Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom

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St Edward's Crown (top) is used to crown the monarch. It is flanked by the sovereign's golden sceptres. Also in this picture are the crown and diadem of Mary of Modena (the wife of James II of England), the blunt Sword of Mercy, the eagle-shaped ampulla, the armills (a type of bracelet) and orbs. The main regalia were displayed in this fashion at the Tower of London until the mid-20th century.

In the United Kingdom, the Crown Jewels are a collection of more than 100 historic ceremonial objects, including the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign at his or her coronation ceremony. The collection is made up of crowns, sceptres, orbs, swords, rings, spurs, trumpets, plates, candlesticks and the royal robes, as well as many other priceless objects.[1] Although part of the Royal Collection, held in trust by Queen Elizabeth II for her successors and the nation, it does not belong to the monarch personally.[2]

The jewels are housed in the Jewel House at the Tower of London,[3] a vault designed for up to 20,000 people a day to see the 23,578 diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires.[4] A number of items are still used at coronations, State Openings of Parliament and royal christenings.[5] Many pieces, like the trumpets and banqueting plate, have fallen out of use, and some were only designed to be used once, such as the Imperial Crown of India and the ring made for Queen Victoria's coronation in 1838.


Early history[edit]

King Aethelstan (924–39) presenting a copy of Bede's Life of St Cuthbert to the saint himself. This is the earliest known depiction of a crowned English king.

The earliest known use of regalia in England was discovered by archaeologists in 1988 in Deal, Kent, and dates to between 200 and 150 BC. A crown, sword, scabbard, brooch and ceremonial shield were found inside the tomb of the Mill Hill Warrior. A later dig in a field at Hockwold cum Wilton, Norfolk, revealed a large number of circlets and a bronze crown with depictions of human faces.[6] Following the conquest of Britain by the Roman Empire in 43 AD, crowns and other symbols of authority continued to be used by the governors of Britain.[7]

By the 5th century, the Romans had withdrawn from Britain, and the Angles and the Saxons settled. A series of new kingdoms began to emerge. One of the methods used by regional kings to solidify their authority over their territories was the use of ceremony and insignia. The tomb of an unknown king (evidence suggests it is Rædwald of East Anglia)[8] provides a unique insight into the regalia of a pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon king. Buried with him is an ornate bronze helmet decorated with faces and set with garnets.[9] The king was also buried with a sceptre, a decorated sword and a shield.[10]

Middle Ages[edit]

William I of England
The Stone of Scone in King Edward's Chair at Westminster Abbey, 1855

In 1066, Edward the Confessor died without an heir; in the first scene of the Bayeux Tapestry he is depicted on a throne and wearing a crown. William the Conqueror emerged as king of England following his victory over the English at the Battle of Hastings.

Wearing a crown became an important part of William I's efforts to cement his authority over his territory and subjects. At his death in 1087, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported, "He wore his crown three times a year as often as he was in England [...] On these occasions all the great men of England were assembled about him [...] He was so stern and relentless a man that no one dared do anything against his will [...] Among other things we must not forget the good order he kept in the land".[11][12]

A crown specifically referred to as St Edward's Crown is first recorded as having been used for the coronation of Henry III in 1220,[13] and it appears to be the same crown worn by Edward the Confessor and then by his successor, William I. The crown was used in many subsequent coronations until its eventual destruction by the English Republic 400 years later. One of the few surviving descriptions of this crown is "great crown of gold with precious stones".[14]

An inventory of relics drawn up by Richard Sporley, a monk at Westminster Abbey (1430–80), contained a note saying, "Saint Edward king and confessor for future memory and for the dignity of the king's coronation commanded to be kept in that church all the royal ornaments wherewith he was crowned". The ornaments were recorded as, "a tunic (and other vestments), an excellent golden crown, golden comb and spoon, for the queen's coronation a crown and two rods, and for the [service of] communion a chalice of onyx stone and a golden paten".[15]

Also in the original Crown Jewels was an item called Alfred the Great's State Crown, described as "gold wirework set with small stones and two little bells".[16] Sir Henry Spelman, a member of parliament at the time, wrote in his diary, "[the crown] is of very ancient work, with flowers adorned with stones of somewhat a plain setting".[17] It is not clear if this was the Crown of Edward the Confessor. It is possible they were unrelated, since the descriptions vary, and the agents of Oliver Cromwell, who overthrew the monarchy in the 17th century, found a number of crowns in the Upper Jewel Tower, the Palace of Whitehall and Westminster Abbey.

In the 12th century, the silver-gilt anointing spoon was commissioned, probably for Henry II or Richard I; it is the oldest surviving piece of regalia used in the coronation ceremony, first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1349.

Following the defeat in 1282 of the Welsh prince, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, by Edward I, the Welsh regalia was given to England. According to the Chronicle of Aberconwy Abbey, "The Welsh gave up the crown of the most famous King Arthur, the former king of Britain; and so the glory of Wales and the Welsh was handed over to the kings and lords of England".[18][19]

After the 1296 invasion of Scotland, the Stone of Scone was sent to the Tower of London "in recognition", as the chronicler Walter of Guisborough put it, "of a kingdom surrendered and conquered".[20] It was fitted into a wooden chair – known as King Edward's Chair – which came to be used for the investiture of kings of England, earning its reputation as the Coronation Chair.[21] The Scottish regalia were also taken to London.[22]

In Edward II's treasury in 1324, there were no fewer than 10 crowns.[23] At some point in the 14th century, the jewels were moved from Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London due to a series of successful and attempted thefts.[24][25]

Early modern period[edit]

The Tudor Crown in a portrait of Charles I by Daniel Mytens prior to its sale in 1649

The traditions established in the medieval period continued later.[26] By the middle of the 15th century, a crown was formally worn on six religious feasts every year: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Whitsun, All Saints and one or both feasts of St Edward.[27] A crown was also displayed and worn at the annual State Opening of Parliament.[28]

Around this time, swords – symbols of kingship since ancient times – were introduced into the coronation ceremony. Three swords were used to represent the king's powers in the administration of justice: the Sword of Spiritual Justice, Sword of Temporal Justice and Sword of Mercy. Another emerging item of regalia was the orb, described in Tudor inventories as a round ball with a cross of gold weighing 496 grams (17.5 oz).[29]

Regalia was increasingly passed from one king to the next. The first example of this was the Sovereign's State Crown. Its date of manufacture is unknown but it was probably created at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. The gold crown was covered in pearls, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, and decorated with fleurs-de-lis and crosses, each adorned with images of Christian figures and former kings of England.[13]

The concept of hereditary state regalia was enshrined in law when James I decreed, "the Imperial Diadem and Crown, and other royal and princely ornaments and jewels [are] to be individually and inseparably for ever hereafter annexed to the kingdom of this realm".[30]


Following the death of James I in 1625, Charles I succeeded the throne. His many conflicts with Parliament, stemming from his belief in the divine right of kings and the many religious conflicts that pervaded his reign, triggered the English Civil War. After six years of war, Charles was defeated and executed by the Parliamentarians in 1649. Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England and, less than a week after the king's execution, abolished the monarchy.

The newly created English Republic found itself short of money. In order to raise funds, the Act for the Sale of the Personal Estate of the King, Queen and Prince was brought into law, and trustees were appointed to value the jewels – regarded by Cromwell as symbolic of the "detestable rule of kings"[31] – and sell them to the highest bidder.[32] The most valuable object was the Tudor Crown, valued at £1,100. It was set with 2 emeralds, 19 sapphires, 28 diamonds, 58 rubies and 168 pearls.[33][34]

Restoration to present day[edit]

The British monarchy was eventually restored in 1661 after Cromwell's death, and in preparation for the coronation of Charles II, new jewels were made based on records of the lost items.[1] The new regalia was made by Sir Robert Vyner at a cost of £12,184[35] – as much as three new warships.[36] The Coronation Chair had been retained and used for Cromwell's installation as Lord Protector.[1] A few other pieces, such as the Coronation Spoon, were returned to the king.[1]

Around this time, the jewels went on public display at the Tower of London. A 77-year-old custodian named Talbot Edwards would take the regalia out of a cupboard and show it to visitors for a small fee.[37] The arrangement was ended in 1671 when Colonel Thomas Blood, an Anglo-Irish army officer loyal to Parliament, attacked the custodian. He and two accomplices made off with a crown, sceptre and the Sovereign's Orb.[38] They got as far as the perimeter, where they were apprehended and taken into custody. Ever since, the Crown Jewels have been kept under armed guard in a part of the tower known as the Jewel House.[39]

Since the Restoration, there have been many additions and alterations to the regalia. Starting with Charles II's successor, Queen Anne, gemstones would be hired for the coronation and replaced with paste or crystal for display in the Jewel House, a practice which continued until the early 20th century.[1]

During World War II, the Crown Jewels were moved from the Tower of London to a secret location.[1] In 1990, The Sunday Telegraph, citing a biography of the French army general, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, by his widow, Simonne, reported that George VI hid the most valuable diamonds and gemstones at the bottom of a lake near Windsor Castle, about 32 km (20 miles) outside London, where they remained until after the war. The only people who knew of the hiding place were the king and his librarian, Sir Owen Morshead, who apparently revealed the secret to the general and his wife on their visit to England in 1949.[40]

In 2012, Martin Swift of Mappin & Webb was appointed as the Crown Jeweller, responsible for the upkeep of the jewels.[41]


While some of the crowns are used by every monarch, others have been made specially for monarchs and queens consort.

St Edward's Crown[edit]

St Edward's Crown
Main article: St Edward's Crown

The centrepiece of the coronation regalia is named for Edward the Confessor and is placed on the monarch's head at the actual moment of crowning by the Archbishop of Canterbury.[42] Made of gold in 1661, it has four crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis, with two arches on top. Surmounting the arches is a jewelled cross pattée. Its frame is embellished with 444 semi-precious stones, including amethysts, garnet, olivine, peridot, rubies, sapphires, topazes, tourmalines and zircon.[43] The crown is 30 cm (12 in) tall, weighs 2.23 kg (4.9 lb) and has been noted to be extremely heavy. Queen Elizabeth II opted to use a stylised image of this crown in coats of arms, badges, logos and various other insignia throughout the Commonwealth realms to symbolise her royal authority.[44] On 4 June 2013, it was displayed on the altar in Westminster Abbey to mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation – the first time it had left the Tower of London since 1953.[45]

Imperial State Crown[edit]

The version of the Imperial State Crown worn by George V in 1910
Main article: Imperial State Crown

A much lighter crown is worn by the newly crowned monarch when he or she leaves Westminster Abbey,[46] and at the annual State Opening of Parliament. The current Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 for George VI, and is a virtual copy of the one made in 1838 for Queen Victoria, which had fallen into a poor state of repair (the discarded frame can be seen at the Tower of London).[47] The crown was altered in 1953, when it was resized to fit Queen Elizabeth II, and the arches were lowered by 25 mm (1 inch) to give it a more feminine appearance. It is made of gold, silver and platinum, and has four crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis, with two arches surmounted by a monde and cross pattée. The crown is decorated with 5 rubies, 11 emeralds, 17 sapphires, 273 pearls and 2,868 diamonds. Three of the pearls are said to have belonged to Elizabeth I.[48] Among the largest stones are Black Prince's Ruby (a spinel) and the Cullinan II diamond.

Consort crowns[edit]

The wives of kings – queens consort – traditionally wore the Crown of Mary of Modena, the wife of James II, who first wore it at their coronation in 1685. Originally set with 561 hired diamonds and 129 pearls, it is now set with crystals and cultured pearls for display in the Jewel House.[49] By the 20th century, the crown was judged to be in a poor state of repair, so a new European-style crown, flatter and with more arches than traditional British crowns, was made for Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII, to wear at their coronation in 1902.

Queen Mary's Crown, unusual for a British crown in having eight half-arches instead of the traditional four, was manufactured by Garrard & Co. for the coronation of Queen Mary and George V in 1911. It contains 2,200 diamonds, and has contained the Koh-i-Noor diamond, as well as Cullinan III and Cullinan IV. In 1914, all three stones were replaced with crystal replicas and, at the same time, the arches were made detachable so it could be worn as a circlet or open crown. The crown has not been used since Queen Mary died in 1953.

The Queen Mother's Crown is a platinum crown made for Queen Elizabeth, the wife of George VI, to wear at their coronation in 1937. It was the first crown for a British king or queen to be made of platinum, and was modelled on Queen Mary's Crown, but has four half-arches instead of eight. Its arches are detachable at the crosses pattée, allowing it to be worn as a circlet. The crown is decorated with about 2,800 diamonds, most notably the 105-carat (21 g) Koh-i-Noor in the middle of the front cross. It also contains a replica of the 22.48-carat (4.5 g) Lahore Diamond given to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851, and a 17-carat (3.4 g) diamond given to her by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire in 1856.[50] The crown was laid on top of Elizabeth's coffin at her funeral in 2002.[51]

Non-coronation crowns[edit]

The Imperial Crown of India

The relatively modest Coronet of Frederick was made in 1728 for the Prince of Wales, the son of George II. It was placed on a cushion in front of him when he took his seat in the House of Lords. It was last used by Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales.[52]

Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown is just 10 cm (4 in) tall, and was made in 1870 using diamonds taken from a large necklace belonging to the queen, who wore the crown on top of her widow's cap following the death of her husband, Prince Albert. Towards the end of her reign, she often wore it at State Openings of Parliament in place of the much heavier Imperial State Crown.[53]

The Imperial Crown of India was created in 1911 when George V visited the Delhi Durbar in his capacity as Emperor of India. An ancient law prohibits the removal of Crown Jewels from the country; for this reason, a new crown had to be made specially, with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and 6,100 diamonds. The king wrote in his diary, "Rather tired after wearing my crown for 3.5 hours; it hurt my head, as it is pretty heavy".[54] It has not been used since George V returned from India, and is now a part of the Crown Jewels.[55]

George IV's State Diadem, officially the Diamond Diadem, was made in 1820 for George IV.[56] Originally made for the king to wear over his velvet cap of maintenance in the procession to his coronation,[57] the diadem is now used by the Queen in procession to the annual State Opening of Parliament. It is decorated with 1,333 diamonds weighing a total of 320 carats (64 g), including a four-carat yellow diamond in the front cross, and 169 pearls along its base.[58] Its design features roses, thistles and shamrocks, the floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.[59] When not in use, the diadem is on display in the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace.[60]

Orbs and sceptres[edit]

Queen Victoria holding the Sceptre with Cross and wearing the Imperial State Crown, 1838

The sceptre is most likely derived from the shepherd's staff, via the crozier of a bishop; it may, however, be a remnant of the ceremonial spear that was presented to kings and queens at coronations in different parts of the world in early history.[61]

Two gold sceptres made in 1661 are part of the coronation regalia. The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross is a token of his or her temporal power as head of state. The whole object is 92 cm (3 ft) long and weighs around 1.2 kg (2.6 lb). In 1910, it was redesigned to incorporate Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which, at over 530 carats (106 g), is still the largest clear cut diamond in the world. It was found in South Africa in 1905 and is named after the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan. The gold clasps holding it can be opened and the stone removed to be worn as a pendant, although this has only been done a few times in the last hundred years. Above the pear-shaped diamond is a large amethyst, faceted all over and surmounted by a cross pattée encrusted with small diamonds, in the centre of which is a large square-cut emerald. During the coronation, the monarch bears the Sceptre with Cross in the right hand.[62]

The less ornate Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, also called the Rod of Equity and Mercy, is emblematic of his or her spiritual role as head of the Church of England.[63] It is a bit longer at 110 cm (3.6 ft) but is thinner and weighs about the same as the Sceptre with Cross. At the top is a gold monde, on which sits a white enamelled dove with its wings outspread; the eyes, beak and feet are gold leaf. The dove has been used to represent the Holy Ghost, who guides the sovereign's actions, for many centuries. In France, it was the custom to release white doves in the church after the coronation of monarchs. Circling the rod are bands of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. The Sceptre with Dove is borne in the left hand, and as the sovereign holds both sceptres, he or she is crowned with St Edward's Crown.[64]

The jewels include two sceptres originally made for Mary of Modena, the wife of James II, in 1685: a gold sceptre with a cross known as the Queen Consort's Sceptre with Cross and another topped by a dove known as the Queen Consort's Ivory Rod with Dove, which, as the name suggests, is made of ivory. Unlike the sovereign's dove, this one has folded wings and is relatively small. For the coronation of Mary II, the wife and joint sovereign of William III, a more elaborate gold sceptre with dove was commissioned in 1689. It has not been used since, and went missing for several decades, only to be found in 1814 at the back of a cupboard in the Tower of London.[65]

The Sovereign's Orb, a type of globus cruciger, is a hollow gold sphere about 16.5 centimetres (6.5 in) in diameter that was made for Charles II in 1661. A band of gems and pearls runs along the equator and there is a half-band on the top hemisphere. Atop the orb is a jewelled cross symbolising Christ's dominion over the world and the sovereign's role as Defender of the Faith.[66] It is handed to the sovereign during the investiture rite of the coronation and is borne later in the left hand when leaving Westminster Abbey. Queen Mary II's Orb is a smaller version made in 1689 for Mary II to hold at her joint coronation with William III. Both orbs were laid on Queen Victoria's coffin at her funeral in 1901.

Processional objects[edit]

The Marquess of Londonderry carrying the Sword of State at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902

Beginning life as weapons carried by the king's Sergeants at Arms, maces evolved into ceremonial objects carried by the king's officers. Today, they are used to represent the monarch's authority. The House of Commons can only operate when the royal mace – dating from the reign of Charles II – is present at the table.[67] Originally, there were 16 silver-gilt maces, but only 13 survive, 10 of which are on display at the Tower of London. Two of these are carried in procession at State Openings of Parliament. Each weighs an average of 10 kilograms (22 lb).[68] The other maces are used in the House of Commons, House of Lords and Lord Chancellor's Department.

At coronations, three swords are carried into Westminster Abbey: the blunt Sword of Mercy (known as Curtana), the Sword of Spiritual Justice and the Sword of Temporal Justice.[69] All three are believed to have been made for the coronation of Charles I but their first recorded use was at the coronation of James II in 1685.[70] Two other swords are used: the two-handed Sword of State, made in 1678, which symbolises the monarch's royal authority and is carried before the monarch at State Openings of Parliament, and the jewelled Sword of Offering, made in 1820 at a cost of £5,988.[71] The latter has a gold-covered leather scabbard, a blade of Damascus steel, and is encrusted with 3,476 precious stones.

The defunct Irish Sword of State, made in 1681, also resides at the Tower of London, and was held by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland prior to Ireland gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1922.

St Edward's Staff is a 1.4-metre (4.6 ft) long golden rod made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661.[72]

The Crown Jewels include 16 silver trumpets dating from between 1780 and 1848. In the Tower of London, nine of these are draped with red silk damask banners originally made for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. The other seven trumpets are displayed alongside the banqueting plate. They have not been used since the Corps of State Trumpeters was disbanded by the Duke of Wellington in the 19th century. Today, the Household Cavalry play their own trumpets at state occasions.

Anointing objects[edit]

When a monarch is anointed, the Dean of Westminster pours the anointing oil from the Ampulla into the Coronation Spoon.[73] The ampulla, 20 cm (7.9 in) tall and weighing 0.66 kilograms (1.5 lb), is a hollow gold vessel made in 1661 and shaped like an eagle. The 27 cm (11 in) long spoon, dating from the 12th century, is silver-gilt and set with pearls. In 1649, Oliver Cromwell sold the spoon to Clement Kynnersley, Yeoman of the Removing Wardrobe, who returned it to Charles II upon the restoration of the monarchy. It is the oldest surviving piece of regalia, first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1349, and was probably made for Henry II or Richard I.

Robes and ornaments[edit]

The robes worn by James II and the swords, spurs, ampulla, Coronation Spoon and Coronation Chair

The anointing is followed by the investment with the coronation robes and ornaments. Robes include the Supertunica, a dalmatic made for George V in 1911, and the Imperial Mantle, a pallium made for George IV in 1821. Both robes are made of gold thread and weigh 10 kilograms (22 lb). A new girdle and stole were made for Queen Elizabeth II by the Worshipful Company of Girdlers. The stole is embroidered with the floral emblems of Australia, Canada, England, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sri Lanka and Wales. The leek of Wales has been used instead of the yellow daffodil as it would not have contrasted well against the gold thread.[74]

Spurs made for Charles II are taken from the altar and presented to the monarch. They are made of solid gold, richly embossed with floral patterns and scrolls, and have straps of crimson velvet embroidered in gold. Known originally as St George's Spurs, they are one of the emblems of knighthood and chivalry, and with the swords they denote the sovereign's role as head of the armed forces. Gold spurs were introduced into the coronation ceremony in 1189 at the coronation of Richard I. Historically, the spurs were fastened to the monarch's feet but since the Restoration they are simply brushed against the heels of kings or shown to queens and placed on the altar.[75]

The Armills are gold bracelets of sincerity and wisdom. For Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, a new set of 22-carat gold armills lined with crimson velvet was made and presented on behalf of various Commonwealth governments. These are on display at the Tower of London along with an older pair made for Charles II.[76] The old bracelets are also lined with crimson velvet which is held on with red silk thread drawn through holes pierced in the edges. The edges are decorated by raised gold fillets with diagonal lines in blue enamel. Roses, thistles and harps, the national symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland, as well as fleurs-de-lis, are champlevé enamelled on the surface of the bracelets.[77] The monarch continues to wear the armills on leaving the abbey and can be seen wearing them later, with the Imperial State Crown and Sovereign's Ring, during his or her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.[78]

The Sovereign's Ring was made for William IV's coronation in 1831. Before then, each monarch received a new ring to symbolise his or her "marriage" to the nation, but the current ring has been used by all monarchs from Edward VII to Queen Elizabeth II, with the exception of Queen Victoria, whose fingers were too small to retain it.[79] In the centre of the gold ring is an octagonal sapphire, 1.5 cm (0.6 in) in diameter, overlaid with a square ruby and four long, narrow rubies to form a cross. Around the sapphire is a circle of 14 diamonds. The general design is intended to represent the red Cross of St George on the blue background of St Andrew's Cross.[80]

A small copy of the ring was made for Victoria, who wrote in a letter, "The Archbishop had (most awkwardly) put the ring on the wrong finger, and the consequence was that I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, which I at last did with great pain".[81] It was left to the Crown upon her death in 1901 and is on display at the Tower of London. The Queen Consort's Ring, set with diamonds and rubies, has been worn by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.[82]

Altar plate[edit]

Altar dishes behind George V at his coronation in 1911, showing their relative size. It was the first time a coronation had been photographed.

In the Jewel House there is a collection of chalices, patens and dishes – mostly silver-gilt but some of gold – that are displayed on the high altar or in front of the royal box at Westminster Abbey during a coronation, and used at various other times.[83]

One of the most striking pieces is a large dish weighing 13 kilograms (29 lb), in the centre of which is a relief depiction of the Last Supper. Around the edge at the top, bottom and sides are four engravings of biblical scenes: the Washing of the Feet, the Walk to Emmaus, the Coming of the Holy Ghost, and Christ's Commission to the Apostles, divided by scrolls of foliage. Made by London goldsmith Henry Greenway in 1664 for the Duke of York and later acquired by Charles II, it stands on the high altar during the coronation ceremony.[84]

Other pieces include the altar dish and flagon made in 1691 by Francis Garthorne and St John Hoyte respectively for the royal chapel at the Tower of London. The dish measures 70 cm (2.2 ft) across; it also has a depiction of the Last Supper, below which is the coat of arms of William and Mary. Its rim is engraved with cherubs, scrollwork and fruit. Both pieces are still used in the chapel three times a year on Easter, Whitsun and Christmas and they have been displayed in Westminster Abbey at every coronation since 1821.[85]

The Maundy Dish is one of six used by the Queen at Royal Maundy for handing out alms to elderly people in recognition of their service to the church and local community. The ceremony, which takes place in a different cathedral every year, entirely replaced the ancient custom of washing and kissing the feet of the poor in 1730, and the dish, though it bears the cypher of William and Mary, dates from the reign of Charles II. Two purses containing specially minted coins are taken from the dish and presented to each recipient.[86]

A pair of 96 cm (3 ft) tall candlesticks made in the 17th century stand on either side of the high altar. These are engraved all over with scrolls, leaves and flowers, and were also used at the lying in state of Edward VII at Buckingham Palace in 1910.[87]

Banqueting plate[edit]

Until the 19th century, the coronation was traditionally followed by a banquet at Westminster Hall. The last banquet was held in 1821 after the coronation of George IV. Silverware used at the banquets include the Plymouth Fountain, a wine fountain made by the German goldsmith Peter Oehr in the mid-17th century. It weighs 14 kilograms (31 lb) and was gilded for the coronation of George II in 1726, and is decorated with flowers, fruit, dolphins, mermaids and sea monsters.

The Exeter Salt, a 45 cm (18 in) tall salt cellar in the form of a castle, was presented to Charles II by the city of Exeter upon the restoration of the monarchy. It was made in 1630 and is set with around 70 gemstones. Each of its four main compartments held about 29 grams (1.0 oz) of salt, and smaller compartments held pepper and spices.[88] The salt is the only surviving work of the German goldsmith Johann Hass.

The four St George's Salts were originally made for a St George's Day banquet of the Knights of the Garter and Charles II in the 17th century.

The Queen Elizabeth Salt was made by London goldsmith Affabel Partridge in 1572 for a member of the aristocracy. It was acquired by the Crown at the time of Charles II.

There are also 12 salt spoons made for the coronation of George IV.

The Wine Cistern, also known as the Grand Punch Bowl, weighs 257 kilograms (567 lb), and is 76 cm (2.5 ft) tall, 138 cm (4.5 ft) long and 101 cm (3.3 ft) wide. It was made for George IV in 1829 by Rundell & Bridge and bears the mark of John Bridge. Weighing a quarter of a ton, it is the heaviest surviving piece of English banqueting plate.[89]

Christening fonts[edit]

The Lily Font on top of the Charles II Font and Basin at the christening of Edward, Prince of Wales, 1842

Charles II, unmarried when he took the throne, persuaded the Treasury to pay for a christening font and basin. His marriage to Catherine of Braganza produced no heir, but the font may have been used to baptise some of his 13 illegitimate children.[90] It was last used in 1796, while the basin found a new role as an altar dish in the 19th century and is on display with the altar plate at the Tower of London.

A ewer and basin made in 1735 were used at the christening of the future George III in 1738 because his father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, had been banished from the royal court by George II and was forbidden to use the Charles II Font. They were also used at the christening of George III's son, Prince Alfred, in 1780. The handle of the ewer is topped by a figure of Hercules slaying the Hydra, symbolising the triumph of virtue over vice.[91]

The silver-gilt Lily Font was made in 1840 by E.E.J. & W. Barnard for the christening of Victoria, Princess Royal, the first child of Queen Victoria, who declined to use the Charles II Font because of its unseemly history. The font weighs 9.94 kilograms (21.9 lb) and is decorated with water lilies symbolising purity and new life. It was used at the christening of Princess Charlotte in 2015.[5]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "FAQ: Does the Queen own the Royal Collection?". Royal Collection Trust. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′29″N 0°4′34″W / 51.50806°N 0.07611°W / 51.50806; -0.07611