Gold, gems, red velvet and ermine fur. Edward’s Crown, which will be placed on the head of King Charles III on Saturday, is a powerful symbol of the British monarchy. More than 30 centimeters tall, made of 22-karat gold, it is also very heavy – a whopping 2.28 kg– and for this the sovereign will wear it for less than an hour. Then she will be placed in the Tower of London, awaiting the next coronation.
The crown was made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, taking as a model that of Edward the Confessor (ruler between 1042 and 1066), portrayed in the famous tapestry of Bayeux, in France. Considered a relic, the crown of the king canonized as a saint had been used for centuries, until it was melted down during the revolution led by Oliver Cromwell, when King Charles II was beheaded.
The new St Edward’s crown was then used for only two other coronations (James II in 1685 and William III in 1689). Then it went out of fashion and remained unused for over 200 years. King Edward VII chose it for his coronation in 1902, but then fell ill and had to fall back on a lighter crown for the ceremony. It was George V who was the first to use it again and for the occasion the crown assumed its current appearance, with the permanent insertion of the gems. In ancient times the precious stones were removable and some were rented for the ceremony.
Today in the crown are 444 gems – sapphires, rubies, amethysts, topaz and aquamarines – set in gold and enamel settings. Resting on an ermine fur band, the crown bears a red velvet cap inside. Its silhouette with the four golden arches, joined in the center by a globe surmounted by a cross, was the logo of the British monarchy under the reign of Elizabeth and as such it still figures on the emblems of , the police, passports and documents officers. Carlo instead chose a high crown, but in the meantime that of San’Edoardo is the icon of the coronation on Twitter.
Very heavy and symbolic, the crown of Saint Edward it was also placed on the head of George VI and Elizabeth II. In British humour, the sovereign had asked “is she still that heavy?”, when she picked her up again for a documentary in 2018, later confirming: “she weighs a ton”.
His father, on the other hand, joked that it is not easy to understand which is the front and the back. The difference lies in the arrangement of the gems, but it’s easy to go wrong. In Giorgio Vi’s time a red mark had been placed inside, but it was accidentally removed before the ceremony. “I had taken every precaution to ensure that the crown was on the right side, but the archbishop and the dean twirled it so much that I never knew if it had been put right”, wrote the sovereign later.