THE MEDIEVAL CROWNS OF EDWARD THE CONFESSOR AND QUEEN EDITH

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King Richard III and Queen Anne Neville wearing the crowns of Edward the Confessor and Queen Edith.  The Rous Roll.

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Edward IV and his consort Elizabeth Wydeville wearing the crowns of  Edward the Confessor and Queen Edith.  Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers.  Lambeth Palace.  

The first Coronation Crowns,  known as the crowns of  Edward the Confessor – one of the last Anglo Saxon kings –  and his wife Queen Edith were made sometime in the IIth century for the king’s coronation in his newly built Church of St Peter, now known as Westminster Abbey on what was then Thorney Island.    We know that Queen Edith’s crown was valued at £16 and was made of  Siluer gilt Enriched with Garnetts foule pearle Saphires and some odd stones’.   Edward the Confessor’s crown was described as a crowne of gould wyer worke sett with slight stones and two little bells’.   Henceforth they were worn by every following king and queen at their coronations, excluding Edward V and Jane Grey both of whom were of course never crowned,  until their destruction by the Parliamentarians after the execution of Charles Ist when a demand was sent to the Clerk of the Jewel House to surrender the state regalia.  This was pluckily ignored.  However eventually the Trustees of  Parliament took it upon themselves to break into the Jewel House upon which they took away three crowns, 2 sceptres, bracelets, a globe ‘and secured all other things’ .    An order was then given that this regalia was to be  ‘totallie broken and defaced’ and then used for coin.     It’s hard to find an absolutely accurate depiction of this lost regalia as various kings may have made alterations, repairs and added bits and pieces over the centuries.   Having said that we have a  very good idea from various depictions that have come down to us including the Rous roll,  the Beauchamp Pageant, the Royal Window at Canterbury Cathedral and a carving of Henry V being crowned in his chantry chapel at Westminster Abbey.

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King Richard wearing the Crown of St Edward the Confessor, Rous Roll.

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Edward IV’S portrait in the Royal Window at Canterbury Cathedral wearing the Coronation Crown of St Edward.

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Queen Anne Neville from the Rous Roll wearing Queen Edith’s crown..

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Another depiction of Queen Anne Neville wearing Queen Edith’s crown from the Beauchamp Pageant..

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King Richard III wearing the crown of Edward the Confessor.  The Beauchamp Pageant.

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15th century carving of Henry V being crowned with Edward the Confessor’s crown.  Henry V Chantry Chapel, Westminster Abbey.

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Artist’s impression of King Edward the Confessor’s crown drawn by Julian Rowe.  The Road to Bosworth Field.  P W Hammond and Anne E Sutton

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Artist’s impression of Queen Edith’s crown.  Artist Julian Rowe

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Queen Elizabeth Wydeville in her coronation robes wearing Queen Edith’s crown. the Worshipful Company of Skinners

Upon the restoration new crowns were made for Charles II’s coronation in 1661 by Robert Vyner including a new Coronation Crown.  This crown sometimes gets confused with the Imperial State Crown.  It should be remembered that the Coronation Crown is only used for coronations and thus does not get many outings.   The Imperial State crown is the one the present monarch wears for the State Opening of Parliament –  the one in use today was made  comparatively recently in 1937.   It has a most exquisite survivor from the Middle Ages – the Black Princes Ruby –  which is not actually a ruby but a large irregular cabochon red spinel.  This stone has an astonishing history which is hard to verify  and  I will go into here only briefly but suffice to say it did indeed belong to  Edward the Black Prince.  It then passed to Henry V who was said to have worn it on his helmet at Agincourt.  It has also been said  that it was worn by King Richard III in the crown that was lost at Bosworth and legend says was found under a hawthorn bush by William Stanley.

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The red cabochon known as the Black Princes Ruby – a medieval survivor and now worn in the modern State Crown.

Besides the two royal crowns, much, much more was lost.  Described by Sir Roy Strong  as a treasure trove of medieval goldsmith work there were  Several ancient sceptres and staffs, two with doves on top and one with a fleur-de-lis of silver gilt and an ampulla which contained the holy oil for anointing listed as ‘A doue (actually an eagle) of gould set with stones and pearle    There were also ancient medieval royal robes worn by the king before the crowning and an ‘old Combe of Horne‘ probably of Anglo Saxon origin and used to comb the kings hair after the anointing listed as ‘worth nothing‘ .  A total of nine items were sold to a Mr Humphrey for £5 in November 1649 (1).

I’ll leave the last word on this tragic part of  British history to Sir Edward Walker, Garter of Arms who wrote his report in 1660.

‘And because through the Rapine of the late vnhappy times, all the Royall Ornaments and Regalia heretofore preserved from age to age in the Treasury of the the Church of Westminster, were taken away, sold and destroyed,  the Committee mert divers times, not only to direct the remaking such Royal Ornaments and Regalia, but even to setle the form and fashion of each particular’ (2)

1) Lost Treasures of Britain Roy Strong p124

2) Ibid p125

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ANOTHER PRECIOUS FIND TO ADD TO THE MIDDLEHAM JEWEL AND RING..

CROSSRAIL – A PORTAL INTO MEDIEVAL LONDON

JOHN HOWARD, DUKE OF NORFOLK – HIS WEDDING GIFTS TO MARGARET CHEDWORTH

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