The Storied History of St. Edward's Crown, Worn in Charles' Coronation

It is considered the most sacred crown in the royal collection.

St. Edward's Crown
(Image credit: Getty)

At the moment of his crowning, King Charles will don the extremely heavy St. Edward’s Crown for the only time in his life—outside of potentially practicing wearing the crown for the big day. The five-pound crown is considered the most sacred in the royal collection and is only used for the moment of the actual crowning, according to Historic Royal Palaces. According to People, the crown “was created in 1661 from a solid gold frame, set with semi-precious stones from tourmalines, topazes, rubies, sapphires, zircons, and aquamarines,” the outlet reports. “Four crosses and four fleurs-de-lis decorate the gold band.”

In a full circle moment, the St. Edward’s Crown was originally commissioned for the Coronation of King Charles II, the first sovereign following the English Civil Wars in the 17th century. It was modeled on the previous crown that had been melted down and destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1649 and, like the original, it is named for St. Edward the Confessor, an Anglo-Saxon king who died in 1066, People reports. 

St. Edward’s Crown

(Image credit: Getty)

The replacement St. Edward’s Crown was last used in June 1953 at the Coronation of the King’s mother, Queen Elizabeth, People reports. “The replacement St. Edward’s Crown has a velvet cap with an ermine band and a solid gold frame,” the outlet reports. “It is set with rubies, amethysts, sapphires, garnet, topazes, and tourmalines. It was commissioned by the Royal Goldsmith, Robert Vyner, and incorporates elements of the original design by having four crosses-pattée and four fleurs-de-lis, as well as two arches.”

St. Edward’s Crown on Queen Elizabeth II

(Image credit: Getty)

After 1689, it was not used to crown any monarch for over 200 years. Edward VII hoped to revive the tradition and be crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown in 1902, but on the day of his Coronation, he was still recovering from an operation for appendicitis and was deemed too frail to wear the heavy St. Edward’s Crown, instead opting for the lighter Imperial State Crown. In 1911, George V wore the crown for his Coronation, and the tradition has continued since.

King Charles

(Image credit: Getty)

According to royal historian Robert Lacey speaking exclusively to Marie Claire, the St. Edward’s Crown wasn’t so much chosen by King Charles as “it chose him,” Lacey says. “It is so sacred. Everyone agrees that it is so heavy that it can’t be worn outside of the Abbey. The crown has a special sacredness and is kept in the Crown Jewels [at the Tower of London]. It is only put on his head at the moment of crowning, and he will come out of the Abbey wearing the Imperial State Crown, which, in all honesty, looks pretty similar [to the St. Edward’s Crown] to the average layperson. The weight of the [St. Edward’s] crown is part of royal folklore. We know the Queen practiced wearing the crown in order to strengthen up her neck and shoulders and get used to the posture. I imagine, but haven’t been told, that King Charles must be doing the same. It’s quite an ordeal for the monarch as you anticipate the Coronation, being able to not buckle at the knees.”

If you're currently outside the U.K., you can use a VPN like ExpressVPN—which has a 30-day free trial—to watch the coronation live on the BBC, which aired Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.