The Sovereign’s Ring is an important symbol of a monarch’s coronation, representing their ‘kingly dignity’ and, in more ancient times, their union to their nation.
William IV, crowned in 1831, was the first to wear the current Sovereign’s Ring, which was created by the then royal goldsmith, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. It has been worn at subsequent coronations ever since, with the exception of his niece, Queen Victoria, whose fingers were too small for it to fit properly.
A ruby has been the traditional principal stone of Sovereign’s Rings since the 13th century, according to the Royal Collection Trust. The current Sovereign’s Ring features an octagonal-cut sapphire overlaid with rectangular and square-cut rubies that form the shape of a cross.
The stone is bordered by 14 cushion-shaped diamonds and flanked at each shoulder by a diamond that rest above a golden hoop. Its design is supposed to mimic the St. George’s Cross and the St. Andrew’s Cross with the red of the former over the blue of the latter.
Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring was fashioned by the same goldsmiths who’d created her uncle’s ring, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. They, unfortunately, made it incorrectly, and it was sized to fit her little finger instead of her ring finger.
At her coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury forced the ring on the proper finger, and Queen Victoria later had to ice her hand from the pain. It was inscribed with her name and the date: “Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring 1838.”
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Prior to William IV, each sovereign typically had their own ring made to symbolise a sort of ‘marriage’ to the nation. Some of these rings have survived to the present day, including the Stuart Coronation Ring, worn by Charles I and Charles II and taken by James II when he fled to France in 1688. It has since been returned to the United Kingdom and belongs to the Royal Collection. Mary II’s coronation ring is on display at Welbeck Abbey in North Nottinghamshire.
Coronation rings were considered personal property of each monarch prior to Queen Victoria’s reign. She became the first Sovereign to leave her ring to the Crown and also donated the rings belonging to William IV and Queen Adelaide. William IV had left his coronation ring to his wife when he died; and when Queen Adelaide passed, she bequeathed both rings to her niece.
In 1911, King George V had all three rings sent to become part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
The Sovereign’s Ring is presented during the investiture part of the coronation service. This part of the coronation service begins with the anointing of the oil, then the presentation of the Sovereign’s Ring, followed by the crowning.
King Charles will become the sixth monarch, after William IV, Edward VII, George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II, to wear this Sovereign’s Ring on 6 May.