As the United Kingdom prepares for its first coronation ceremony in over 70 years, the royal family is readying the Crown Jewels for the elaborate regal ceremony.
King Charles III‘s coronation on May 6 formalizes his role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of his title and powers, The ceremony is set to take place at Westminster Abbey, with pomp and circumstance the likes of which have never been seen in person by anyone under 70.
Of course, in a country with such a long-standing monarchy — and a history of imperialism and colonialism — there are centuries worth of royal regalia and impressive jewels for the regal couple to don during their big day. However, not all of the Crown Jewels have such a rosy history, with some pieces even being altered prior to the coronation to avoid public controversy.
Read on to learn about each piece of the king and queen’s royal regalia, and the history and significance behind each jewel-encrusted symbol.
Forever the most visible symbol of the monarchy, the crowns worn by King Charles and Queen Camilla have centuries of historical significance — thought not all of it is equally enamored by their public.
The king will be officially crowned with St. Edward’s Crown, a tradition since the 17th century. Created for his namesake predecessor, King Charles II, in 1661, the crown is modeled after the original medieval crown, and features four crosses-patte?e, four fleurs-de-lis, and two arches, mounted on a deep purple velvet cap and ermine band. The crown is inlayed with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes, and tourmalines.
Following the ceremony, King Charles III will swap to the Imperial State Crown before exiting Westminster Abbey. Crafted for King George VI’s coronation in 1937, the Imperial State Crown — last seen atop Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin during her funeral ceremonies — is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 269 pearls, including St. Edward’s Sapphire, the Stuart Sapphire, and the Black Prince’s Ruby.
One of the other centerpiece stones of the crown, however, is the controversial Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa. The 3,106-carat diamond was mined in South Africa in 1905 when the country was still under British rule, and in recent years, calls have increased to return the Cullinan II and its sister stones back to their countries of origin.
Camilla will be crowned with Queen Mary’s Crown, which was made for the 1911 coronation of Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. It marks the first time in recent history that a consort will be crowned with a previously existing headpiece rather than having a new one made.
However, the crown is not with contention of its own. Prior to the coronation, the crown will be reset to remove the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond — which many see as a symbol of Britain’s violent colonial rule over India. However, the Koh-i-Noor is being replaced with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds. While meant as a symbol of respect toward the late Queen Elizabeth II — the stones come from her personal collection — like their sister, the Cullinan II, the diamonds are South African, and also seen as relics of British imperialism.
There are five swords that are part of the coronation regalia, including one that already has personal significance to King Charles. The Sword of State, a 17th-century steel blade with a silver-gilt hilt, which bears King William III’s coat of arms, was previously worn by then-Prince Charles at his 1969 investiture as Prince of Wales.
Also on display will be The Sword of Temporal Justice, which represents the monarch’s role as head of the Armed Forces, The Sword of Spiritual Justice, which signifies the monarch as defender of the faith, and The Sword of Mercy, which symbolizes the sovereign’s mercy. All three were created for the 1626 coronation of King Charles I. During the coronation, the three swords are carried unsheathed and pointing upward.
The final sword in the royal regalia is The Sword of Offering, which was made in 1820 and first used at the 1821 coronation of King George IV.
THE SOVEREIGN’S ORB
The golden, jewel-encrusted orb — laden with emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and pearls — is divided into three sections to symbolize the three continents known during the medieval era. It was last displayed in public on Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin as she lay in state and during her funeral procession, placed alongside her Imperial State Crown and sceptre.
STAFFS, SCEPTRES AND SPURS
During his coronation ceremony, King Charles III will carry St. Edward’s Staff, a tapered gold rod with decorative designs, with a cross above and a steel pike at the bottom. It is a 1660 recreation of a staff thought to have once belonged to St. Edward the Confessor.
The king will also carry two golden, jewel-encrusted sceptres: The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, which symbolizes the monarch’s temporal power — and includes the controversial Cullinan I diamond — and The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove, signifying the monarch’s spiritual role.
Queen Camilla will also carry her own matching, equally embellished pieces: The Queen Consort’s Rod with Dove and The Queen Consort’s Sceptre with Cross, originally made for Queen Mary’s coronation in 1685.
The gold, leather and velvet spurs that will be worn by the king during his coronation were originally made in 1661 for Charles II.
RINGS AND ARMILLS
The king and queen consort will wear significant pieces of jewelry during their coronation, with the Archbishop of Canterbury placing The Sovereign’s Ring on the monarch’s fourth finger during the ceremony. Prior to the 20th century, it was customary for each ruler to create a new ring for themselves, however, since King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902, each ruler has worn the ring created for William IV’s coronation in 1831, which was later passed down to Queen Victoria.
Camilla will be presented with The Queen Consort’s Ring, an octagonal mixed-cut ruby in a gold setting, bordered by dozens of other jewels. It was created for Queen Adelaide in 1831, and previously worn by three other Queen Consorts: Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
King Charles III will also wear two bracelets of pure gold known as the Armills, meant to symbolize knighthood and military leadership. Some of the most modern pieces in the Crown Jewels, the Armills were recreated in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, replacing the previous pair from the 17th century.
THE AMPULLA AND CORONATION SPOON
During the ceremony, the Archbishop of Canterbury will anoint King Charles and Queen Camilla with holy oil using the Ampulla and the Coronation Spoon, pouring the oil from the beak of the Ampulla’s golden eagle. The Coronation Spoon is the oldest object in the royal coronation regalia, dating back to at least 1349, while the Ampulla was originally created for the 1661 coronation of King Charles II.
King Charles III‘s coronation on May 6, which formalizes his role as the head of the Church of England and marks the transfer of his title and powers, takes place at Westminster Abbey. It marks the official moment he is crowned king.
His wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, will also be anointed and crowned as Queen Consort. Camilla will be the first divorcee to be crowned, and the coronation invitation that was released in April made headlines when it referred to her as Queen Camilla for the first time. Until then, she had been described as queen consort.
Prince Harry will be attending the coronation despite public family tension, though without his wife, Meghan Markle. Harry and Meghan’s Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, which was released in December, and the duke’s bestselling memoir, Spare, which was released in January, were critical of the royal family and shared intimate details from the couple’s perspective.
Meghan will be staying at her and Harry’s home in Montecito, California, with the couple’s two children — son Archie, who is turning 4 on the day of the coronation and daughter Lilibet, 1. Despite Harry and Meghan’s estrangement from the royal family, the couple is featured in the official souvenir program celebrating the coronation, which includes a happy photo of the family — including Prince William, Kate Middleton and their three kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis — celebrating King Charles’ 70th birthday.
Although the actual anointment during the coronation ceremony is not broadcast publicly, plenty of special programming and live footage from the ceremony will be available to watch live on May 6, starting at 5 a.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+. Audiences will also be able to view coverage on CBS News, including the concert featuring Katy Perry and Lionel Richie on Sunday, May 7. Additionally, others can watch the coronation online on these streaming platforms.
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