Sovereign's Orb

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A drawing of the orb, 1919

The Sovereign's Orb is a hollow gold sphere of the British Crown Jewels weighing 1.3 kilograms (2.9 lb) and measuring about 16.5 centimetres (6.5 in) in diameter.[1] It is a type of a globus cruciger made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661,[2] and has been used at all subsequent coronations. The orb cost £1,150[3] (£145,349 as of 2016).[4] A band of pearls and gemstones runs along its equator, with a similar half-band running across the top hemisphere. Atop the orb is an amethyst surmounted by a cross.

The orb is a religious symbol representing the monarch's role as Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England.[5] At the coronation of George IV in 1821, the Archbishop of Canterbury handed the orb to the king, exhorting:

The monarch briefly holds the orb in his or her right hand, and it is then placed on the altar, where it remains for the rest of the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the monarch holds the orb in the left hand, the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross in the right, and wears the Imperial State Crown as he or she leaves Westminster Abbey.

It was damaged by Colonel Thomas Blood in an attempted theft of the Crown Jewels in 1671.

Its shape and image were parodied in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail as the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch".

The orb is on display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.


  1. ^ The Sovereign's Orb at the Royal Collection.
  2. ^ The Royal Household. "The Crown Jewels". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  3. ^ Kenneth J. Mears; Simon Thurley; Claire Murphy (1994). The Crown Jewels. Historic Royal Palaces Agency. ASIN B000HHY1ZQ. 
  4. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Gregory Clark (2015), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)" MeasuringWorth.
  5. ^ Edward Francis Twining (1960). A History of the Crown Jewels of Europe. Batsford. p. 131. 
  6. ^ The Plain Englishman 2. Hatchard & Son. 1821. p. 371.