In matters of royal succession, the ceremony is sacred. And for the British monarchy, a key part of the ceremony are the objects that have become imbued with symbolism over the centuries. At the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey, regalia are presented as the UK mourns its Queen and prepares to anoint the new monarch as a God-given ruler of the kingdom and head of the Church of England.
Here are five royal objects what they symbolize:
1. The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown, which is displayed above the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, was made for the coronation of King George IV in 1937. It is the crown that the monarch wears when he leaves the Abbey of Westminster after the coronation ceremony and that used during ceremonies. as the official opening of Parliament.
Like St. Edward’s Crown, it is a closed imperial crown with arches that form a cross above the sovereign’s head. “It reflects the idea that no one has authority over you except God. You are not subordinate to the pope or another king to whom you would swear loyalty,” says University professor Andrew R. Walkling. of Binghamton specializing in modern Britain and the English Court.
Queen Elizabeth II called the Imperial State Crown “heavy” during an interview with the BBC, and it’s easy to see why: its 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, four rubies and 269 pearls are quite heavy to carry and weigh. more than 1 kilogram. The crown is also steeped in history: Henry V is said to have worn the black prince’s ruby at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, and the sapphire of Saint Edward, which adorns the cross above the world, is said to have come from the ring of the saint.
The orb and cross made of more than 650 diamonds were once part of Queen Victoria’s State Crown from 1838, and the four pearls underneath are said to have belonged to Elizabeth I.
2. Crown of St. Edward
St Edward’s Crown was made in 1661 for Charles II to replace the crown cast down by the Parliamentarians during the interregnum. The original was worn by Edward the Confessor and considered a holy relic after his canonization in 1161.
“The whole point of recreating the regalia and making them look as much like the originals as possible is to mask the interregnum,” says Walkling.
“When Charles II became king in 1660, he did not date his reign from the time of his restoration; he dates it from the time of his father’s execution. They wanted to create as much continuity as possible,” says Walkling.
St Edward’s crown was damaged in 1671 when Parliamentarian Thomas Blood flattened it with a mallet and stuffed it under his coat in an attempt to steal it. He was later pardoned and the crown restored to its original glory.
St Edward’s Crown is used for the coronation moment and is on display in the Tower of London, where visitors can see its solid gold frame, ermine band and the more than 400 stones that make it sparkle.
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3. The Coronation Spoon
The oldest coronation ceremonial piece is the coronation spoon of the 12e century. It is used to anoint the new monarch with holy oil, “thereby infusing him with the spirit of God and making him unassailable,” says Tracy Borman, author of Crown & Scepter: A New History of the British Monarchy. She says the ritual may have its roots in Saxon leaders who were anointed with oil from a horn, similar to the ritual described in the Old Testament Book of Kings to anoint King Solomon. The act of consecration is considered so sacred that it was the only part of Elizabeth II’s coronation ceremony hidden from cameras.
There’s a dark reason why the spoon is so much older than all the other elements of coronation regalia: the monarchy was temporarily abolished during the English Civil Wars. After the beheading of King Charles I, the coronation regalia were melted down to make coins and the gems sold. The spoon was spared, bought for 16 shillings by a Mr Kynnersley, who had been in charge of Charles I’s wardrobe. He returned the spoon when Charles II was crowned king during the English Restoration.
WATCH: Back to History: Coronation of Elizabeth II, 1953
4. The ruler’s scepter with cross
“The scepter is part of a long-standing tradition of a staff as a symbol of office. You can see it in ancient Egyptian paintings and Persian reliefs,” says Walkling. At Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, the scepter is one of the objects adorning his coffin.
At the coronation ceremony, the Bishop of Canterbury presents the scepter to the new monarch and says: “Receive the rod of equity and mercy. Be so merciful that you are not too careless; so execute justice that you do not forget mercy. Punish the wicked, protect and cherish the righteous, and lead your people where they should go.
Monarchs added to the scepter design over time. In 1820 George IV added a rose, thistle and shamrock representing England, Scotland and Ireland, but the most famous alteration was George V’s addition in 1910 of the 530.2 Cullinan diamond I, known as The Great Star of Africa, the largest colorless cut diamond in the world.
5. Sovereign’s Orb
The orb surmounted by a cross has been a Christian symbol of authority since the Middle Ages. The Sovereign’s Orb is displayed above the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II.
“The orb the monarch wears represents Christian sovereignty and, since the Reformation, his leadership of the Church of England,” says Borman. The Sovereign’s Orb is made of sacred gold with bands of jewels dividing into three parts representing the three known continents at the time of its creation.
At the coronation, the Archbishop of Canterbury places the orb in the monarch’s right hand and says: “Receive this orb placed under the cross and remember that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer”.
Additional jewels and crowns were added to the collection through conquest and changing royal needs – for example a second orb and scepter was commissioned in 1689 for the coronation of joint rulers William III and Mary II . Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, calls for the return of certain gemstones to their country of origin, such as the Kohinoor diamond from India, have reignited controversy over crown jewels assembled over centuries of colonialism.