St. Edward’s crown, a centuries-old and priceless relic, will once again be worn at the coronation of King Charles III of England due to take place a few months from now.
During this ancient ritual, dating back nearly one thousand years, the former Prince of Wales, who was officially proclaimed the new king of the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Commonwealth on Saturday, will have the crown placed on his head.
The public proclamation of Prince Charles on Saturday, September 10th at St. James’ Palace in London was merely a public acknowledgment of his kingship, but he actually became the king immediately upon the death of his mother.
Whereas the public proclamation event is equally important, it should not be confused with the coronation which is a traditional anointing expected to take place on a yet-to-be-determined date, hopefully in several months’ time.
During the coronation rite, King Charles III will be presented with the royal regalia, which includes the elaborate clothing and other adornments a monarch wears at formal presentations and events.
The concluding moment of this ancient rite will be when the archbishop of Canterbury, the senior cleric of the Church of England, places the royal crown upon the new king’s head, hence finalizing the transfer of power from one sovereign to another.
According to public perception, the office of the king is most strongly associated with the royal regalia and especially with the crown. The king’s headpiece is known as St. Edward’s Crown, and this bejeweled treasure has a fascinating history directly connected to the latest King Charles.
History of the ancient version of St. Edward’s Crown
St. Edward’s Crown is a venerated and priceless relic considered a prized possession among the Crown Jewels of England. The spectacular headpiece has a metal base and is made of solid 22-carat gold divided into sections including the headband, arches, crosses, and several fleur-de-lis.
The crown is approximately twelve inches (thirty centimeters) in height and weighs a neck-bending 4.9 pounds (2.23 kilograms). Because of its heaviness, it is usually only worn during coronation ceremonies and replaced with the lighter Imperial State Crown during royal appearances at subsequent formal occasions.
The crown is adorned with 444 precious and semi-precious stones, some of which were added long ago and some of which were added in the 20th century with a purple cap made of velvet and trimmed with ermine fur.
St. Edward’s Crown was named in honor of the legendary Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor, who wore the first version of the headpiece during his 1042 to 1066 AD reign.
However, even after the Norman Conquest, English monarchs continued to wear the lavishly decorated golden crown at their coronations, a practice that endured until 1547 when the Church of England denounced the use of medieval relics with links to Catholicism.
When the monarchy was banished in 1645, following the victory of Oliver Cromwell and the armies of the Parliament in the English Civil War, the original version of St. Edward’s Crown was either sold off or melted down.
The beautiful crown was not forgotten, though, and its association with Edward the Confessor, who was declared a saint by the Catholic Church in 1161, helped keep its memory alive.
The current version of St. Edward’s Crown
Apart from the original version with an untraceable disappearance, the current version of St. Edward’s Crown was crafted in 1661 to mark the restoration of the English monarchy under King Charles II.
The new crown was closely modeled after the original with the same gold-and-precious-stone design although it includes Baroque arches that were not present in the first model, which give it more of a 17th-century feel than its predecessor.
For reasons that remain unknown, St. Edward’s Crown was excluded from coronations beginning in the 18th century. When it fell into disuse this time, however, it was preserved for prosperity rather than being discarded.
After its use in the coronation of William III in 1689, the crown remained out of circulation for over two hundred years, but it was finally “resurrected” in 1911, when the new king, George V, chose to wear the amazing headpiece at his coronation.
King George V got the idea from his father, Edward VII, who had planned to wear the crown at his 1902 coronation ceremony but couldn’t because he was recovering from an illness and was too weak to support its weight.
St. Edward’s Crown was out of the public eye and the royal mind for a long time, but George V’s decision to make it his official royal headwear apparently sparked a new tradition.
Both the next two sovereigns, George VI and his daughter Elizabeth II, chose to wear the crown at their coronations in 1937 and 1953, respectively. Elizabeth was especially enamored with the crown’s striking appearance, which she demonstrated by choosing an adaptation of the crown’s image as a symbol to be used on royal logos, coats of arms, badges, and other official seals.
Some modifications in the design of the crown were made by George V, mainly to reduce its weight, but generally, the crown looks nearly identical to the first version that was worn by Saint Edward the Confessor almost a thousand years ago.
Two Kings named Charles wear same Royal St. Edward’s Crown
When the coronation day of King Charles III finally arrives in 2023, he will be crowned with the very same stunning headpiece that his 17th-century namesake, Charles II, ordered for his coronation ceremony 337 years ago.
Although King Charles III may switch to the Imperial State Crown for later appearances, for at least one special day during the coronation, St. Edward’s Crown will be brought out and shown to an international audience for the first time since 1953.
Meanwhile, the centuries-old and priceless St. Edward’s Crown is being kept at the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it is displayed when it is not perched on the head of the latest king or queen of the British Commonwealth.
Hence, before the impending appearance in 2023, anyone who would like to get an up-close look can do so there.