The King and His Sceptre….

And he shall be called King Charles III.

On May 6th the symbolic coronation ceremony of the new monarch was held at Westminster Abbey, making King Charles III, the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned there since 1066.

The ceremony was and will always be a pretty traditional and elaborate one with spelt out steps taken as written by ancestors long gone. This includes the royal jewels.

One of those jewels of interest is the Sovereign Sceptre.

Image ref: BBC

The Sovereign’s Sceptre has a long history, dating back to the medieval period when sceptres were used as symbols of power and authority by kings and queens. It is an integral part of the British Crown Jewels and is used during the coronation of British monarchs. The sceptre is made of gold and is approximately 92.5 cm long, with a cross-shaped finial at the top that is set with a large diamond known as the Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa. Over time, the design and use of the sceptre evolved, and by the 17th century, the Sovereign’s Sceptre had become a crucial part of the British coronation ceremony.

The essence of the Sovereign’s Sceptre lies in its symbolism. The sceptre represents the monarch’s temporal power and authority, while the cross-shaped finial represents their spiritual authority as the head of the Church of England. The Cullinan I diamond, which is set into the sceptre, is the largest clear-cut diamond in the world and represents the monarch’s wealth and prestige.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre is a powerful symbol of the monarchy and its authority. Its use during the coronation ceremony underscores the importance of tradition and continuity in the British monarchy, while also emphasizing the central role of the monarch in British society.

The Sceptre and the three King Charles’

King Charles I was not given the Sovereign’s Sceptre during his coronation, as he was crowned over a century before the creation of the current sceptre in the 17th century.

However, King Charles I was given a sceptre during his coronation in 1626, which was a different sceptre than the one currently used. This sceptre was called the “Rod of Equity and Mercy” and was a symbol of the king’s role as a just ruler, responsible for upholding the law and showing mercy to his subjects.

It’s worth noting that the coronation ceremony has evolved over time, with different monarchs being given different symbols of power and authority during their coronations. The Sovereign’s Sceptre, which is currently used during the British coronation ceremony, was created during the reign of Charles II.

King Charles II played a key role in the creation of the Sovereign’s Sceptre, which is now an important part of the British Crown Jewels.

During his reign in the mid-17th century, Charles II ordered the creation of a new sceptre to be used during the coronation ceremony. The new sceptre was made of gold and was set with the Cullinan I diamond, which is the largest clear-cut diamond in the world and weighs over 530 carats. The diamond was acquired by the British government in 1905 and was later cut into several smaller diamonds, including the Cullinan I which now sits atop the Sovereign’s Sceptre.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre was completed in time for Charles II’s coronation in 1661, and it has been used in every British coronation ceremony since. The sceptre represents the temporal power and authority of the monarch and is a key symbol of the British monarchy.

On May 6, 2023, King Charles III who was until the death of his Mother Queen Elizabeth the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne was given the Sovereign’s Sceptre as part of the coronation regalia.

During the coronation ceremony that was attended by the most powerful monarchs and watched all around the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury presented the Sovereign’s Sceptre to the monarch, who then held it as a symbol of his power and authority. The sceptre was later placed on the altar during the religious portion of the ceremony and then returned to the monarch.

Today, the Sovereign’s Sceptre is one of the most famous and recognizable items in the British Crown Jewels. It is kept at the Tower of London along with other regalia and is only taken out on special occasions, such as coronations and state openings of Parliament.

…and the diamond?

The diamond that sits atop the Sovereign’s Sceptre is known as the Cullinan I, also called the Great Star of Africa, and it is the largest clear-cut diamond in the world. Here are some facts about the diamond:

  • The Cullinan I diamond weighs 530.20 carats and measures approximately 4 cm in length.
  • The diamond was discovered in 1905 at the Premier Mine in South Africa, and it was named after the mine’s owner, Sir Thomas Cullinan.
  • The diamond was purchased by the British government in 1907 and was presented to King Edward VII on his birthday.
  • The Cullinan I was originally part of a larger diamond known as the Cullinan diamond, which was the largest diamond ever found at the time. The diamond was cut into nine large stones and several smaller ones, including the Cullinan I.
  • The Cullinan I was originally set in the Imperial State Crown, but it was later moved to the Sovereign’s Sceptre in the 20th century.
  • The Sovereign’s Sceptre also contains a smaller diamond known as the Cullinan II, or the Lesser Star of Africa. This diamond weighs 317.40 carats and is the fourth-largest cut diamond in the world.
  • Both the Cullinan I and Cullinan II are part of the British Crown Jewels and are kept at the Tower of London with other regalia.

Recently, some South Africans are calling for the restitution of the diamond, claiming it was never purchased but forcefully taken during the colonial period.


God save the king!

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