The institution of an hereditary coronation regalia, serving as symbols of kingship, is attributed to the eleventh-century abbots of Westminster. Regarded as “monuments of superstition and idolatry” by the Commonwealth authorities, much of it was sold or melted down for coinage in 1649, so new regalia was required for the coronation of Charles II in 1661.
The crown is the chief symbol; the remade St Edward’s crown regained its central role in the coronation ceremony in 1911, but the current Imperial State Crown (worn also on parliamentary occasions) is a replica of Victoria’s lighter crown of 1838. The other main symbol is the sceptre, depicted on the coinage of Edward “The Confessor” in 1057; the King’s Sceptre, signifying temporal power, has from 1910 contained the Cullinan I diamond, while the Rod of Equity and Mercy, representing the spiritual role, bears a dove.
Though shown on Edward’s first seal (1055), the orb was not introduced into the regalia until the fifteenth century. Charles II’s new “Ball and Crosse of Gold” was damaged during Captain Blood’s failed attempt to steal the Crown Jewels in 1671.
The Swords of Temporal and Spiritual Justice were introduced in the early seventeenth century, but the present Sword of State dates from 1678; the broken point of the Sword of Mercy (“Curtana”) symbolizes the tempering of royal justice by clemency, while the Sword of Offering, with which the new monarch is invested, was added by George IV (1821).
The present anointing spoon is twelfth-century, though the hollow golden eagle ampulla which holds the consecrated oil is from Restoration period.
The Sovereign’s Ring has been a constant feature since the tenth century, the present one being made for William IV (1831). Armillas (bracelets) have been used intermittently by the United Kingdom and seven Commonwealth governments. The first recorded use of spurs was in 1189 (for Richard I), the present St George’s Spurs being fundamentally unchanged since 1661.
The English regalia is housed in the Jewel House of the Tower of London, on show to paying visitors since 1660s. The “Honors of Scotland” were feared lost following the Union in 1707, but were discovered in Edinburgh castle by Sir Walter Scott (1818), where they are now displayed with the Stone of Scone. They include a sceptre given to James IV (1494), a sword from pope Julius II (1507), and a crown made for James V in 1540.