Tagged: Britain

Better Know a Newfoundland Functionary: The High Commissioner of Newfoundland to the United Kingdom

Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring (1858-1943)

Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring (1858-1943), the first and last High Commissioner of Newfoundland to the UK.

The Dominion of Newfoundland had, like every other British Dominion, had a High Commissioner to London, starting in 1918. It stopped in 1934, when Britain started talking directly to the Commission of Government.

The Newfoundland High Commissioners to the UK were:

Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring KCMG (1st time), 1918-22.
Lt.-Col. Thomas Nangle CF, 1923-24.
Capt. Victor Gordon CMG MC, 1924-28.
Sir John R. Bennett KBE, 1928.
Daniel James Davies CBE, 1928-32.
Sir Edgar Rennie Bowring KCMG (2nd time), 1933-34.


The Peerages of Edward VIII

His Majesty Edward VIII, Dei Gratia Magnae Britanniae, Hiberniae et terrarum transmarinarum quae in ditione sunt Britannica Rex, Fidei Defensor, Indiae Imperator, reigned for only 10 months and 20 days, from 20 January to 10 December of 1936. In his reign he created only nine peerages: six barons, two viscounts and a marquess.

The first two peerages were issued twelve days into his reign, on 1 February. One went to Sir Arthur Benn, Bt., who was a Tory MP on and off from 1910 to 1935 and a member of the London County Council from 1907 to 1911, was made Baron Glenravel, but the title went extinct when Lord Glenravel died without sons the following June. The other was given to Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Hugh Trenchard, Bt., 1st Baron Trenchard, the first commander of the Royal Air Force and Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police from 1931 to 1935, who was made Viscount  Trenchard. His grandson, the 3rd Viscount Trenchard, is currently one of the 90 hereditary peers elected to sit in the House of Lords.

Two days later Sir Gomer Berry, Bt., publisher of the Sunday Times, was made Baron Kemsley. He was later made Viscount Kemsley in 1945. The title is now held by his grandson, the 3rd Viscount.

On the 24th of February Thomas Catto, chairman of the Indian industrial conglomerate Andrew Yule & Co., Calcutta, was made Baron Catto. Lord Catto was later Governor of the Bank of England from 1944 to 1949; his grandson is now the 3rd Baron Catto.

On the 26th of May the King awarded the title of Marquess of Willingdon to Major Sir Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Earl of Willingdon, Viscount Willingdon and Baron Willingdon, Governor-General of Canada (1926-31) and Viceroy of India (1931-36). All his titles went extinct upon the death of his son Inigo in 1979. This was the last time (so far) that a marquessate was given out in Britain.

Between July 14 and 17 Edward VIII approved baronies to 4 people on consecutive days. On the 14th, Sir Henry Cautley, Bt., a Conservative MP for 22 years and a  judge in Sunderland, Durham, was made Baron Cautley; on the 15th, Sir Malcolm Hailey, a governor of the Indian Empire, was made Baron Hailey; on the 16th, Sir Herbert Austin, founder of Austin Motors, became Baron Austin; and on the 17th, Beaumont Pease, a prominent banker, was made Baron Wardington. Of these four, the first three went extinct with their recipients’ deaths, in 1946, 1969 and 1941; the fourth is held by the 3rd Baron Wardington, younger son of the 1st Baron, and has no heirs.

The last peerage Edward VIII ever approved was on 30 October 1936, 41 days before his abdication. It went to Sir Bertrand Dawson, 1st Baron Dawson of Penn, who was made Viscount Dawson of Penn. Lord Dawson was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1931 to 1937 and was personal physician to King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI. His diaries later revealed that he had euthanized a dying George V with an overdose of cocaine and morphine. Lord Dawson died childless in 1945 and his titles died with him.

The Hereditary Peerages of Elizabeth II

A lot of people might think of British lordships as being a thing of the 19th and pre-war 20th century, and big fat rich men fretting over the possibility of getting a peerage as belonging the casts of Sherlock Holmes stories and P.G. Wodehouse novels. But the fact is that the handing out of hereditary peerages was common practice until 1965. Life peerages (other than those awarded to the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary) were only invented in 1958, and when the Labour Party under Harold Wilson took power, it set the precedent of using them exclusively to stack the House of Lords in the party’s favour. Our present Queen is likely to be the last British monarch to create the traditional hereditary peerages in any quantity; in her reign, she has created two dukedoms, 12 earldoms, 41 viscounties and 92 baronies. In no particular order, let’s take a look at the people who got them.

Let’s start with the Royal Family. The Queen’s former brother-in-law, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, married Princess Margaret in 1961 and was declared Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley. The rest of the royal titles she has bestowed have been as wedding gifts upon her progeny: Prince Andrew as Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh in 1986; Prince Edward as Earl of Wessex and Viscount Severn in 1999; and Prince William as Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Stratherarn and Baron Carrickfergus in 2011.

For a good long while it was customary to give a retiring Prime Minister an earldom. Three prime ministers got titles from Elizabeth II: Clement Attlee (1945-51) became Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood in 1955; Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57) became the Earl of Avon and Viscount Eden in 1961 (the titles went extinct when his son died in 1985) and Harold Macmillan (1957-63) became the Earl of Stockton and Viscount Macmillan of Ovenden in 1984.

There were a few late-coming World War generals getting peerages too. Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Tunis, was made Earl Alexander of Tunis and Baron Rideau in March of 1952. Field Marshal Sir William Slim was made Viscount Slim in 1960. Gen. George Jeffreys, a World War I general and Conservative MP during WWII, was made Baron Jeffreys in July 1952. Lt.-Gen. Ronald Weeks, deputy chief of the Imperial General Staff, became Baron Weeks in 1956 (it went extinct when he died in 1960). Lt.-Gen. Willoughby Norrie, commander of the 1st Armoured Division in North Africa under Bernard Montgomery, became Baron Norrie in 1957. Field Marshal Sir John Harding became Baron Harding of Petherton in 1958. Gen. Sir Brian Robertson, Bt., military governor of British-occupied West Germany and later the chairman of the British Transport Commission from 1953 to 1961, became Baron Robertson of Oakridge in 1961. Brigadier Toby Low, later the MP for Blackpool North from 1945 to 1962, became Baron Aldington in 1962.

A sizable proportion of the War cabinet were given peerages by Elizabeth II.

  • Frederick Marquis, 1st Baron Woolton, the Minister of Food (and the namesake of Woolton pie), was made Viscount Woolton in 1953, then the Earl of Woolton and Viscount Walberton in 1956.
  • Philip Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Viscount Swinton, Minister of Civil Aviation during the war, President of the Board of Trade and Secretary for the Colonies before it and Secretary for Commonwealth Relations after it, became the Earl of Swinton and Baron Masham in 1955.
  • Henry Moore, 10th Earl of Drogheda in the Peerage of Ireland, Minister of Economic Warfare from 1942 to 1945, and Chairman of the Cinematograph Films Council from 1944 to 1954, was made Baron Moore in 1954 to give him a permanent seat in the House of Lords.
  • David Maxwell Fyfe, Solicitor-General from 1942 to 1945, Home Secretary from 1951 to 1954, and Lord Chancellor from 1954 to 1962, was made Viscount Kilmuir in 1954, then the Earl of Kilmuir and Baron Fyfe of Dornoch in 1962 (they went extinct upon his death in 1965).
  • Richard Law, political philosopher, son of prime minister Andrew Bonar Law, Financial Secretary to the War Office from 1940 to 1941 and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from 1943 to 1945, was made Baron Coleraine in 1954.
  • A.V. Alexander, 1st Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough, Churchill’s successor as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1940 and later Secretary of Defence under Attlee, was made Earl Alexander of Hillsborough and Baron Weston-Super-Mare in 1963 (they died with him in 1965).
  • Sir Archibald Sinclair, Bt., Secretary for Air from 1940 to 1945 and leader of the Liberal Party from 1935 to 1945, was named Viscount Thurso in April of 1952; his grandson, the 3rd Viscount, is currently a Lib Dem MP.
  • Frederick Leathers, 1st Baron Leathers, Minister of War Transport, became Viscount Leathers in 1954.
  • Herwald Ramsbotham, 1st Baron Soulbury, Minister of Pensions under Chamberlain, President of the Board of Education from 1940 to 1941, Chairman of the Assistance Board for the rest of the war, and Governor-General of Ceylon from 1949 to 1954, became Viscount Soulbury in 1954.
  • Oliver Lyttelton, Minister of Production from 1942 to 1945 and Secretary for the Colonies from 1951 to 1954, became Viscount Chandos in 1954.
  • Sir Ralph Assheton, Bt., Minister of Supply in 1942, Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1942 to 1944, and chairman of the Conservative Party from 1944 to 1946, was made Baron Clitheroe in 1955.
  • William Morrison, Postmaster-General from 1940 to 1943 and Minister for Town and Country Planning from 1943 to 1945, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1951 to 1959 and Governor-General of Australia from 1960 to 1961, became Viscount Dunrossil in 1959.
  • Robert Grimston, Treasurer of the Household from 1939 to 1942, became Baron Grimston of Westbury in 1964.

Winston Churchill’s cabinet from his second government (1951-55) had a fair share of newly minted peers, as did the governments of Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57), Harold Macmillan (1957-63) and Sir Alec Douglas-Home (1963-64):

  • Arthur Salter, political sciences professor at Oxford University, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1945 and Minister of Materials in 1952, became Baron Salter in 1953 (dying with him in 1975)
  • Mr. Justice Gavin Simonds, Lord Chancellor from 1951 to 1954, became Baron Simonds in June 1952 and Viscount Simonds in 1954 (dying with him in 1971)
  • Henry Scrymgeour-Wedderburn, 11th Earl of Dundee in the Peerage of Scotland, a Renfrewshire MP from 1931 to 1945 and Minister Without Portfolio from 1958 to 1961, became Baron Glassary in the UK peerage in 1954
  • William Sidney, 6th Baron de L’Isle and Dudley, who won the Victoria Cross in Italy, Secretary for Air from 1951 to 1955 and Governor-General of Australia from 1961 to 1965, made Viscount de L’Isle in 1956
  • Harry Crookshank, Leader in the House of Commons from 1951 to 1955, made Viscount Crookshank in 1956 (dying with him in 1961)
  • Osbert Peake, Minister of National Insurance from 1951 to 1955, made Viscount Ingleby in 1956 (the title died with his son in 2008)
  • James Thomas, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1951 to 1956, made Viscount Cilcennin in 1956 (died with him in 1960)
  • Henry Hopkinson, Secretary for Overseas Trade from 1951 to 1952 and Secretary for Colonial Affairs from 1952 to 1955, was made Baron Colyton in 1956
  • Walter Monckton, Minister of Labour and National Service from 1951 to 1955, and later Minister of Defence and Paymaster-General under Sir Anthony Eden, became Viscount Monckton of Brenchley in 1957
  • Gwilim Lloyd George, son of David, Home Secretary from 1954 to 1957, became Viscount Tenby in 1957
  • Patrick Buchan-Hepburn, Government Chief Whip from 1951 to 1955 and Governor-General of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962, became Baron Hailes in 1957 (dying with him in 1974)
  • David Lewis, Minister of State for Welsh Affairs from 1957 to 1964, became Baron Brecon in 1958 (dying with him in 1976)
  • James Stuart, Secretary for Scotland from 1951 to 1957, became Viscount Stuart of Findhorn in 1959
  • Sir Thomas Dugdale, Bt., Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1951 to 1954, was made Baron Crathorne in 1959
  • Antony Head, Secretary for War from 1951 to 1956, became Viscount Head in 1960
  • Derick Heathcoat-Amory, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1954 to 1958 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1958 to 1960, was made Viscount Amory in 1960 (dying with him in 1981)
  • Alan Lennox-Boyd, Minister of Transport from 1952 to 1954 and Secretary for the Colonies from 1954 to 1959, was made Viscount Boyd of Merton in 1960
  • Percy Mills, industrialist, Controller-General of Machine Tools for the Ministry of Supply during WWII, Minister of Power under Sir Anthony Eden and Paymaster-General under Harold Macmillan, became Baron Mills in 1957 and Viscount Mills in 1962
  •  George Ward, Secretary for Air from 1957 to 1960, was made Viscount Ward of Witley in 1960 (dying with him in 1988)
  •  John Hare, Secretary for the Colonies, Secretary of War, Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Labour under Sir Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan, was made Viscount Blakenham in 1963
  • Niall Macpherson, Minister of Pensions and National Insurance from 1962 to 1963, became Baron Drumalbyn in 1963 (dying with him in 1987)
  • David Eccles, Minister of Works from 1951 to 1954, Minister of Education from 1954 to 1957 and from 1959 to 1962 and President of the Board of Trade from 1957 to 1959, was made Baron Eccles in 1962 and Viscount Eccles in 1964
  • Harold Watkinson, Minister of Transport from 1957 to 1959 and Minister of Defence from 1959 to 1962, was made Viscount Watkinson in 1964 (dying with him in 1995)
  • John Maclay, Secretary for Scotland from 1957 to 1962, was made Viscount Muirshiel in 1964 (which died with him in 1992)
  • Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller, Bt., Solicitor-General from 1951 to 1954, Attorney-General for England and Wales from 1954 to 1962 and Lord Chancellor from 1962 to 1964, became Baron Dilhorne in 1962 and Viscount Dilhorne in 1964
  • John Hope, Minister of Works from 1959 to 1962, became Baron Glendevon in 1964
  • Frederick Erroll, President of the Board of Trade from 1961 to 1963 and Minister of Power from 1963 to 1964, became Baron Erroll of Hale in 1964 (dying with him in 2000)
  • Michael Hughes-Young, Treasurer of the Household from 1962 to 1964, became Baron St. Helens in 1964

The easiest way to get a peerage was to sit as an MP for an appreciable length of time, serve as Under-Secretary or Parliamentary Secretary to a department or two, and retire as the government was casting around to prop up its majority in the House of Lords. For example:

  • Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton in the Peerage of Ireland, the MP for Horsham for 47 years and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under Neville Chamberlain, was made Baron Turnour in February 1952, entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords (the barony died with him in 1962, and his earldom passed to a cousin living in Canada)
  • Sir Hugh O’Neill, Bt., MP for Antrim for 37 years and Speaker of the Parliament of Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1929, was made Baron Rathcavan in 1953
  • Sir Ralph Glyn, Bt., a Conservative MP for 33 years, became Baron Glyn in 1953 (dying with him in 1960)
  • Stanley Holmes, MP for Harwich from 1935 to 1954, became Baron Dovercourt in 1954 (dying with him in 1961)
  • Arnold Gridley, MP for Stockport from 1935 to 1955, was made Baron Gridley in 1955
  • Thomas Galbraith, MP for Glasgow Pollok from 1940 to 1955, became Baron Strathclyde in 1955
  • Henry Strauss, an MP from 1935 to 1955, was made Baron Conesford in 1955 (dying with him in 1974)
  • Malcolm McCorquodale, a director of the Bank of Scotland and an MP for 22 years, was made Baron McCorquodale of Newton in 1955 (it died with him in 1971)
  • Charles MacAndrew, a Scottish Unionist MP for 33 years, was made Baron MacAndrew in 1959
  • William Mabane, MP for Huddersfield West from 1931 to 1945 and head of the British Travel Association from 1960 to 1967, became Baron Mabane in 1962 (dying with him in 1969)
  • Roland Robinson, an MP from 1931 to 1964, and later Governor of Bermuda from 1964 to 1972, was made Baron Martonmere in 1964
  • William Fletcher-Vane, MP for Westmorland from 1945 to 1964, became Baron Inglewood in 1964
  • John Morrison, MP for Salisbury from 1942 to 1965, became Baron Margadale in 1965

Or maybe you could have been the chairman of a major corporation? For example:

  • Clive Baillieu, a raw materials purchasing agent for the UK in Washington in WWII and chairman of Dunlop Rubber from 1949 to 1957, became Baron Baillieu in 1953
  • Peter Bennett, chairman of auto parts manufacturer Joseph Lucas Ltd. and a Birmingham MP for 13 years, became Baron Bennett of Edgbaston in 1953 (dying with him in 1957)
  • William Fraser, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP) from 1941 to 1956, became Baron Strathalmond in 1955
  • Geoffrey Heyworth, chairman of Unilever Ltd. from 1942 to 1960, became Baron Heyworth in 1955 (dying with him in 1974)
  • John Jacob Astor V, scion of the wealthy Astor family of Manhattan, owner of the Times from 1922 to 1959, chairman of Phoenix Insurance Co. from 1952 to 1958, a member of the board of directors for the Great Western Railway from 1929 to 1946 and of Barclays Bank from 1942 to 1952, winner of the 1908 Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles rackets (which is not the same as racquetball) and the MP for Dover from 1922 to 1945, was made Baron Astor of Hever in 1956
  • Frederick Godber, chairman and managing director of Shell Oil, was made Baron Godber in 1956 (dying with him in 1976)
  • Harold Mackintosh, 1st Baron Mackintosh of Halifax, president of the toffee company of the same name and chairman of the National Savings Committee from 1943 to 1958, became Viscount Mackintosh of Halifax in 1957
  • Robert Sinclair, Director-General of Army Requirements for the War Office from 1939 to 1942, then Chief Executive of the Ministry of Production from 1943 to 1945, then chairman of Imperial Tobacco from 1947 to 1959, became Baron Sinclair of Cleeve in 1957
  • J. Arthur Rank, owner of a number of film studios and cinema chains that he conglomerated as the Rank Organization, was made Baron Rank in 1957 (dying with him in 1972)
  • Ellis Robins, the first person to receive a Rhodes Scholarship and a businessman who concentrated a great deal of investment in Rhodesia, was made Baron Robins in 1958 (dying with him in 1962)
  • Col. Oliver Poole, an underwriting member of Lloyd’s of London and a big wheel in the upper levels of the Conservative Party, was made Baron Poole in 1958
  • William Rootes, owner of the car manufacturer of the same name, was made Baron Rootes in 1959
  • John Kemp, 2nd Baron Rochdale, a textile magnate, president of the National Union of Manufacturers from 1953 to 1956 and a member of the BBC’s board of governors from 1954 to 1959, was made Viscount Rochdale in 1960
  • Sir George Nelson, Bt., chairman of English Electric from 1930 to 1962, became Baron Nelson of Stafford in 1960
  • Basil Sanderson, shipping magnate and Head of Port Transit Control for the Ministry of War Transport from 1941 to 1945, was made Baron Sanderson of Ayot in 1960
  • Alexander Fleck, an industrial chemist specializing in radioactive materials and the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries from 1953 to 1960, was made Baron Fleck in 1961 (dying with him in 1968)
  • Simon Marks, chairman of Marks and Spencer, was made Baron Marks of Broughton in 1961
  • Sir George Leighton Seager, Bt., the shipping magnate, was made Baron Leighton of St. Mellons in 1962
  • Leonard Lord, the last president of Austin Motors and president of the British Motor Corporation from 1952 to 1967, was made Baron Lambury in 1962 (dying with him in 1967)
  • Sir Robert Renwick, Bt., head of the County of London Electric Company for the duration of World War II, was made Baron Renwick in 1964
  • John Erskine, general manager of the Commercial Bank of Scotland from 1932 to 1953 and Governor of Northern Ireland from 1964 to 1968, was made Baron Erskine of Rerrick in 1964 (dying with his son in 1995)
  • Sir Hugh Fraser, Bt., of the House of Fraser chain of department stores, became Baron Fraser of Allander in 1964 (dying with his son in 1987)
  • Roy Thomson, a Canadian newspaper tycoon who owned the Scotsman, the Times, and the ITV franchise for central Scotland, was made Baron Thomson of Fleet in 1964 (the family later returned to Canada; the current Lord Thomson is the chairman of media giant Thomson Reuters, and the richest man in Canada)

Diplomats were well served at the peerage buffet:

  • Duff Cooper, the first British ambassador to France after its liberation in 1944, made Viscount Norwich in July of 1952
  • Sir William Strang, a top official in the Foreign Office between 1933 and 1953, became Baron Strang in 1954
  • Sir Oliver Harvey, Bt., ambassador to France from 1948 to 1954, was made Baron Harvey of Tasburgh in 1954
  • Gladwyn Jebb, a diplomat and Acting Secretary-General of the UN from 1945 to 1946, became Baron Gladwyn in 1960
  • Sir Frederick Millar, the first British ambassador to West Germany (1955-56), was made Baron Inchyra in 1962
  • Roger Makins, ambassador to the US from 1953 to 1956 and chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Commission from 1960 to 1964, became Baron Sherfield in 1964

As were judges:

  • Thomas Cooper, Lord Advocate of Scotland from 1935 to 1941, Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland from 1941 to 1947 and Lord Justice General and Lord President of the Court of Session of Scotland from 1947 to 1954, was made Baron Cooper of Culross in 1954 (dying with him in 1955)
  • Mr. Justice Raymond Evershed, Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England (the second most senior judge in England and Wales) from 1949 to 1962, became Baron Evershed in 1956 (dying with him in 1966)
  • Mr. Justice Norman Birkett, a judge of the Court of Appeals for England and Wales from 1950 to 1956, became Baron Birkett in 1958
  • Patrick Spens, Chief Justice of India from 1943 to 1947, became Baron Spens in 1959

And civil servants:

  • Sir Edward Bridges, Cabinet Secretary from 1938 to 1946 and Head of the Home Civil Service and Permanent Secretary to the Treasury from 1946 to 1956, became Baron Bridges in 1957
  • Sir John Forster, a public servant at the Ministry of Labour and President of the Industrial Court from 1946 to 1959, became Baron Forster of Harraby in 1959 (dying with him in 1972)
  • Terence Nugent, Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office from 1936 to 1960, was made Baron Nugent in 1960 (dying with him in 1973)
  • Cameron Cobbold, Governor of the Bank of England from 1949 to 1960 and Lord Great Chamberlain from 1963 to 1971, was made Baron Cobbold in 1960
  • Cyril Radcliffe, Baron Radcliffe, Director-General of the Ministry of Information in WWII and chairman of the Indian Boundary Committee in 1947, made Viscount Radcliffe in 1962 (dying with him in 1977)
  • Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve, Bt., a leading member of the Church Estates Commission, became Baron Silsoe in 1963
  • Sir Norman Brook, Cabinet Secretary from 1947 to 1962, became Baron Normanbrook in 1963 (dying with him in 1967)

And doctors, too:

  • Edgar Adrian, a neurologist and co-winner of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Medicine, was made Baron Adrian in 1955 (the title died with his son in 1995)
  • Dr. Henry Cohen, a lecturer in medicine and founding vice-chairman of the Central Health Services Council, became Baron Cohen of Birkenhead in 1956 (dying with him in 1977)
  • Dr. Horace Evans, personal physician to George VI and Elizabeth II, became Baron Evans in 1957 (dying with him in 1963)
  • Russell Brain, an expert neurologist, author of Brain’s Diseases of the Nervous System and president of the Royal College of Physicians from 1950 to 1956, was made Baron Brain in 1962

Other luminaries ennobled included:

  • Sir Basil Brooke, Bt., Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1943 to 1963, made Viscount Brookeborough in July of 1952
  • Eustace Percy, President of the Board of Education from 1924 to 1929, was made Baron Percy of Newcastle in 1953 (dying with him in 1958)
  • Alfred Suenson-Taylor, a banker and Liberal Party organizer, became Baron Grantchester in 1953
  • Leslie Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport under Stanley Baldwin and Secretary of War under Neville Chamberlain, was made Baron Hore-Belisha in 1954 (extinct on his death in 1957)
  • Sir Godfrey Huggins, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1933 to 1953, became Viscount Malvern in 1955
  • Arnold McNair, a Cambridge professor of international law and president of the European Court of Human Rights from 1959 to 1965, was made Baron McNair in 1955
  • Frederick Lindemann,1st Baron Cherwell, a top scientific advisor to Winston Churchill in WWII, became Viscount Cherwell in 1956 (the titles died with him the next year)
  • James Turner, president of the National Farmers’ Union from 1945 to 1960, became Baron Netherthorpe in 1959
  • Sir Evelyn Baring, governor of Southern Rhodesia from 1942 to 1944 and of Kenya from 1952 to 1959, was made Baron Howick of Glendale in 1960
  • Sir Wavell Wakefield, a professional rugby player, president of Harlequins FC from 1950 to 1980, and an MP from 1935 to 1963, became Baron Wakefield of Kendal in 1963 (dying with him in 1983)
  • John Wyndham, private secretary to prime minister Harold Macmillan (1957-63), was given the title Baron Egremont in 1963 (in 1967, he succeeded his father as the 6th Baron Leconfield)

A very peculiar peerage was awarded in 1961 to Urban Huttleston Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven, of Lode in the County of Cambridge, a millionaire and art collector. His father, Urban Hanlon Broughton, went to America and made a fortune in railway and mining interests, married into a rich family, then returned to England and served as the MP for Preston from 1915 to 1918, and became very close friends with prime minister Andrew Bonar Law. He was due to be given a peerage but died before it was finalized; the barony was instead given directly to Huttleston, his eldest son, in 1929. In 1961, Lord Fairhaven, by then old and childless, was given another peerage, that of the Baron Fairhaven, of Anglesey Abbey in the County of Cambridge; unlike the first title, this new title could be inherited by Huttleston’s brother, Henry, which he did when Huttleston died in 1966 and the Lode iteration of the Fairhaven title went extinct.

Around the time of Harold Macmillan’s long-overdue ennoblement in 1984, the government of Margaret Thatcher made a half-hearted attempt to revive the practice. It gave out two more peerages: William Whitelaw, who served as Thatcher’s Home Secretary from 1979 to 1983, Lord President of the Council from 1983 to 1988 and Deputy Prime Minister from 1979 to 1988, was made Viscount Whitelaw in 1983; and Thomas George Thomas, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1976 to 1983, was made Viscount Tonypandy in the year he stepped down. Neither man had a son and their titles died with them, Lord Tonypandy in 1997, Lord Whitelaw in 1999. No private British citizen since 1984 has been awarded a hereditary peerage.

The British Crown Jewels 2: Celtic Riches

In my previous post I went through the holdings of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. It would probably be more appropriate to say the Crown Jewels of England, because Scotland, Ireland and Wales, having been and still being autonomous political units, have had their own sets of crown jewels, though none so grand or so opulent as those in London.

The Crown Jewels of Scotland

Crest of Scotland

Crest of the Royal Arms of Scotland, showing a lion with the Scottish Crown Jewels

Scotland was a kingdom wholly independent from England until James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne as James I in 1603. The two countries maintained separate armies, navies, Parliaments and governments until the Act of Union of 1707. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that Scotland has its own full-fledged set of Crown Jewels, also called the Honours of Scotland or the Scottish Regalia. It consists principally of a crown, a sceptre and a sword. The crest of the Royal Coat of Arms for Scotland shows a red lion holding the sword and sceptre and wearing the crown while also standing on the crown.

Oliver Cromwell had attempted to destroy them as he had the English crown jewels when he invaded Scotland in 1651, shortly after they had been used to crown Charles II as King of Scotland. (Charles II fled to the Continent shortly thereafter, returning in 1660 once Oliver Cromwell was dead and his son Richard deposed as Lord Protector.) Loyalists first hid them in Dunnottar Castle, in Aberdeenshire; they were smuggled out once the castle was laid seige to by the New Model Army. They were then buried like pirate treasure under the floorboards of nearby Kinneff Kirk (parish church). They were dug up and returned to Edinburgh in 1660.

waxworks with crown jewels

Waxwork diorama at Edinburgh Castle of Sir Walter Scott and company uncovering the Scottish regalia in 1818.

Following the Act of Union in 1707, the Scottish Crown Jewels had no purpose anymore, so they were wrapped in linen, locked in a chest and put in a storage room in Edinburgh Castle for 111 years. On February 4th, 1818, a band of Scottish patriots (including the writer Sir Walter Scott) unearthed the regalia and had it put on public display in Edinburgh Castle the next year.

The jewels were taken away and hidden, along with the English crown jewels, in 1941 during the Blitz, in a location so secret it is still not publicly known. They were taken out again for a visit by Elizabeth II in 1953 and have been on public display ever since.

Scottish crown jewels

The Crown, Sword of State and Sceptre of Scotland

The oldest existing crown in Britain is the solid gold Crown of Scotland, the centrepiece of the Scottish Crown Jewels. It was made by James V in 1540 from a design of a crown made for James IV in 1503. He wore it to the coronation of his second wife in 1540 and was used to coronate the next four Scottish monarchs — Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI, Charles I and Charles II. It was formally presented to Elizabeth II at a ceremony during a national day of thanksgiving at the Palace of Holyroodhouse three weeks after her coronation in 1953. Today it is kept in Edinburgh Castle and borne by the Duke of Hamilton to the openings of sessions of the Scottish Parliament.

The Sceptre of Scotland is silver-gilt and covered in Christian symbols. It’s topped by a Scottish pearl and a lump of cairngorn, a type of smoky quartz native to the mountains of the same name in Scotland. The sceptre was given as a gift to King James IV from Pope Alexander VI (a.k.a. Rodrigo Borgia) in 1494, and was remodeled and lengthened in 1536.

The Sword of State of Scotland was given to King James IV by Pope Julius II (the “Warrior Pope” who told Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel) in 1507, along with a blessed hat (a blessed sword and hat being a traditional papal gift to defenders of the Christian faith). It’s 4’6″ long and has a silver-gilt handle, etched blade and a wooden scabbard covered in silver and black velvet with a matching silk belt. A fine piece of Italian craftsmanship, the sword had to be broken in half in 1652 to hide it better.

The Crown Jewels of Ireland

Irish Crown Jewels

Photographs of the badge (top right) and star (bottom) of the Sovereign of the Order of St. Patrick and a livery collar of a Knight of the Order (top left) circulated by the Royal Irish Constabulary after their theft.

Ireland never really had any crowns or things, seeing how as it went directly from semi-feral bearded chieftains in brown clothes to English suzerainty. What was known as the “Irish Crown Jewels” (although not called as such until 1905) was the King’s insignia as Sovereign of the Order of St. Patrick, consisting of a star (worn on the coat on the lower left side) and a badge (worn to hold the sash together). Unusually for crown jewels, they were entitled to be worn by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in the King’s absence. (Before 1800 the Lord Lieutenant was King of Ireland in all but name; afterward he lost much power and influence to the Chief Secretary for Ireland in Cabinet, and the lieutenancy was abolished in 1922.) The star and badge were made by William IV in 1831 and were encrusted in 394 precious gems, mostly from George III and Queen Charlotte.

Care of the jewels was entrusted to the Ulster King of Arms, the chief herald for Ireland. In 1903 they were put in a safe that was to be put in a new strongroom at Dublin Castle, but the safe was too big for the door. The safe was then put in the herald’s office; other than his own, there were six keys to the office door among his staff, and the only two keys to the safe in were in the herald’s possession.

The jewels were last used by the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Aberdeen, on March 15th, 1907. The next planned occasion for their use was to be on July 10th, when King Edward VII was to visit Dublin and induct Lord Castledown into the Order of St. Patrick. Sir Arthur Vicars, the Ulster King of Arms, showed the jewels to a visitor to his office on June 11th, 1907, and they were never seen again.

The jewels were discovered missing on July 6th, 1907. Also missing from the safe were the livery collars of five knights of the Order: The Marquess of Ormonde, the Earl of Enniskillen, the Earl of Mayo, the Earl of Howth, and the Earl of Cork (who was less upset than the others, since he had been dead since 1904). The collars were valued at a total of £1050. A reward of £1000 was offered for the Crown Jewels’ return, and the theft was investigated by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary with the aid of the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard. A Viceregal Commission was convened on January 10th, 1908, to examine the matter, and compelled Vicars and his staff to resign. (Vicars was a friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and his Sherlock Holmes story “The Case of the Bruce-Hartington Plans” is said to be inspired by the theft.) Vicars later won £5000 in damages when he sued the Daily Mail for libel in July 1913, after it claimed Vicars gave a safe key to a mistress who fled to Paris with the jewels.

A number of theories have been floated as to the culprits, from Irish nationalists to Unionist supporters looking to embarrass the Liberal government to the Lord Lieutenant’s son, Lord Haddo, who claimed to be in Great Britain at the time of the theft and whose alibi was corroborated in the House of Commons by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. For a time the prime suspect was Francis Shackleton, brother of the famed polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, but he was eventually exonerated.

A 1927 cabinet memo of the Irish Free State claimed that Prime Minister W.T. Cosgrave “understands that the Castle jewels are for sale and that they could be got for £2,000 or £3,000”. Regardless, the Irish Crown Jewels were never recovered and the crime remains unsolved to this day.

The Honours of the Principality of Wales

Prince Charles with the Welsh Honours

HRH Prince Charles in 1969 wearing his coronet, the mantle, ring, and sword, and holding the sceptre of the Honours of the Principality of Wales.

Wales has no crown jewels, per se: it’s not a kingdom, so it has no crown. What it has is “Honours” and they are bestowed upon the Prince of Wales, when there is one, or the Crown of England when there is not. (Remember, the only time there’s a Prince of Wales is if the monarch has an eldest son. So there was no Prince of Wales for the entire reign of George VI, or between 1820 and 1841.)

The centrepieces of the honours are the Coronets of Prince Frederick, Prince George and Prince Charles, which we covered in the last article. The rest of the existent regalia was made for the 1911 investiture of Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, later King Edward VIII, and even later HRH the Duke of Windsor, and was re-used, sans coronet, at the investiture of HRH the Prince of Wales in 1969. At his investiture ceremony at Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales, Prince Edward had been made to wear a ridiculous white velvet Little Lord Fauntleroy getup with white satin knee breeches. Prince Charles, conversely, wore his Royal Navy uniform with his Knight of the Garter sash.

The Honours consist of the coronets, a sword, a sceptre, a ring, and a mantle of dark purple velvet with ermine trim. The cloth and fur of the mantle were new for Prince Charles, but it re-used the gold clasp from the 1911 mantle.

The British Crown Jewels

Crown Jewels

The main crown jewels of the United Kingdom: St. Edward’s Crown, Anointing Spoon, Ampulla, Imperial State Crown, Orb, Armills, Spurs, Coronation Ring, Sceptre with Cross, Chalice, Sceptre with Dove, Paten, and Jewelled Sword of Offering.

The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom is probably the most famous assemblage of valuable things in the world. It was started so long ago – by mediaeval kings wanting a cache of easily-pawnable things to get some quick warrin’/feastin’/castle-buildin’ money – that although it’s agreed they’re property of the nebulous legal entity that is the Crown of the United Kingdom, nobody agrees who, exactly, the jewels’ fate is ultimately controlled by. It could the Queen, or the government, or Parliament, or the people, or maybe even God Himself.

Nobody seems to have any idea what their cash value is, either; they HAVE been valued for insurance purposes, but the numbers are kept top secret. The biggest gem in the batch, the Cullinan I Diamond (a.k.a. the Great Star of Africa) in the Sceptre with the Cross, is believed to be worth £400 million, and most estimates for the whole set range from 3 to 5 billion pounds.

Until the 14th century the Crown Jewels were kept in Westminster Abbey. After a number of theft attempts they were moved to the Tower of London in 1303 and placed in the care of the janitor until 1677, when someone mugged the janitor and stole the jewels. They were then shown to the public in a room with armed guards. Visitors could actually handle the jewels until a crazy person broke a crown in 1815, and after that they instituted a no-touching policy.

Bear in mind that there is only a narrow set of items that constitutes the Crown Jewels, mostly coronation-themed bric-a-brac. Most of the fancy tiaras and brooches and earrings and whatnot that the Queen’s always seen wearing to dinners or churches are her personal property, mostly family heirlooms from Queens Victoria, Alexandra and Mary.

This is a pretty complete listing of the stuff that consists of the British Crown Jewels. Most of it only dates back to the 1660s because Oliver Cromwell had the old collection smashed up and sold off. The most valuable piece of the old Crown Jewels, the Tudor State Crown, fetched £1100 in 1649, or about £1,740,000 in today’s money.

The Crowns: Regnant

There have been various crowns throughout British history, since most kings had new ones made, melted down, made for their queens, etc.

Tudor Crown

Artist’s impression of the Tudor Crown

The last English crown before the Protectorate was the Tudor Crown, which was commissioned (possibly) by Henry VII and worn (definitely) by Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I and St. Charles I. It was used as the principal stylistic model for symbols of the legal Crown for Britain, the Commonwealth and the Empire from Edward VII to George VI. The emblem was changed to an icon of St. Edward’s Crown by Elizabeth II.

St. Edward's Crown

St. Edward’s Crown

St. Edward’s Crown is the oldest existing and most famous English crown. It was commissioned by Charles II for his coronation in 1661 and built of solid gold. The design was based on the crown its namesake, St. Edward the Confessor, wore at Christmas of 1065 and used to coronate William I as King of England on Christmas of 1066. A man named Thomas Blood stole it in 1671 and flattened it with a mallet to hide it better. (Thomas Blood had a happy ending: Charles II pardoned him and gave him a pension worth £500 per year.) William III hand the opening bent into a skull-like oval shape in 1689; before that it had been a perfect circle. William III was also the last king to be crowned with it for 222 years, until George V. Until 1911 it was undecorated most of the time, and whenever it was needed for a coronation someone went out and rented some jewels to put on it. The jewels were bought and set on permanently by George V. It was used for the coronation of George VI and Elizabeth II, and is kept in the Tower of London.

Imperial State Crown

Imperial State Crown

The crown that the Queen wears to the state openings of Parliament is the Imperial State Crown, which was made for George VI in 1937 off a pattern from a crown made in 1838 for Queen Victoria’s coronation and later used for the coronation of Edward VII (the bare frame of this 1838 crown is still kept in the Tower of London). It has a lot of very old and valuable gems, including sapphires belonging to St. Edward the Confessor and Alexander II of Scotland, a ruby from Edward the Black Prince, pearls from Elizabeth I and the Cullinan II diamond.

George IV State Diadem

A stamp of Elizabeth II from the Machin series showing the George IV State Diadem. (C) Royal Mail.

The crown that the Queen is usually shown wearing on coins and on the iconic series of British stamps designed by Arnold Machin is the George IV State Diadem, made in 1820 for George IV to wear as he entered Westminster Abbey during his needlessly elaborate coronation ceremony. Ever since, it’s been usually worn as a “travelling” crown: Victoria and Elizabeth II wore the Diadem while leaving the Abbey, and the Queen wears it on the processions leading to the State Opening of Parliament.

Victoria's Small Diamond Crown

A photograph of Queen Victoria wearing her Small Diamond Crown.

That tiny crown that was so often worn by the old Queen Victoria is officially named “the Small Diamond Crown of Queen Victoria“. She had it made of silver and over 1100 diamonds in 1870 to fit better over the top of her widow’s veils, and first wore it to the state opening of Parliament in 1871. It was the crown put on her coffin at her funeral, and she left it in her will to the Crown Jewels. It was worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, but by no-one else since.

Crown of George I

The empty frame of the State Crown of George I.

George I had a new crown (the State Crown of George I) made for ordinary kingly use in 1714 to replace that of Charles II, and had it decorated with coloured glass instead of gems. The glass was replaced with rented diamonds for the coronation of George II in 1727, and was later used for the coronation of George III in 1761 and of William IV in 1831. In 1815 a madwoman came to see it at the Tower of London and damaged it severely, after which visitors were no longer able to handle the Crown Jewels. It was worn by Victoria to the state opening of Parliament in 1837; she sold its empty frame to the crown jewellers in 1838. They gave it back in 1995 and is now in the Tower of London.

Coronation Crown of George IV

The empty frame of the Coronation Crown of George IV.

The extravagant and opulent King George IV had a new gold and silver crown made for his George IV Coronation Crown in 1820, of his own design. He had wanted to eliminate the traditional French fleurs-de-lis on British crowns and replace them with roses, thistles and shamrocks, but was vetoed by the College of Heralds. (George IV fought for symbols of British unity: he was the first king to wear a kilt since the 2nd Jacobite Rebellion and the first to visit Ireland since the Battle of the Boyne.) The crown was slathered with over 12,000 diamonds, which the king was unable to convince Parliament to buy outright and were returned in 1823, leaving the crown empty (and later sold to the crown jewellers in 1838) until it was reset with diamonds on loan from De Beers in 1996, after its return to the Crown Jewels the previous year.

Crown of India

The Imperial Crown of India.

The last crown made for a King was the Imperial Crown of India, which is not actually part of the Crown Jewels as a legal entity, since the Crown Jewels can’t leave Britain. It was made in 1911 for £60,000 (about £5.2 million in 2013) for George V to wear to the Delhi Durbar, where he received his subjects as Emperor of India. It weighed more than two pounds and hasn’t been worn since the Durbar; it is kept at the Tower of London.

The Crowns: Consort

Mary of Modena's crowns

The State Crown and Diadem of Queen Mary of Modena.

Most of the crowns in the Crown Jewels were made for queen consorts. The oldest of these is the State Crown of Mary of Modena, wife of James II (and VII) made in 1685. It was occasionally worn by Mary II and Anne, and was the coronation crown of the consorts of King Georges I, II and III, but as George IV’s wife was not crowned and a new crown was made for the wife of William IV, the crown fell out of use. The Diadem of Mary of Modena was made concurrently for the coronation procession, and was worn in the coronation processions of Mary II, Anne, and possibly the wife of George II (accounts are vague), but has not been used since.

Crown of Adelaide

The empty frame of the Crown of Queen Adelaide.

The Crown of Queen Adelaide, wife of William IV, was made in 1831 for her coronation, emptied of its jewels soon thereafter, sold to the crown jewellers and not worn since. (The jewellers returned it to Elizabeth II in 1995, at the same time as the crowns of George I and George IV.)

The Crown of Queen Alexandra

The Crown of Queen Alexandra.

The Crown of Queen Alexandra was made in 1902 for the wife of Edward VII in the first crowning of a queen consort in 71 years. It was squatter than most British crowns and had four arches instead of the usual two, making it much more like the crowns of Continental kingdoms. The Koh-i-Noor diamond was set into it at the coronation, and the crown set the precedent of having detachable arches so the crown could also be worn as a circlet. It was set with paste gems (gems made of flint glass) and is on display at the Tower of London.

Crown of Queen Mary

The Crown of Queen Mary of Teck.

The Crown of Queen Mary, four-arched like its predecessor, was made for the wife of George V in 1911 and set with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, along with the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV diamonds, on Coronation Day, all replaced with crystal models in 1914. It has not been worn since Queen Mary died in 1953.

Crown of Queen Elizabeth

The Crown of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

The Crown of Queen Elizabeth was made for the Queen Mother for the coronation of George VI in 1937. It is the only British crown made of platinum, and returned to the traditional two-arch pattern for British crowns. Since it was made it has been the place of rest for the Koh-i-Noor diamond. (The diamond was stolen from the Sikh Empire by the British East India Company in 1850 and given to Queen Victoria in 1877 after being proclaimed Empress of India. It is said to curse any man who wears it, but not any woman, which is why it is worn by consorts.) It is now with the other crowns in the Tower of London.

The Coronets

Most of the coronets in the Tower of London are not really for the Sovereign, or Britain, or part of the Crown Jewels: they’re for the Prince of Wales, and are the centrepieces of the Honours of the Principality of Wales. Unlike crowns, the coronets only have one arch that goes across the head sideways.

Coronet of Frederick, Prince of Wales

Coronet of Frederick, Prince of Wales.

The oldest of the coronets of Wales is the Coronet of Frederick, Prince of Wales, made in 1728 for the son of George II, who was the father of George III. Frederick died in 1751 before he inherited the throne, and the coronet was worn by the Princes of Wales that became George III, George IV and Edward VII.

Coronet of George, Prince of Wales

Coronet of George, Prince of Wales.

In 1902 the old coronet had gotten fragile and so the Coronet of George, Prince of Wales was made for the future George V. When he took his seat in the House of Lords it was borne before him on a cushion, a practice subsequently used by his son Edward, the future Edward VIII/Duke of Windsor. After abdicating in 1936 Edward took the coronet with him to France (a possibly illegal action that was never prosecuted) and wasn’t returned to the Jewel Collection until his death in 1972. It’s now at the Tower with the Coronet of Frederick.

Coronet of Charles, Prince of Wales

Coronet of Charles, Prince of Wales.

Since the Coronet of George was not available for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales of Prince Charles in 1969, a new one, the Coronet of Charles, Prince of Wales, was made instead. It had a crazy futuristic design by the artist Louis Osman and is now on loan to the National Museum and Gallery of Wales in Cardiff. It’s generally believed that future princes will revert to the George coronet.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret wearing their coronets

At middle, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret wearing their coronets at the coronation of George VI in 1937.

Outside of those for Wales, two more little coronets were made for George VI’s daughters at his coronation in 1937. The Coronets of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret are not on display and believed to be in a vault somewhere in Buckingham Palace.

The Swords

There are five swords in the collection of the Crown Jewels.

Great Sword of State

The Great Sword of State.

The Great Sword of State was made in 1678 for Charles II. Its hilt is shaped like a lion and a unicorn, and has a red velvet scabbard. The Earl Marshal carries the Great Sword beside the Queen at state openings of Parliament. The sword weighs 5 1/4 pounds, or 7 lbs 5 oz with the scabbard.

Jeweled Sword

The Jeweled Sword of Offering.

While all five swords are carried in the coronation procession, the only sword presented to the new monarch by the Archbishop of Canterbury to symbolize his or her power taken from man and God alike is the Jewelled Sword of Offering. It was made for George IV’s coronation in 1821. The hilt and the scabbard are solid gold and encrusted with gems, and the blade is finely engraved Damascus steel. (Damascus steel was the H-bomb of the Crusades. It was actually made in Persia from wootz steel made in India, and forged in such a way that it created carbon nanotubes in the steel 2500 years before anyone knew what nanotubes were.) It is probably the most valuable edged weapon on Earth, and likely costs as much as a Predator drone.

Other swords

L to R: the Sword of Spiritual Justice, The Sword of Mercy, The Sword of Temporal Justice

The Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice, and the Sword of Mercy became part of  the coronation rigamarole for Charles I in 1626, and the current artefacts are from Charles II. The Sword of Mercy, or Edward the Confessor’s Sword, has a squared-off end, to symbolize mercy tempering the sharpness of justice; the sword’s design comes from the old French legend of Ogier the Dane, whose sword, Curtana, could only be drawn in mercy and not in vengeance. The three swords are plain steel with simple gold hilts, rather Arthurian-looking. The Sword of Mercy is 3’2″ long; the other two are 3’10” and 3’9″ respectively.

The Sceptres

There are two sceptres of the Crown of the UK, and right as the crown is placed on the monarch’s head at the coronation, he or she has one in each hand.

The top of the Sceptre with the Cross.

Edward VII in 1902 and George VI in 1937 with the Sceptre with the Cross, before and after the addition of the Great Star of Africa

Edward VII in 1902 and George VI in 1937 with the Sceptre with the Cross, before and after the addition of the Great Star of Africa

The Sceptre with the Cross, alias the Royal Sceptre, alias the Sovereign’s Sceptre, alias St. Edward’s Sceptre, was made in 1661 for Charles II and represents the Crown’s temporal authority. In 1905 the tip of it was redesigned to fit the Great Star of Africa, alias the Cullinan I diamond, which weighs a quarter of a pound and costs about five times the annual operating revenue of the New York Times.

The top of the Sceptre with the Dove.

The Sceptre with the Dove, alias the Rod with the Dove, alias the Rod of Equity and Mercy, was made at the same time as the other one and represents spiritual authority. The dove at the tip represents the Holy Ghost.

The Queen Consort's Sceptre with the Cross.

The Queen Consort’s Sceptre with the Cross.

The Queen Consort's Sceptre with the Dove.

The Queen Consort’s Sceptre with the Dove.

The Queen’s Sceptre with the Cross and the Queen’s Sceptre with the Dove were made for Mary of Modena in 1685. The Queen’s Sceptre with the Dove is the only major part of the regalia made of ivory, and is sometimes called “The Queen’s Ivory Rod”.

The Orbs


The Sovereign’s Orb and the Small Orb.

The Sovereign’s Orb is an artefact known as a globus cruciger, and it symbolizes Jesus, the king of the world, and the monarch’s position as Defender of the Faith, It’s hollow and made of gold with a jewelled band and cross on top, and was made in 1661.

When Mary II was crowned as sovereign jointly with her husband William III in 1689, the Small Orb was made for her. The two orbs were both set on the coffin of Queen Victoria at her funeral in 1901.

The Ampulla and Spoon

ampulla and spoon

The Ampulla and the Anointing Spoon.

The Ampulla and the Anointing Spoon are the most ancient parts of the regalia, having survived Cromwell. During the Coronation, holy oil is poured out of the ampulla into the spoon, and the Archbishop of Canterbury uses the spoonful of oil to anoint the monarch as a holy person. The ceremony, which was taken from the coronation ceremonies of the French kings, is hidden from everyone else by means of some sheets on poles held up around the sovereign and Archbishop as a sort of makeshift tent. It’s tradition to mix a little bit of the oil used in the last coronation into the new oil for each coronation; the original oil, or so the Church would have us believe, was given to St. Thomas Becket by a vision of the Virgin Mary sometime in the 12th century.

The Spoon, the oldest single thing in the Crown Jewels, is gold-plated silver with pearls on the handle and a bowl with a ridge through the middle. It is known to date back to at least 1349 and is believed to have been made for the coronation of either Henry II in 1154 or Richard I in 1189. It was sold for 16 shillings in 1649 to the head of the Removing Wardrobe, the royal office in charge of keeping track of all the king’s stuff as he moves from palace to palace throughout the year. He gave it back in 1661, at which time it was given a re-gilting.

The Ampulla is a gold vessel in the shape of an eagle. The head screws off to put the oil in, and the oil pours out of its beak. It is believed by some that this ampulla is the same one that was made for the coronation of Henry IV in 1399, but by others to be yet another piece made by Charles II in 1661. The herald Francis Sandford wrote in 1687 that the eagle had definitely survived into the Restoration; there is also incontrovertible proof that the Crown Jeweller, Sir Robert Viner, Bt., was paid £102/5/— for a new ampulla in 1661. There’s only one fancy eagle oil cruet in the Tower of London, though, so nobody knows which one it is.

The Rings

The Coronation Rings

L to R: Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring, Sovereign’s Ring, Queen Consort’s Ring

The Sovereign’s Ring has a big sapphire with a St. George’s cross on it in rubies, encircled with diamonds. At one point every new king got a new ring, symbolizing his “marriage” to his country, and it was his to keep. William IV left his ring to his widow, Queen Adelaide, who had also been given the Queen Consort’s Ring (a ruby circled with diamonds) at their coronation in 1831. She left both rings to Queen Victoria, whose fingers were too small to fit William’s ring and so had made a smaller copy (Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring) for her use in 1838. Victoria willed all three to the Crown, and every monarch since Edward VII has used William’s ring.

The Spurs

The King's Spurs.

The King’s Spurs.

The Spurs represent chivalry. They’re solid gold versions of your basic cowboy-type horse-jabbing spurs, the kind with a solid spike instead of the little sharp wheels. The spurs date back to 1661, except for the red velvet straps, which were added by George IV in 1821. In the case of reigning queens, the spurs aren’t put on; they’re just presented to her.

The Armills

The armills of Charles II (L) and of Elizabeth II (R).

The armills of Charles II (L) and of Elizabeth II (R).

Armills are hinged gold cuff-like bracelets lined with crushed red velvet, which represent the sovereign being bound to serve the country. The older of the two sets is the King’s Armills, made in 1661 and decorated with enamelled pictures of roses, thistles, harps and fleurs-de-lis.

In 1953, the governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) chipped in for a coronation gift to our Queen and commissioned Queen Elizabeth II’s Armills, a simple, elegant pair of gold armills with understated engraving and an invisible hinge with spring catch.

The Vestments

The Coronation Robes are based off priestly vestments and are put on over whatever it is that they came in wearing.

Queen in her shroud

Elizabeth II in the Colobium Sindonis.

The first layer is the Colobium Sindonis, or “shroud tunic”, a simple white gown (It symbolizes being naked before the Lord, but doing that properly would be wildly inappropriate for the middle of Westminster Abbey.) They make a new one every time.

supertunica and accessories

The Dalmatic and Girdle of George V and the Stole of Elizabeth II.

Next comes the Dalmatic, or Supertunica, which is a richly embroidered gold silk robe with red silk lining. Its worn with a matching Girdle (belt), and the current ones were made for George V in 1911.

Over that goes the Stole, a gold silk scarf embroidered with symbols of the Church, Britain and the Commonwealth, worn draped over the shoulders like a priest or fat Elvis. A new one was made in 1953 by the Worshipful Company of Girdlers for Elizabeth II.


The Imperial Mantle.

Over the top of that goes the Imperial Mantle, or Cloth-of-Gold, an ankle-length gold silk cape with a fringed hem and embroidered thistles, roses and shamrocks. It was made for George IV in 1821. The monarch wears these vestments until they’re crowned and takes them off before they leave the Abbey.

purple cape

The Royal Pall of Elizabeth II.

red robe

The Queen wearing her Robe of Parliament as she enters Westminster Abbey.

As the Queen or King leaves, poses for photos afterward, etc., he or she wears the Royal Robe of State, or “Royal Pall”, or “fancy king cape”. A new one is made each time, of crushed purple velvet and ermine trim, a gold braid clasp and the sovereign’s cipher embroidered in gold at the bottom. The lining for Elizabeth II’s robe was made of oyster silk, because it’s lighter and her coronation was in June. For most other caped occasions, like the state opening of Parliament, the monarch wears his or her Robes of Parliament, which is red, shorter, and unembroidered.

The Other Stuff

The Lily Font.

Charles II not only had made a whole set of regalia in 1661, he had a whole gold altar set made for Westminster Abbey, plus an enormous solid gold dinnerware set for the coronation banquet. The altar set included a gold chalice (cup) and paten (plate) for the Holy Communion, plus a baptismal font that was used for the christening of every royal baby for 180 years. In 1840 Queen Victoria commissioned the silver-gilt Lily Font for her first child, Princess Victoria (later the Empress of Germany), which has been used ever since.

Exeter salt

The Salt of State.

The pièce de résistance of the banquet set is the Salt of State, or Exeter Salt (after the city that gifted it to the King), a big, ornately decorated gold salt cellar in the shape of a castle. For much of history, a coronation ended in a lavish banquet punctuated by the arrival of the King’s Champion, a tradition in which a man came charging into the banquet hall on a horse and challenged any of the new king’s opponents to a duel.

The last coronation banquet was held for George IV in 1821, in which the hall got so hot that the candles in the chandeliers melted and rained hot wax down on the guests. William IV and Victoria cancelled their banquets as a cost-cutting sop; Edward VII was planning to reinstate the tradition, but fell sick with appendicitis and so the plans were shelved. (The doctor who treated King Edward’s appendix and saved his life was none other than Sir Joseph Lister, the father of antiseptic medicine. As a reward, he was made Lord Lister.)

That’s all the Crown Jewels… or, at least, the English crown jewels. Tune in next time, when we take a look at the fascinating stories behind the crown jewels of Scotland, Ireland and Wales: Crown Jewels 2: Celtic Riches.