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The Crown Jewels
The definition of bling. (The Bus 3.12)
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Unless you were under a rock or harvesting helium-3 on the dark side of the moon this past weekend, you were probably aware of the coronation of King Charles III. Questions about the validity of the antiquated institution of hereditary monarchy in the 21st century notwithstanding, the event was certainly spectacular - not least because, unlike many British traditions that are only a few centuries old, the coronation is ‘genuinely very ancient.’ In fact, it follows the same ceremonial structure used to crown English kings since before William the Conqueror stepped ashore in 1066. Consequently, there are many odd components to the ceremony - not least of which are some of the objects collectively known as the Crown Jewels. Today’s Bus Stop will look at five of the more striking ones.
St Edward’s Crown
Though the original was either sold or melted down when Parliament was abolished during the English Civil War, the current crown - based on one believed to have been worn by Edward the Confessor (r. 1042-1066) - is highly recognisable from its use as a royal emblem on everything from post boxes to coins. Made of solid gold and containing 444 precious and fine gemstones, it weighs nearly five pounds and is only worn once during a monarch’s reign - at the moment of coronation. For all other crown wearing purposes, the monarch wears the Imperial State Crown.
The Coronation Chair
One of the most ‘precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world,’ the chair has been the centrepiece of English coronations for over 700 years. Commissioned by Edward I, it was built around 1300 to enclose the Stone of Scone (or Stone of Destiny) which Edward took from Scone Abbey in 1296. A 150kg block of red sandstone, this stone had been used in the coronation of Scottish kings for centuries before it was taken. The chair, made of solid oak, is covered in graffiti - mostly from Westminster schoolboys who thought it appropriate to carve their names and initials into the chair during the 18th and 19th centuries. One of these was a P. Abbott, who carved, ‘P. Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800’ on the back. One would presume he got caught the next day.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross
There are two sceptres at the coronation (the other one is the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Dove), but this one - a gold rod made in three sections and symbolising the monarch’s temporal power - contains a 530-carat diamond set in one end. This diamond - the Cullinan I - is the largest of nine ‘outrageous jewels’ struck from a single enormous South African gem - the largest rough diamond ever found - which was given to Edward VII in 1907. Originally made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, the sceptre had to be reinforced to take the weight of the diamond.
The Coronation Spoon
Made of silver gilt with pearls, this spoon is the oldest of the Crown Jewels.Dating from the 12th century and possibly made for either Henry II or Richard I, the Spoon is first recorded as being part of the Royal Collection in 1349. Though its exact use in the early days is unclear, it has always been associated with coronations. While it might have originally been used to mix wine and water in a chalice, from the coronation of James I in 1603, the Archbishop of Canterbury has poured holy oil from the Ampulla into the spoon and then anointed the sovereign’s hands, breast and head - a tradition tracing its origin to the Old Testament story when King Solomon was anointed by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet.
Created in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, the Orb is a hollow gold globe featuring several precious gemstones, including ‘rose-cut diamonds, an octagonal step-cut amethyst, a table-cut sapphire, as well as clusters of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls.’ Held in the monarch’s right hand during the coronation, the Orb symbolises the Christian world: the cross is at the top, and the bands of jewels dividing it into three sections represent the three continents known in medieval times.
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Today’s Detour is to a short (3:44) video exploring Quentin Massys’s ‘The Ugly Duchess’ (ca. 1515), one of the most prominent portraits in London’s National Gallery. It’s a close look at a painting that has inspired satire, ridicule, and mockery throughout the centuries - with the purpose of seeing it through new eyes. Worth the watch.
Today’s Recommendation is the comedian-actor-children’s author David Walliams’s Gangster Granny (2011). A funny and poignant story about a young boy who discovers his boring grandmother is anything but, Gangster Granny is one of Walliams’s best novels for children - and it was made into a short film, too. It was one of my son’s favourites when he was younger - and I enjoyed reading it, too.
From the back: Another hilarious and moving novel from David Walliams, number one bestseller and fastest growing children’s author in the country.
A story of prejudice and acceptance, funny lists and silly words, this new book has all the hallmarks of David’s previous bestsellers. Our hero Ben is bored beyond belief after he is made to stay at his grandma’s house. She’s the boringest grandma ever: all she wants to do is to play Scrabble, and eat cabbage soup. But there are two things Ben doesn’t know about his grandma.
1) She was once an international jewel thief.
2) All her life, she has been plotting to steal the Crown Jewels, and now she needs Ben’s help…
Today’s playlist is composed of five tracks which relate to today’s Stop by band name, title and/or theme: ‘Kill Your Masters’ (Run the Jewels, 2016), ‘Honey Moonies - Brain Washed at Area 49’ (The Orb, 2020), ‘Wild’ (Spoon, 2022), ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ (Marilyn Monroe, 1953) and ‘Crown’ (Kendrick Lamar, 2022). Enjoy!
Today’s Thought is from Shakespeare’s Henry V (4.1.105). The night before a battle, the King is in disguise when he speaks these words while talking with some of the men in his army, reminding them the king is fearful, just like them. With all the pomp and ceremony this weekend, it seems a rather important reminder of the reality behind the ritual:
‘I think the King is but a man, as I am. The violet smells to him as it doth to me. The element shows to him as it doth to me. All his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man.’
If you have a thought on this Thought - or any part of today’s issue - please leave a comment below:
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Until the next Stop …
In various newspaper articles before the coronation, it was referred to as the ‘most important spoon in the world.’
Personally, The Orb is my favourite of the Crown Jewels because, well, it’s called The Orb. Brilliant stuff.