Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Royal Regalia: England

St Edward's Crown
When it comes to royal regalia England and Great Britain have a great deal to cover. The most significant pieces, however, are probably the St Edward’s Crown, the Imperial State Crown, the orb, sceptre and sword. The most prized is almost certainly St Edward’s Crown. It was made in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II and is the official coronation crown of British monarchs. The name comes from the gold used to make the crown being left from the remains of the original crown of King St Edward the Confessor. Some debate remains about when exactly this crown was lost, some believing it to have been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell while others hold it to have disappeared earlier. However, it was recreated for the coronation of King Charles II and, so tradition goes, some of the materials used in the creation of the crown in the time of St Edward were left over from a crown used by King Alfred the Great. King James II and King William III were both crowned with the piece. It has not, however, been used at every subsequent coronation. The Hanoverian monarchs used a new crown made for King George I and since monarchs like Queen Victoria and King Edward VII found it too heavy and impractical, they did not use it either. However, it was the coronation crown used by King George V, King George VI (Edward VIII never having a coronation, George VI stepping in to the ceremony planned for him before his abdication) and Queen Elizabeth II. By order of Queen Elizabeth II the St Edward Crown replaced the Tudor Crown as the official symbol of the monarchy used on badges, coats of arms and the various insignia of servants of the Crown. So, it could be said that, despite being rarely used, the St Edward’s Crown is effectively “the” crown of the U.K. and Commonwealth Realms.

Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 to replace the crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838. It is an exact duplicate of the older crown but has been adjusted to be a better fit for Queen Elizabeth II. It incorporates two pearls once worn by Queen Elizabeth I, the Black Prince’s Ruby (which once belonged to Prince Edward of Woodstock) and the famous Cullinan II diamond or “Lesser Star of Africa”, the fourth largest polished diamond in the world. The crown is worn by the monarch after the coronation when leaving Westminster Abbey and is most often seen being worn by the monarch for the State Opening of Parliament. The Cullinan I diamond or “Great Star of Africa” is on the Sceptre with the Cross, one of two sceptres used by the British monarch at the coronation. It was made in 1661, redesigned a bit in 1910 and is carried in the right hand of the monarch during the coronation. In their left hand, he or she hold the Sceptre with the Dove, also made in 1661, representing the Holy Spirit. The Sovereign’s Orb, made in 1661, is a gold sphere bound by jewels around the center and another row across the top in the center of which is a cross to symbolize the rule of Christ over the world and the role of the British monarch as “Defender of the Faith”. It is held in the left hand when leaving Westminster Abbey.

When it comes to “the” sword, there are actually five that are used in the coronation ceremony. The one most think of as being “the” sword is probably the Great Sword of State which is carried by the Lord Great Chamberlain at the coronation and the State Opening of Parliament. It is the largest ceremonial sword of the British Crown jewels and is decorated with symbols of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom. The sword that is actually presented to the monarch during the coronation is the Jewelled Sword of Offering. It was made for the coronation of King George IV in 1821 and, as befitted that most grand and opulent of all British coronations, is reputed to be the most valuable sword on earth being covered in rubies, diamonds, sapphires and other precious stones. It is presented to the new monarch by the Archbishop of Canterbury to symbolize the royal power being used in the service of the church and true religion. Other swords used in the coronation are the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Mercy.

Tudor Crown (reproduction)
Another crown which is probably worth mentioning is the Tudor Crown, also called the Imperial Crown or King’s Crown. Most likely made for King Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty, it was used by King Henry VIII and was the coronation crown for King Edward VI, Queen Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I, King James I and King Charles I. Especially after the reign of James I, it came to be regarded as an almost sacred object. As an aside, the original Crown of St Edward was certainly regarded as such and was treated almost as a holy relic. Unfortunately, after the regicide of King Charles I in 1649 the republican potentate Oliver Cromwell had the crown destroyed, broken up and melted down as part of his eradication of all royal symbols. This was truly a great loss to the cultural legacy and history of England and Great Britain. However, because the crown had been so meticulously depicted in the many paintings of the Stuart reign (such as royal portraits) and because records still remained from the time of King Henry VIII of the jewels used in the crown, last year experts in Britain were able to recreate the crown exactly. The cost of this was paid by the HRP (Historic Royal Places) and it is now on display at the royal pew of the Chapel Royal in Hampton Court Palace.

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