Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A History of St. Edward's Crown

Rufus Sewell playing Charles II at his coronation
Photo Source: h2g2

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Not to be confused with St. Edward’s Sapphire, St. Edward’s Crown is the foundational piece of the Crown Regalia. It is believed that its crown of inspiration, bearing the same name, was used in 1043 for the coronation of Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. Some sources describe the original crown as a gold diadem circlet adorned with small stones and two bells.

This first crown was likely among the royal collection destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649; however, there is some speculation that gold from Edward the Confessor's crown was somehow preserved and used in the crown used for coronation today.

In 1830, Thomas Robson wrote a book of heraldic definitions called The British Herald, Volume III, in which he documents the history of what he termed the Crown, Royal. According to Robson, the Saxons were the first documented monarchs to use crowns, which were simple circlets of gold, and the Crown Royal of his day is the same crown Britain's call today St. Edward's Crown.

Made by Sir Robert Vyner for the coronation of Charles II (shown above) in 1661, the St. Edward's Crown was originally set with imitation pearls and paste (glass cut so as to imitate gemstones). These imitations sit in state in the Tower of London, but are replaced with the true gemstones when the crown is used for the coronation of a new monarch.

Though the Imperial State Crown served as the crown of choice for the coronations of George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, and Edward VII, coronation with St. Edward’s Crown resumed with the ceremony of George V. Every sovereign since then has been crowned with this regal and heavy crown. During the 1800s, when the Imperial State Crown was used to crown the sovereign, St. Edward’s Crown was carried as a symbolic object during the procession to Westminster Abbey.

Currently, St. Edward’s Crown holds court in the Tower of London among the other pieces of the British Crown Regalia. It will make its next grand appearance at the crowning of the Prince of Wales, at a date which no one wants to think about just yet. Long live the Queen!

1. Official Website of The British Monarchy, The. "The Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012.
2. Rush, Kim. "St. Edward's Crown." UK/Irish History @ Suite101. Posted July 17, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2012.
3. Jewelry Gems About. "British Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012.
4. Robson, Thomas. The British Herald; or, Cabinet of armorial bearings of the Nobility. Sunderland: Turner & Marwood, 1830.

*Victorian clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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