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BRITAIN’S CORONATION REGALIA

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BRITAIN’S CORONATION REGALIA

By: Jan van den Bos: Curator: Weapons – DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History

 

A replica of the Star of Africa or Cullinan diamond is one of many interesting objects in possession of DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History. The real diamond of more than 500 carats provoked a local debate in 2022, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II for the repatriation of the gem to South Africa.

 

Louis Botha, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa between 1910 and 1919 presented the diamond to King Edward VII in 1907, two years after its discovery at the Premier Mine in Cullinan (± 40 km east of Pretoria, Gauteng Province). The diamond, the largest of its kind consists of various cuts and sizes. The largest stone is mounted in the Royal or Sovereign sceptre which forms part of Britain’s Coronation Regalia.   

 

Figure 1: Replica of the Cullinan rough diamond (Star of Africa) with container in possession of DITSONG: National Museum of Cultural History

(Source: Mix media collection: HG5046-1=2).

 

The Coronation of Charles III on 6 May 2023 revealed traditions and customs dating to 1066. The objects or regalia associated with the coronation ceremony consist of several valuable pieces:

  1. The St Edward crown is named after the Confessor Saint Edward (c.1003 – 1066). Various crowns have been used since the 13th The crown in Figure 2, dated to 1662, was used for the coronation of Charles II (1630 – 1685). The crown consists of 22 carat gold and 444 precious gemstones. Due to its heavy 2.3-kilogram weight the crown was not used after 1689. The custom only resumed in 1911 with the coronation of George V (1865 – 1936).

 

The crown symbolises power and authority and the Monarch’s role as head of state.

 

Figure 2: St Edward’s crown

(Source: KRQE, News 13).

 

 

  1. The Royal or Sovereign Sceptre was made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661 and has been used during ceremonies ever since. The pole consists of gold and the cross holds the British crown jewels. The biggest gemstone is the Star of Africa or the Cullinan diamond which was added in 1911 (Figure 3). The Monarch holds the sceptre during the coronation ceremony in his or her right hand as a symbol of authority and progressive power, while the Archbishop of Canterbury places the St Edward’s crown on the Monarch’s head.

 

Figure 3: Royal or Sovereign Sceptre

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The Sceptre with the dove is known as the Rod of Equity and Mercy. The Sceptre was made in 1689 for Mary II (1662 -1694), the wife of William III (1650 -1702) in sovereignty of her joint coronation as co-monarch. The pole consists of gold and the other decorations are gems and diamonds (see Figure 3). The eyes, beak and feet of the white enamelled dove are covered with gold. The Monarch holds the sceptre in his or her left hand during the coronation ceremony.

 

The sceptre represents the spiritual role of the Monarch. The dove symbolises the Holy Ghost.

 

Figure 4: The sceptre with the dove

(Source: Royal collection trust).

 

  1. The orb or global cruciger was made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661. It represents the Monarch’s power. The cross on top, symbolises Christian sovereignty over the earth, but also God’s power over the Monarch. The three divided band sections, decorated with gemstones, symbolise the three known continents during the medieval period (Figure 5). The orb is held in a Monarch’s right hand during the swearing-in phase.

 

Figure 5: The orb

(Source: Royal collection trust).

 

  1. The Imperial crown was made for the coronation of George VI (1895 – 1952) in 1937. The second Star of Africa, with a weight of 317 carats, is mounted in the crown band (Figure 6). Above the band are two silver arches decorated with various gemstones. At the end of the coronation ceremony, before the Monarch leaves Westminster Abbey, the St Edward crown is exchanged for the imperial crown.

  

Figure 6: The imperial crown

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The Prince of Wales’s coronet is used by the heir to the throne. The cornet was initially worn by George V with the coronation of his father, Edward VII (1841 – 1910) in 1902. The coronet comprises of a single arch with two silver beads, surmounted by a cross (Figure 7).  

 

 

Figure 7: The Prince of Wales coronet

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The silver gilt Mace was made in 1660 for the coronation of Charles II. The plate is engraved with the arms of Charles II and the stem with patterns of roses and thistles.

During the coronation ceremony notable members such as the 13 Sergeant-at-Arms or State officials carried the mace as a token of authority.

 

Figure 8: The Mace

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The Sword of State was made in 1660 for the coronation of Charles II (1630-1685). The sword consists of a straight two-edge steel blade, a silver gilt hilt in the form of a lion and unicorn. A wooden scabbard covered in velvet is engraved with William III’ s coat of arms. The sword blade point is carried upwards in front of the sovereign during the coronation ceremony. The 1660 sword no longer exists and was replaced by the 1678 sword (Figure 9).

 

The sword symbolises the royal authority.

Figure 9: The Sword of State

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The Sword of Mercy (Curtana) dates to the coronation of Henry VI (1421–1471). The blunt blade symbolises mercy and the merciful role of the monarch. The Earl of Chester carries the sword during the coronation ceremony. The sword is carried alongside two other pointed swords. The Sword of Mercy has a gilt iron hilt and a wooden grip bound in wire and a decorated leather scabbard. Illustration 9 is a copy of the 17th century sword.

 

Figure 10: The Sword of Mercy with the blunt point

(Source: https://www.royal.uk/coronation-regalia).

  1. The bracelets or Armills are known as the “bracelets of sincerity and wisdom”. The bracelets were part of the coronation of Charles II in 1661. The bracelets, lined in velvet are made of gold and coated with enamel. They are placed on the wrists of a monarch during the coronation ceremony.

The bracelets symbolise knighthood and military leadership.

 

Figure 11: The Armills bracelets

(Source: Royal collection trust).

  1. The Ampulla and anointing spoon: The Ampulla was first presented at the coronation of Charles II in 1661. The Ampulla (Figure 12) is based on a smaller one which was used in the 14th The object is gold, hollow and in the shape of an eagle. The head screws off and the hollow part holds the oil. The Archbishop of Canterbury pours the oil from a hole in the eagle’s beak on the matching solid gold spoon during the coronation of a new sovereign. This procedure is the most secret part of the ceremony, and it is performed behind closed doors before the crowning. The archbishop touches the oil onto the monarch’s head, breast and hands.

 

The anointing spoon (Figure 12) was used at the coronation of Charles II in 1661. The small pearls were then added to the spoon’s handle.

The anointing ceremony confirms the monarch’s role as the Supreme Governor of the church of England.

 

Figure 12: The Ampulla and Anointing spoon

(Source: CNN).

 

  1. The Spur of St George or the golden spurs form part of the coronation ceremony since 1189. The spurs in figure 13 were made in 1661 for Charles II and altered with new textiles, buckles and straps in 1820 for the coronation of George IV (1762-1830). The spurs form part of the investiture. Symbolic objects of royalty (spurs) are held to the ankles of the king or handed to a queen. It represents power and responsibilities.

 

Figure 13: The Spur of St George

(Source: Royal collection trust).

 

 

Conclusion

The regalia was part of the coronation of King Charles III on 6 May 2023. The royal tradition and the regalia associated with the ceremony raised questions about the significance of each object. This article describes the essence of the regalia but also reminds us of the diamond South Africa presented as part of the well-preserved heritage objects of Britain.  

 

Sources:

https://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/24/world/europe/crown-jewels-diamond-jubilee/index.html Coronation treasures: Ampulla, Golden spurs, Sovereign’s Orb, and more | UK News | Metro News

https://www.londononline.co.uk/monarchy/Sceptre_with_the_Dove/

https://www.rct.uk/collection/31714/mary-iis-sceptre-with-dove/

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/king-charles-coronation-what-are-objects-ceremony-procession-crown-jewels-b1076468.html

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/may/06/coronation-treasures-from-the-stone-of-destiny-to-the-sovereigns-orb

https://www.worldhistory.org/image/11642/british-sovereigns-sceptre-with-cullinan-i-diamo

 

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