St Edward’s Crown

St. Edward’s Crown which is described above. This crown is seen in the painting of Queen Anne by Kneller (right) which could indicate that the queen used St. Edward’s Crown as her state crown.

St. Edward’s Crown which is described above. This crown is seen in the painting of Queen Anne by Kneller (lower) which could indicate that the queen used St. Edward’s Crown as her state crown.

The original St. Edward’s Crown a Saxon diadem “of gould wyerworke sett with slight stones and two little bells” was broken up by order of the parliamentary commissioners in 1649. It is widely believed to have been the crown of Edward the Confessor and perhaps even that of Alfred the Great. Its name and tradition survive in the great gold crown made for Charles II and used at every coronation from that time, although on at least three occasions St. Edward’s Crown was not used for the actual crowning ritual. George IV is thought to have been crowned with an entirely new Imperial State Crown made for the occasion, and this crown was used also throughout the coronation of William IV. It was later broken up and its jewels were set in the Imperial State Crown made for Queen Vic­toria and still in use today.

Queen Victoria’s own account of her coronation says that she was crowned with her new State Crown (although the rubric states that St. Edward’s Crown was used) and we know that this crown was used also for Edward VII. George V, however, reverted to tradition and was crowned with St. Edward’s Crown and since then there has been no departure from custom.

There is a fascinating possibility that when Sir Robert Vyner made the new St. Edward’s Crown for Charles II he used a crown which had been preserved from the old regalia for Oliver Cromwell. The Lord Protector certainly had a crown, and probably an orb and sceptre also; in 1656 he is supposed to have been offered the throne but refused it. A crown, orb and sceptre were displayed at his funeral in 1658 and later placed in Westminster Abbey with his effigy— the same effigy that was removed and hung from the window of the Jewel Office in Whitehall at the Restoration. It is possible that the Jewel Office retained this crown and it may have been the one which Vyner refashioned for Charles II. If this is so, the St.

Edward’s Crown seen in the Tower today is in essentials one of the crowns of the old regalia.

Queen Anne

Queen Anne

But which crown? It could have been the State Crown of Henry VIII and his successors, which in style was the ancestor of all English crowns as they exist today, but in substance was very old. This crown, believed to have been originally the “German crown” of King John, was subsequently remade for Richard II. St. Edward’s Crown was already arched at this period, but arches were not added to the State Crown until the reign of Henry V. If the present St. Edward’s Crown is linked to this ancient and much-altered State Crown of the medieval monarchs, it is indeed a very precious relic.

The frame, monde and cross of St. Edward’s Crown are all of gold set with precious or semi-precious stones. The band is set with twelve stones, outlined with diamond clustersy and above it rise four alternate crosses patee and fleurs-de-lis, all set with precious stones. The arches, bordered with silver pearls and set with diamond clusters, rise from the four crosses patee and the monde rests on the intersection. The cross patee surmounting the monde has drop-shaped silver pearls from each arm. The crown contains about 440 precious and semi-precious stones and weighs nearly five pounds.

Inside the crown is the Cap of Estate, which is of purple velvet with an edging of miniver. The Cap of Estate, which seems to have been first worn by Edward III, was a badge of rank which sometimes took the place of the royal crown. Henry VII intro­duced the custom of wearing his crown on top of it, presumably for greater comfort, and later all crowns and also the coronets worn by noble­men on State occasions, were set on a cap of Estate.

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