St Edward's Crown

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St Edward's Crown
St Edward's Crown in 2022
Heraldic depictions
Details
CountryUnited Kingdom
Made1661
OwnerCharles III in right of the Crown.[1]
Weight2.23 kg (4.9 lb)
Arches2
Material22-carat gold

St Edward's Crown is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.[2] Named after Saint Edward the Confessor, versions of it have traditionally been used to crown English and British monarchs at their coronations since the 13th century.

The original crown was a holy relic kept at Westminster Abbey, Edward's burial place, until the regalia were either sold or melted down when Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War.

The current St Edward's Crown was made for Charles II in 1661. It is 22-carat gold, 30 centimetres (12 in) tall, weighs 2.23 kilograms (4.9 lb), and is decorated with 444 precious and fine gemstones. The crown is similar in weight and overall appearance to the original, but its arches are Baroque.

After 1689, owing to its weight the crown was not used to crown any monarch for over 200 years. In 1911, the tradition was revived by George V and has continued ever since, including at the 2023 coronation of Charles III and Camilla.[3] In 1953, Elizabeth II opted for a stylised image of this crown to be used on coats of arms and other insignia in Commonwealth realms to symbolise her royal authority.

St Edward's Crown is normally on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

History[edit]

Origin[edit]

Edward the Confessor wore his crown at Easter, Whitsun, and Christmas.[4] In 1161, he was canonised, and objects connected with his reign became holy relics. The monks at his burial place of Westminster Abbey claimed that Edward had asked them to look after his regalia in perpetuity for the coronations of all future English kings.[5] Although the claim is likely to have been an exercise in self-promotion on the abbey's part, and some of the regalia probably had been taken from Edward's grave when he was reinterred there, it became accepted as fact,[5] thereby establishing the first known set of hereditary coronation regalia in Europe.[6] A crown referred to as St Edward's Crown is first recorded as having been used for the coronation of Henry III in 1220, and it appears to be the same crown worn by Edward.[7]

Holy relic[edit]

St Edward's Crown rarely left Westminster Abbey. When Richard II was forced to abdicate in 1399, he had the crown brought to the Tower of London, where he symbolically handed it over to his successor Henry IV, saying "I present and give to you this crown with which I was crowned King of England and all the rights dependent on it".[8]

It was used in 1533 to crown the second wife of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, which was unprecedented for a queen consort.[9] In the Tudor period, three crowns were placed on the heads of monarchs at a coronation: St Edward's Crown, the state crown, and a "rich crown" made specially for the new king or queen.[10] After the English Reformation, the new Church of England denounced the veneration of medieval relics and, starting with the coronation of Edward VI in 1547, the significance of the crown's link to Edward the Confessor was downplayed.[11]

During the English Civil War, Parliament melted down the crown, regarded by Oliver Cromwell as symbolic of the "detestable rule of kings".[12] The crown was described in an inventory of Charles I's possessions as "King Alfred's Crown of gold wire-work set with slight stones and two little bells", weighing 79.5 ounces (2.25 kg), valued at £3 per ounce, total value £248 10s 0d.[13] An inscription on the lid of its box, translated from Latin, read: "This is the chief crown of the two, with which were crowned Kings Alfred, Edward and others". However, there is no evidence to support its dating from Alfred's reign, and the crown has always been referred to as St Edward's Crown (or Crown of St Edward) in the coronation order of service.[14]

Restoration[edit]

St Edward's Crown as it looked according to Francis Sandford at the English coronation of James II in 1685

The monarchy was restored in 1660 and in preparation for the coronation of Charles II, who had been living in exile abroad, a new St Edward's Crown was supplied by the Royal Goldsmith, Sir Robert Vyner.[15] It was fashioned to closely resemble the medieval crown, with a heavy gold base and clusters of semi-precious stones, but the arches are decidedly Baroque.[16] In the late 20th century, it was assumed to incorporate gold from the original St Edward's Crown, as they are almost identical in weight, and no invoice was produced for the materials in 1661. A crown was also displayed at the lying in state of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England from 1653 until 1658. On the weight of this evidence, writer and court historian Martin Holmes, in a 1959 paper for Archaeologia, concluded that in the time of the Interregnum St Edward's Crown was saved from the melting pot and that its gold was used to make a new crown at the Restoration.[17]

His theory became accepted wisdom, and many books, including official guidebooks for the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, repeated his claim as fact. In 2008, new research found that a coronation crown and sceptre were made in 1660 in anticipation of an early coronation, which had to be delayed several times. His other regalia were commissioned in 1661 after Parliament increased the budget as a token of their appreciation for the king. The crown at Cromwell's lying in state was probably made of gilded base metal such as tin or copper, as was usual in 17th-century England; for example, a crown displayed at the funeral of James I had cost only £5 and was decorated with fake jewels.[17]

In 1671, Thomas Blood briefly stole the crown from the Tower of London, flattening it with a mallet in an attempt to conceal it.[18] A new monde was created for the coronation of James II, and for William III the base was changed from a circle to an oval.[19] After the coronation of William III in 1689, monarchs chose to be crowned with a lighter, bespoke coronation crown (e.g., the Coronation Crown of George IV)[20] or their state crown, while St Edward's Crown usually rested on the high altar.[21]

20th to 21st century[edit]

Royal cypher of Elizabeth II

Edward VII intended to revive the tradition of being crowned with St Edward's Crown in 1902, but on coronation day he was still recovering from an operation for appendicitis, and instead he wore the lighter Imperial State Crown.[22]

Jewels were hired for use in the crown and removed after the coronation until 1911, when it was permanently set with 444 precious and semi-precious stones. Imitation pearls on the arches and base were replaced with gold beads which at the time were platinum-plated.[23] Its band was also made smaller to fit George V, the first monarch to be crowned with St Edward's Crown in over 200 years, reducing the crown's overall weight from 82 troy ounces (2.6 kg) to 71 troy ounces (2.2 kg).[22]

It was used to crown his successor George VI in 1937, and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, who adopted a stylised image of the crown for use on coats of arms, badges, logos and various other insignia in the Commonwealth realms to symbolise her royal authority. In these contexts, it replaced the Tudor Crown, which had been instated by Edward VII in 1901.[24] Use of the crown's image in this way is by permission of the monarch.[19]

On 4 June 2013, St Edward's Crown was displayed on the high altar in Westminster Abbey at a service marking the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II's coronation, the first time it had left the Jewel House at the Tower of London since 1953.[25] In December 2022, the crown was removed from the Tower of London to be resized ahead of its use in the coronation of Charles III on 6 May 2023.[26]

Description[edit]

External videos
video icon 2023 video of St Edward's Crown by the Royal Collection Trust (1:36)

St Edward's Crown is 22-carat gold,[27] with a circumference of 66 cm (26 in),[28] measures 30 cm (12 in) tall, and weighs 2.23 kg (4.9 lb). It has four fleurs-de-lis alternating with four crosses pattée, which support two dipped arches topped by a monde and cross pattée. Its purple velvet cap is trimmed with ermine.[15] The crown features 444 precious and fine gemstones including 345 rose-cut aquamarines, 37 white topazes, 27 tourmalines, 12 rubies, 7 amethysts, 6 sapphires, 2 jargoons, 1 garnet, 1 spinel, 1 carbuncle and 1 peridot.[23]

Usage[edit]

Although St Edward's Crown is regarded as the official coronation crown, only seven monarchs have been crowned with it since the Restoration: Charles II (1661), James II (1685), William III (1689), George V (1911), George VI (1937), Elizabeth II (1953) and Charles III (2023). Mary II and Anne were crowned with small diamond crowns of their own; George I, George II, George III and William IV with the State Crown of George I; George IV with a large new diamond crown made specially for the occasion; and Queen Victoria and Edward VII chose not to use St Edward's Crown because of its weight and instead used the lighter 1838 Imperial State Crown. When not used to crown the monarch, St Edward's Crown rested on the high altar; however, it did not feature at all in Queen Victoria's coronation.[29]

In heraldry[edit]

St Edward's Crown is widely used as a heraldic emblem of the United Kingdom, being incorporated into a multitude of emblems and insignia. As the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with responsible government, the crown can also symbolise the sovereignty (or authority) of the monarch. During the reign of Elizabeth II it was found on, amongst others, the Royal Cypher; the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom; the Royal Badges of England; and the badges of the police forces of England and Wales, NHS ambulance services, His Majesty's Coastguard, the British Army, the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force and HM Revenue and Customs. It also formed the logo of Royal Mail.[30] In Scotland, the Crown of Scotland appeared in place of St Edward's Crown.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the design of King Charles III's royal cypher was announced in September 2022, which featured the Tudor Crown rather than the St Edward's Crown. According to the College of Arms, it is envisaged that the Tudor Crown will be used in representations of the Royal Arms, badges and military uniforms.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Crown Jewels". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 211. United Kingdom: House of Commons. 16 July 1992. col. 944W.
  2. ^ The Royal Household. "The Crown Jewels". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Coronation order of service in full". BBC News. 5 May 2023. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
  4. ^ H.R. Luard, ed. (1858). Life of St Edward the Confessor. Longman. pp. 215, 273, 281.
  5. ^ a b Keay, pp. 18–20.
  6. ^ Rose, p. 13.
  7. ^ Ronald Lightbown in Blair, vol. 1. pp. 257–353.
  8. ^ Steane, p. 34.
  9. ^ Alice Hunt (2008). The Drama of Coronation: Medieval Ceremony in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-139-47466-5.
  10. ^ Arnold, pp. 731–732.
  11. ^ Ronald Lightbown in MacGregor, p. 257.
  12. ^ Brian Barker (1976). When the Queen was Crowned. Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7100-8397-5.
  13. ^ Twining, p. 132.
  14. ^ Holmes, p. 216.
  15. ^ a b "St. Edward's Crown". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31700.
  16. ^ Holmes, pp. 213–223.
  17. ^ a b Barclay, pp. 149–170.
  18. ^ Graham Fisher; Heather Fisher (1979). Monarchy and the Royal Family: A Guide for Everyman. Robert Hale. p. 40. ISBN 978-0-7091-7814-9.
  19. ^ a b "Royal Crown and Cypher". Government of Canada. Canadian Heritage. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  20. ^ Dixon-Smith, et al., p. 61.
  21. ^ Mears, p. 23.
  22. ^ a b Rose, p. 35.
  23. ^ a b Rose, p. 29.
  24. ^ "Victorian Coat of Arms". Victoria State Government. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  25. ^ Gordon Rayner (4 June 2013). "Crown to leave Tower for first time since 1953 for Westminster Abbey service". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  26. ^ "St Edward's Crown removed from the Tower of London ahead of the Coronation". 3 December 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  27. ^ Kathryn Jones (17 December 2014). "Royal Gold: Reflections of Power" (Podcast). Royal Collection Trust. 13:03 minutes in. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  28. ^ Twining, p. 168.
  29. ^ Mears, et al., p. 23.
  30. ^ Moncreiffe, and Pottinger, pp. 38–46.
  31. ^ "Royal Cypher". College of Arms. 27 September 2022.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]