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When King Charles III is officially crowned on May 6, 2023, at Westminster Abbey, he’ll be sitting in a wooden chair that’s a whopping 700 years old. The 6.5-foot-tall Baltic oak piece of royal furniture has seen a lot in its day, from graffiti to bombings, and it has been hidden for safekeeping more than once. And, of course, it has taken part in 38 coronations, from 1399 (Henry IV) to 1953 (the late queen), when it made its live television debut.
It's fair to say the chair will be one of the days' stars. True, Charles has a passion for reusing things, and it's just one of many chairs that will make a repeat appearance on Saturday. But the royals love tradition, and the coronation chair, also known as St. Edward’s Chair, has an especially rich and very long history.
The Coronation Chair was handcrafted by Walter of Durham, aka Master Walter, between 1300 and 1301, according to Westminster Abbey. Its original purpose was to protect the famous Stone of Scone (aka Stone of Destiny), which King Edward I had, ahem, acquired in Scotland. The stone, which has since been returned to Scotland, weighs approximately 336 pounds and dates to biblical times. Originally it was totally enclosed in the chair's seat by wooden decorations, but those have fallen away over time. The wooden seat back was fully gilded and decorated with birds, foliage, and animals on the front; the back was painted with the figure of a king propping his feet up on a lion.
If you take a look at the chair now, you'll see that it rests upon the heads of four lions, one in each corner. These lions are 1727 replicas of decorative supports that were added in the early 16th century. Lions represent royalty, nobility, and strength, so the inclusion of the beasts is rather fitting for a royal affair.
According to Westminster Abbey, the coronation chair has been in service since 1308 although, "opinion is divided as to when it was actually used for the crowning." Here, its biggest history-making moments.
1399: Henry IV is crowned in the chair.
1655 to 1658: The chair is removed from Westminster Abbey during Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate
1887: The chair takes part in Queen Victoria's 1887 Golden Jubilee
18th and 19th centuries: The chair is defaced by tourist' and schoolchildren's graffiti. (One read: "P. Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800.")
1914: One of the chair's corners is knocked off by a bomb thought to have been planted by Suffragettes.
1950: The chair was briefly stolen by Scottish nationalists. It was found whole (including the Stone of Scone aka Destiny) a year later.
1996: The stone is removed from the chair and returned to Edinborough Castle, in Scotland.
2023: King Charles III will be crowned in the chair.
2024: The stone is expected to be moved to Perth City Hall, a few miles from the stone's original home in Scotland's Scone Abbey.
So if you plan on watching King Charles III officially get crowned, keep an eye on the chair. Can you see the Stone of Scone/Destiny? It's believed that the stone will briefly return to its onetime position, since a condition of its return was that it could be used for future British coronations. It may not glitter as brightly as the crown jewels, but it's equally full of tradition and just as central to the day's events.
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