Spotlight on coronations
Discover more about the objects presented to the monarch during the coronation service and find out what each one represents.
Which objects feature in a coronation service? Watch Dr Tony Trowles, Head of Abbey Collection and Librarian, explain how the replica regalia are used in coronation rehearsals.
The Presentation of the Regalia included the presentation by peers who belong to other faith traditions, including Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. For the first time, a female Lord President of the Council, the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, carried and presented the Sword of State. The Investiture took place to the sound of a Byzantine Chant Ensemble as a way for The King to honour his late father's Greek heritage.
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While the act of crowning a monarch is a well-known part of coronations, over time the regalia has become much more than just a crown. The regalia is made up of a collection of objects that act as symbols of royalty and are presented, or invested, to the new monarch during the coronation service. It includes two crowns, swords, an orb, sceptres, spurs, armills (bracelets) and a ring.
Crowns have appeared in coronations for over 1,000 years and are depicted in manuscripts from the 10th century onwards. Two crowns feature in coronations. The first is the St Edward’s Crown, named after St Edward the Confessor, which is the one placed on the monarch’s head during the crowning. This is followed by the Imperial State Crown, which is much lighter, and is used for the procession out of the Abbey.
The rest of the regalia is highly symbolic representing both church and state, as seen by the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Spiritual Justice. Not all the swords in the regalia are functional; the Sword of Mercy has a blunt tip in recognition of the German legend in which a knight is prevented from using his sword by an angel who stated that ‘Mercy is better than revenge’. The legacy of knighthood continues with the inclusion of spurs, conveying the monarch’s assumption of power.
The two sceptres demonstrate the monarch’s royal authority in relation to the church; one with a dove, which symbolises the Holy Spirit, and one with a cross, which depicts the Cross of Christ. Finally, a ring is presented to the monarch as a symbol of faith.
The Coronation regalia had to be made from scratch in the 17th century after almost all of the medieval coronation regalia was destroyed or lost after the execution of King Charles I. From this point onwards, the regalia has been kept in the Tower of London, but before then, it would have been kept at Westminster Abbey. What remains in the Abbey is a replica set, created ahead of King George VI’s coronation in 1937, specifically to be used within rehearsals.
Ahead of the coronation, the real regalia is brought from the Tower of London to the Abbey. During the service itself, the regalia is carried into the Abbey and placed on the High Altar. When the monarch is presented with each piece, it is the responsibility of the Dean of Westminster to pass each object, in the right order, to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
At different times of the day, or in different seasons, the light falling in the Abbey will light up something that you have walked past a million times and never seen before.