The coronation ceremony sees the crowning of the new king. This ancient ceremony is an occasion for spectacle and celebration. The English ceremony has remained essentially the same for a thousand years. For the last nine centuries, the coronation ceremony has always taken place at Westminster Abbey in London. It is normally conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The first English king to be crowned at the Abbey was William the Conqueror in 1066. Thirty-eight coronations have taken place in the Abbey, including that of Queen Elizabeth II and thirty-nine monarchs have been crowned. The Coronation Regalia form a key part of the ceremony. These sacred objects, which represent the powers and responsibilities of the monarch, are presented to the new king or queen during the service. The collection includes St Edward’s Crown, the Imperial State Crown, the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and the Sovereign’s Orb. St Edward’s Crown was made for the Coronation of Charles II in 1661 as a replacement for the medieval crown melted down in 1649, after the execution of Charles I. St Edward’s Crown was last used for crowning Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
The Imperial State Crown was made for the Coronation of King George VI in 1937, replacing a crown made for Queen Victoria. The crown includes the Cullinan II Diamond, the second largest stone cut from the great Cullinan Diamond. The Cullinan Diamond is the largest diamond ever discovered. The Imperial State Crown is worn by the monarch to leave Westminster Abbey after the ceremony. The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross was made for the Coronation of Charles II in 1661 and has been used at every coronation since. The Sceptre includes the magnificent Cullinan I Diamond, the largest colourless diamond in the world. The Sovereign’s Orb is a representation of the monarch’s power. It symbolises the Christian world with its cross set on a globe. The gold Orb weighs 1.32kg and is mounted with emeralds, rubies and sapphires surrounded by diamonds and pearls. During the coronation service, the Orb is placed in the right hand of the monarch. It is then placed on the high altar before the moment of crowning.
The lost medieval crown dated back to the 11th century and belonged to the royal saint, Edward the Confessor. The medieval Crown Jewels were sold or destroyed in the mid-17th century. In 1649, at the close of the English Civil War, Charles I was executed and items from the Royal Collection were sold by Parliament to fund the new government. Jewels were sold and items of silver and gold were melted down and turned into coins. By 1660 the monarchy was restored, and Charles II ordered the creation of the new regalia for his Coronation in 1661. These make up a large proportion of the Crown Jewels which can be seen today.