In the lead-up to the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla on 6th May, we’re taking a look at sites in London which have played an important role in coronations past (and, mostly, in this coronation as well).
First up, it’s the Tower of London’s Jewel House which is linked to the coronation through the role it plays in housing the Crown Jewels and, more specifically, the Coronation Regalia.
The centrepiece of the Crown Jewels is St Edward’s Crown, with which King Charles will be crowned in Westminster Abbey.
The crown, which has already been removed from the Tower of London so it could be resized for the occasion, is made from 22 carat gold and adorned with some 444 precious and semi-precious gems. Named for St Edward the Confessor, it dates from 1661 when it was made for the coronation of King Charles II and replaces an earlier version melted down after Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649.
The crown was subsequently used in 1689 in the coronation of joint monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II and then not used again until 1911 when as used to crown King George V. It was also used to crown King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
St Edward’s Crown is not the only crown that will be used in the coronation ceremony – the King will also wear the Imperial State Crown at the end of the service.
Made by Garrard and Company for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 (replacing a crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838), it features the Black Prince’s Ruby in the front – said to have been a gift to Edward, the Black Prince, in 1357 from the King of Castile.
Further gems in the crown include the Stuart Sapphire, the Cullinan II Diamond and St Edward’s Sapphire, said to have been worn in a ring by St Edward the Confessor and found in his tomb in 1163.
Among other items which will be used in the coronation are the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the Sovereign’s Orb, and the Coronation Spoon.
The sceptre was made for King Charles II and now features the world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan Diamond, which was added to it in 1911. The orb was also made for King Charles II’s coronation and is topped with a cross.
The spoon, meanwhile, is one of the oldest items in the Crown Jewels, dating from the 12th century. It is used for anointing the new sovereign with holy oil – which comes from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem – during the ceremony. It survived the abolition of the monarchy after it was purchased by a member of King Charles I’s wardrobe and later returned to King Charles II after the monarchy. The oil is held in a golden vessel known as an ampulla which is shaped like an eagle.
Other items to be used in the coronation are a series of swords – among them the Sword of State, the Sword of Temporal Justice, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, and the Sword of Mercy (this has its tip blunted to represent the Sovereign’s mercy).
The regalia was housed at Westminster Abbey until 1649. They have been kept at the Tower of London since the Restoration (even surviving a theft attempt by Colonel Thomas Blood and accomplices in 1671).
The Crown Jewels, which are now held under armed guard, have been housed in several different locations during their time at the Tower of London including in the Martin Tower and the Wakefield Tower. They were moved into a subterranean vault in the western end of the Waterloo Block (formerly the Waterloo Barracks), now known as the Jewel House (and not to be confused with The Jewel Tower in Westminster), in 1967.
A new Jewel House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on the ground floor of the former barracks in 1994. The exhibit was revamped in 2012 and following King Charles III’s coronation, the display is again being transformed with a new exhibition exploring the origins of some of the objects for the first time.
WHERE: The Jewel House, Tower of London (nearest Tube station Tower Hill); WHEN: 9am to 4.30pm (last admission), Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4.30pm (last admission) Sunday to Monday; COST: £29.90 adults; £14.90 children 5 to 15; £24 concessions (family tickets available; discounts for online purchases/memberships); WEBSITE: https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/whats-on/the-crown-jewels/.