By Godfrey Kneller – The Royal Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18227339
For centuries, all anointed monarchs have sat upon the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey in one of the most important moments of the ceremony. All anointed monarchs… except for one: Queen Mary II.
Queen Mary II jointly reigned with her husband, William III, following the Glorious Revolution and was crowned alongside him in 1689. The couple required two Coronation Chairs, as this was the first time in English history that two reigning monarchs were jointly crowned.
It’s worth noting that the claim to the throne, through the Stuart line, came through Mary II. Her father, James II, was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution; her bloodline, her claim.
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Some wanted Mary II to reign alone, but William III, known as the Prince of Orange before he ascended the throne, had different plans. He and his supporters were adamant that he could not be a subject to his wife, and he insisted on being named king. Mary, for her part, also didn’t want to be a queen regnant and to rule her husband.
And so Parliament declared the throne vacant after James II fled the country and offered the throne jointly to Mary and William. If Mary predeceased him, as would happen, he would continue to reign. This differs greatly from Mary I’s marriage to Philip of Spain. He’d been declared king but only for Mary’s lifetime.
On 11 April 1689, Mary and William were jointly crowned at Westminster Abbey – both as regnants. But there was only one Coronation Chair, and William, despite the stronger claim resting with his wife, was the one who used the ancient seat.
Instead, Mary II was crowned on a special chair that closely resembles the original. She is, to date, the only crowned monarch—excluding Edward V and Edward VIII—since the inclusion of the Coronation Chair into the ceremony, that has used it.
Queen Mary II’s Coronation Chair is now displayed at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries in Westminster Abbey.