arm chair

King Edward's Chair

King Edward's Chair, sometimes known as St Edward's Chair or The Coronation Chair, is the throne on which the British monarch sits for the coronation. It was commissioned in 1301 by King Edward I to contain the coronation stone of Scotland — known as the Stone of Scone — which he had captured from the Scots who had kept it at Scone Abbey. The chair was named after England's only canonized king, Edward the Confessor, and was kept in his shrine of St Edward's Chapel at Westminster Abbey.

All anointed English (and after the Union of 1707, British) sovereigns since 1308 have been seated in this chair at the moment of their coronation, with the exception of Queen Mary I who was crowned in a chair given to her by the Pope and Mary II who was crowned on a copy of the chair. The last occasion was the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

The high backed gothic style arm chair was carved from oak by a carpenter known as Master Walter, who was paid the considerable sum of 100 shillings for his work. Four gilded lions act as legs to the chair; these are a comparatively modern restoration executed in 1727. They replace similar lions which were added in the 16th century. Under the seat of the chair is a platform and cavity which until 1996 contained the Stone of Scone; this has now been returned to Scotland with the proviso that it be returned to the chair on the occasion of the next coronation.

The chair may once have been richly painted and gilded — it is thought it once had an image of Edward the Confessor painted on its back. Today, however, its appearance is of aged and bare wood, and during its history many early tourists, pilgrims, and choir boys in the Abbey appear to have carved their initials and other graffiti onto the chair in the 18th and 19th century. The carved finials at the back of the chair have also been partially sawn away.

Over the eight centuries of its existence it has been only twice removed from Westminster Abbey. The first time was for the ceremony in Westminster Hall when Oliver Cromwell was inducted as Lord Protector of England, and the second during World War II when it was evacuated to Gloucester Cathedral for the duration of the war.

Today it is highly protected, and leaves its secure resting place (in the ambulatory on a raised modern pedestal near the tomb of Henry V) only when it is carried into the theatre of coronation near the High Altar of the Abbey for the rare occurrence of a coronation.

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