pair (on the right) were made for the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II, as a gift from the Commonwealth. This pair is made of 22-carat gold, decorated with foliated scrolls, and hinged by a gold Tudor rose.
The Sovereign’s Orb
The Sovereign’s Orb, made in 1661, represents the Sovereign’s power and symbolizes the Christian world. The hollow gold sphere has several bands of pearls surrounding clusters of emeralds, rubies and sapphires, surrounded by diamonds. These bands divide the Orb into three sections – representing the three continents known in the medieval days. Atop the sphere is an octagonal amethyst, topped by a cross adorned with diamonds. The cross features an emerald in the center on one side, and a sapphire on the other, with pearls at the angles and points. It is placed in the Sovereign’s right hand by the Archbishop of Canterbury, before being returned to the altar.
The Sovereign’s Ring
The Sovereign’s Ring (above, left) is placed on the fourth finger of the right hand. The current Sovereign’s Ring dates back to the Coronation of King William IV in 1831. Previously, a new ring was made for each Sovereign, and remained in their personal collection. However, upon the death of Queen Adelaide (King William IV’s consort) in 1849, she left William IV’s ring, as well as her own Consort’s Ring, to Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria then left both rings, along with her own Coronation Ring (a slightly smaller version of King William IV’s) to the Crown upon her death in 1901. The Sovereign’s Ring has been used at the coronations of every British sovereign since Edward VII in 1902.
The Sovereign’s Ring, set in gold, features an octagonal sapphire overlaid with a cross of rubies, banded in gold. This is surrounded by 14 cushion-shaped diamonds, with two additional diamonds at the top of the band.
Read more about the Queen Consort’s Ring HERE!
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross symbolizes the Sovereign’s temporal role. Made for the 1661 Coronation of King Charles II, it is placed in the Sovereign’s right hand. At just over 3 feet in length and weighing about 2.6 pounds, the Sceptre with Cross is adorned with 333 diamonds, 31 rubies, 15 emeralds, 7 sapphires and 1 amethyst. It has been altered several times since its creation, most recently for the 1911 Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, to include the Cullinan I diamond (also known as the Great Star of Africa). Weighing over 530 carats, the Cullinan I is the largest clear-cut diamond in the world. The Cullinan I features near the top of the sceptre, topped by the large amethyst surmounted by a cross pattée encrusted with an emerald and small diamonds.
Read more about the Cullinan diamond HERE!
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove – also known as the Rod of Equity and Mercy – symbolizes the Sovereign’s spiritual role. Also made for the 1661 Coronation, it is placed in the Sovereign’s left hand. It is over 3-½ feet in length and weighs about 2.6 pounds, and is decorated with 285 gemstones, including 94 diamonds, 53 rubies, 10 emeralds, 4 sapphires, 3 spinels and bands of precious stones circling the rod. The top features a gold monde set with diamonds, topped by a plain cross with a white enameled dove with outspread wings – representing the Holy Ghost.
St. Edward’s Crown
The most sacred item in the Coronation Regalia is St. Edward’s Crown, used for the physical crowning of the British Sovereign. It takes its name from the original medieval crown, claimed to have belonged to King Edward the Confessor (St. Edward) in the 11th century.
The current crown was made for the 1661 coronation of King Charles II, following the Restoration. It has been worn for the coronations of seven English and British Sovereigns:
- King Charles II (1661)
- King James II (1685)
- King William III (1689)
- King George V (1911)
- King George VI (1937)
- Queen Elizabeth II (1953)
- King Charles III (2023)
In the most defining moment of the Coronation ceremony, St. Edward’s Crown is placed upon the head of the Sovereign by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is the only time that the crown is worn by the Sovereign.
Read more about St. Edward’s Crown HERE.
The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown is worn by the Sovereign during the procession out of Westminster Abbey after the Coronation service. There have been several versions of the crown made through the years, including Queen Victoria’s Crown which was made for her coronation in 1838, and used for the coronations of her two successors – King Edward VII in 1902, and KIng George V in 1911. The current Imperial State Crown was made for the 1937 Coronation of King George VI, and used for the coronations of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and King Charles III in 2023.
Unlike St. Edward’s Crown, which is only worn by the Sovereign at the coronation, the Imperial State Crown is traditionally used for two ceremonial events. It is traditionally worn by the Sovereign at the State Opening of Parliament, and it is traditionally placed upon a late Sovereign’s coffin during their lying-in-state and funeral (along with the Sovereign’s Orb and Sceptre.
Read more about The Imperial State Crown HERE!
The Queen Consort’s Regalia
Following the crowning of the Sovereign, the Queen Consort is also crowned in a similar, but simpler, ceremony. Following her anointing – also using the Ampulla and Coronation Spoon – the Queen Consort’s Ring is placed on the fourth finger of her right hand. She is then crowned with the Queen Consort’s Crown and given the Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross, in her right hand, and the Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove, in her left hand.
Read all about the Queen Consort’s Regalia HERE!
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