Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A History of St. Edward's Crown

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

Not to be confused with St. Edward’s Sapphire, St. Edward’s Crown is the foundational piece of the Crown Regalia (coronation jewels). It is believed that the crown that inspired its design (which bears 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. It was likely among the royal collection which was 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 new St. Edward's Crown.

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. It seems to this historian that the Crown Royal of Robson's day is the same crown the British Court calls St. Edward's Crown.

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

Throughout the 1800s, the Imperial State Crown served as the crown of choice for the coronations of George IV, William IV, Queen Victoria, and Edward VII. During this time, St. Edward’s Crown was carried as a symbolic object during the procession to Westminster Abbey.

Beginning with the coronation of King George V, St. Edward’s Crown once again became the crown of choice to coronate the new monarch. Every sovereign since then has been crowned with this regal and heavy crown.

When not in use, 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!


BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Official Website of The British Monarchy, The. "The Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012. http://www.royal.gov.uk/.
2. Rush, Kim. "St. Edward's Crown." UK/Irish History @ Suite101. Posted July 17, 2009. Accessed May 28, 2012. http://suite101.com/article/st-edwards-crown-a132758.
3. Jewelry Gems About. "British Crown Jewels." Accessed May 28, 2012. http://www.jewelrygemsabout.com/gem-history/british-crown-jewels.html.
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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