St. Edward’s Crown

There are some absurd speculations being circulated around the internet about St. Edward’s Crown being a foreign realm to the Imperial Crown, a contention Steven Spiers tries to establish in his paper “Realm and Commonwealth” and due to this false conclusion he asserts that there exists no line of authority to the Crown in Australia, as it is not an “Imperial Crown” being displayed.

St. Edward’s Crown is displayed on all State and Territory Police logos

Most people influenced by this theory relate back to the stylized type of Crown that was used at the time of Federation, or during the first and second world wars, and note the differences.

The change to St. Edward’s Crown after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II can also be noted in Australian Army memorabilia.
The change to St. Edward’s Crown after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II can also be noted in Australian Navy memorabilia.

As we can see, Queen Elizabeth II did indeed adopt a stylized image of St Edward’s Crown for use in coats of arms, badges, logos and other insignia throughout the Commonwealth realms to symbolize her royal authority. But the reality of the situation is much different from what the theory suggests. The Imperial State Crown is still used by Queen Elizabeth II in all of her State functions, such as the annual opening of Parliament.

Elizabeth II wearing the State Imperial Crown.

In fact, St. Edward’s Crown was only used for Elizabeth II’s coronation, and she has never worn it since. This is the normal procedure in the coronation ceremony of a monarch in the United Kingdom. 1 It is only ever used by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the actual moment of coronation, in her case in 1953, and the monarch then wears the Imperial State Crown when leaving the coronation ceremony.

Elizabeth II leaving her coronation in 1953

In 2013, St Edward’s Crown was displayed on the high  altar in Westminster Abbey at a service to mark the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s coronation, the first time it had left the Jewel House at the Tower of London since 1953. 2

Elizabeth II reunited with St. Edward’s Crown in 2013

St Edward’s Crown is the centrepiece of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. 3 When not used to crown the monarch, it is still generally placed on the altar during the coronation; as it is regarded as the official coronation crown. 4 In the Tudor period, (1485 to 1603) three crowns were placed on the heads of monarchs at a coronation: St Edward’s Crown, the State Crown, and a “rich crown” made specially for the king or queen. 5

St. Edward’s Crown

St Edward’s Crown has been traditionally used to crown English and British monarchs at their coronations since the 13th century, and dates back to the 11th century royal saint, Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. A crown referred to as St Edward’s Crown is first recorded as having been used for the coronation of Henry III in 1220, and it appears to be the same crown worn by Edward. 6 It is therefore considered the first known set of hereditary coronation regalia in Europe. 7 The original crown was a holy relic kept 8 at Westminster Abbey, Edward’s burial place, until the regalia were either sold or melted down after Parliament abolished the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War.

When the British monarchy was restored in 1660, to keep continuity with the past, it was decided that there should again be a coronation crown and a state crown, an orb, sceptre, swords, spurs, ring and bracelets. The cost of creating these 11 principle pieces of regalia alone was estimated at some £13,000 – as much as three fully-equipped warships. 9

Portrait of Charles II, c.1670s, by John Michael Wright displayed at Queen’s Presence Chamber, Hampton Court Palace. The King is depicted with the new regalia: the state crown, the Orb and the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.

Like the Imperial State Crown, the present version of St Edward’s Crown was made for Charles II in 1661 by royal jeweler, Robert Viner. 10 It was fashioned to closely resemble the medieval crown, with a heavy gold base and cluster s of semi-precious stones, but the arches are decidedly Baroque. 11 It was used to crown Charles II, (1661), James II, (1685), William III, (1689), but afterwards was not used to crown a monarch for over 200 years, mainly because of its weight.

Mary II (1689) and Anne (1702) were crowned with small diamond crowns of their own. George I, (1714) George II, (1727) George III, (1761) and William IV (1831) were all crowned with the Imperial State Crown made specially for George I by royal jeweler Samuel Smithin. 12

Imperial State Crown of George I

George IV (1821) was crowned with a large new diamond State Crown made specially for the occasion by Philip Liebart of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.

Diamond State Crown of George IV

Rundell, Bridge & Rundell also made a State Diadem for George IV which  has been worn by every queen and queen consort from Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV, onwards. 13 The diadem was reset with jewels from the royal collection for Queen Victoria. 14 Queen Elizabeth II wore the diadem in the procession to her coronation in 1953, 15 and she also wears it in the procession to and from the annual State Opening of Parliament. 16  The iconic piece of jewellery has featured in many portraits of the Queen, as well as Australian banknotes and postage stamps. 17

Victoria and Elizabeth II wearing the George IV diadem.

Queen Victoria (1838) chose not to use St Edward’s Crown because of its weight and instead used a lighter version of the Imperial State Crown made specially for the occasion by Garrard & Co.

Imperial State Crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838

Garrard & Co. also made a much smaller diamond State Crown for Queen Victoria in 1870. She wore this crown for the first time at the opening of Parliament on 9 February 1871, and frequently used it after that date for State occasions. After Queen Victoria’s death, the crown was worn by Queen Alexandra and later, Queen Mary. 18

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Small diamond State Crown made for Queen Victoria

Edward VII (1902) intended to revive the tradition of using St Edward’s Crown, but on coronation day he was still recovering from an operation for appendicitis, and instead he also wore the lighter Imperial State Crown. 19

Edward VII wearing the Imperial State Crown after his coronation in 1902

The tradition was revived by George V, (1911) and all subsequent monarchs have been crowned using St Edward’s Crown, including George VI (1937) and Elizabeth II (1953). But identically, it was only used for the coronation and George V wore the 1838 Imperial State Crown for all State functions. 20

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George V wearing the 1838 Imperial State Crown after his coronation in 1911

The Imperial State Crown made for Queen Victoria in 1838 is the basis for today’s crown. The gems in the crown were remounted for the coronation of George VI in 1937 by Garrard & Co. 21 and was adjusted for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, with the head size reduced and the arches lowered by 25 mm to give it a more feminine appearance. 22

The following video is Queen Elizabeth II explaining the details regarding the gems in the Imperial State Crown, and also it’s usage, including the fact that the St. Edwards Crown is only used at the moment of coronation. 23

It’s also important to note that each member of the royal family have their own unique regalia. The Coat of Arms of King George III clearly displayed the St. Edward’s Crown. 24 This also appears on the top of the Charters of Justice 1814 25 that became part of Australian law and the administration of the courts here. King George III died in 1820, but this Coat of Arms also passed to his son George IV, who died in 1831, succeeded by his brother William IV, who assented the Great Charter or Reform Act 1832. 26 All three monarchs were males from the same bloodline, so they shared a common regalia, but this is not always so. For example, Victoria ceased to rule Hanover because a woman couldn’t occupy that position, so an alteration from her father George IV’s regalia was necessary.

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Top: The Coat of Arms of King George III. Centre: as it appears on the Charters of Justice 1814. Bottom: as it appears on the Reform Act 1832

Australia was proclaimed under St. Edward’s Crown.

Shilling “Australian proclamation coin” 1787, minted in Great Britain. 27

The Coat of Arms of Queen Elizabeth II contains St. Edward’s Crown. On the right is the Royal armorial of Queen Elizabeth II used at her coronation in 1953, in comparison to Queen Victoria’s on the left.

Left: Royal armorial of Queen Victoria 1838.           Right: Royal armorial of Queen Elizabeth 1953

So as we can see, there is no difference at all in realms between the different types of crowns used for Queen Elizabeth II, but each serve different purposes within the same realm. St. Edward’s Crown is the coronation crown, of which there is only one, and the Imperial State Crown is the crown for the monarchs State use, of which there have been approximately ten made since the monarchy was reestablished in 1660.  And as is obvious, St. Edward’s Crown is actually the oldest and most sacred crown of all  crowns mentioned.



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