Orb, Sceptre and a Vandalized Chair

King Charles III and Queen Camilla will be crowned in a ceremony full of history and tradition, though with some modifications.

Camilla already swerved controversy by changing the diamonds on the crown she is due to wear, and a key piece of furniture present at the coronation bears the scars of a complicated history.

Between them, the coronation’s key artifacts will tell a complicated version of British history during the somber religious ceremony at Westminster Abbey, on May 6.

King Charles and Queen Camilla’s Crowns

King Charles III is seen at that Commonwealth Day Service in Westminster Abbey on March 13, 2023. The St. Edward’s Crown (inset top) and the Coronation Chair (inset bottom) will play key roles in his coronation.
Chris Jackson/Peter Dazeley/Getty Images and Tim Graham Photo Library

King Charles III will at the key moment wear St. Edward’s Crown, first made for Charles II in 1661, and not worn outside of coronations. It is different from the Imperial State Crown, which is worn regularly for the State Opening of Parliament.

Queen Camilla will wear the St. Mary Crown, Buckingham Palace announced in February, though with a crucial alteration compared to past appearances of the piece.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond will not be part of the crown, as it has previously, instead replaced by the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds from Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. The move is important because the Koh-i-Noor was taken by the East India Company and given to Queen Victoria in 1849.

It previously belonged to Maharajah Duleep Singh, who was a king in the north of India at just 10 years old. He had been separated from his mother by the company and was he was forced to sign the diamond over through a deal that he did not understand, The Guardian reported.

It has become, through its history, one of the most potent symbols of the crimes of the British Empire.

Buckingham Palace said in February: “The choice of Queen Mary’s crown by her majesty is the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the coronation of a consort instead of a new commission being made, in the interests of sustainability and efficiency.”

The Coronation Chair

King Charles will be crowned on the Coronation Chair, which has been part of the coronation ceremony for more than 700 years.

It is the oldest piece of furniture still used for its original purpose in England and one of the most famous in the world, according to the Royal Collection Trust.

However, it also bears the scars of British history, including from the Suffragettes’ campaign for the right for women to vote.

“Most of the graffiti on the back part of the Chair is the result of Westminster schoolboys and visitors carving their names in the 18th and 19th centuries,” according to an article by Westminster Abbey. “One of the tourists carved ‘P. Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800’ on the seat. A bomb attack in 1914 thought to be organised by the Suffragettes even knocked a small corner off it.”

Orb and Sceptres

The coronation service is full of important regalia including the Sovereign’s Orb and scepters, including one that bears a dove and another that bears a cross.

The Royal Collection Trust website states: “During the coronation service the new sovereign is first anointed with holy oil, then robed in coronation robes, and then invested with a number of ornaments symbolising the spiritual nature of kingship. These include the spurs, swords and armills, followed by the orb, a ring and the sceptres.

“The sovereign is presented with two sceptres—one surmounted by a cross representing temporal power and this one, surmounted by a dove. After the investiture, the sovereign is crowned.”

“The Orb is a representation of the sovereign’s power. It symbolises the Christian world with its cross mounted on a globe, and the bands of jewels dividing it up into three sections represent the three continents known in medieval times.”

Jack Royston is the chief royal correspondent at Newsweek, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jack_royston and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

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