Coronation Jewels 101: What Is a Coronation Ring?

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Rings have long been a part of King Charles's jewelry repertoire (see: the signet and wedding ring combo he has worn on his left pinky for decades) and on coronation day, he will temporarily add a third to the rotation. Among the many, many carats of jewelry firepower he will have on during these historic proceedings (showstoppers include St. Edward's Crown, the Imperial State Crown, the Sovereign's Scepter and Orb), the Coronation Ring, otherwise known as the Sovereign's Ring, will be one of his subtler pieces of adornment—but certainly no less symbolic.

When the jewel, which has also been referred to as the Wedding Ring of England, is slipped onto the fourth finger of King Charles's right hand by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it will serve as a symbol of his love and commitment to the Commonwealth, and to the people he is vowing, by God-given decree, to serve for the rest of his life.

george vi in coronation robes the robe of purple velvet, with the imperial state crown, 1937artist fortunino matania
King George VI, Charles’s grandfather, in his coronation regalia, including the Sovereign’s Ring.Print Collector - Getty Images

Seventy years ago, when the then-Archbishop of Canterbury carried out this ritual for Queen Elizabeth, he said: "Receive the ring of kingly dignity and the seal of Catholic faith, and as thou art this day consecrated to be our Head and Prince, so may you continue steadfastly as the defender of Christ’s religion, that being rich in faith, and blessed in all good works, you may reign with Him who is the King of Kings, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” We imagine a similarly weighty statement will be made on Saturday.

queen elizabeth ii and the duke of edinburgh on their coronation day
Queen Elizabeth on her coronation day.Print Collector - Getty Images

The tradition of a coronation ring dates back to at least the 13th century but this particular one has been used since the 19th century, when it was made for King William IV's coronation in 1831. The goldsmiths of Rundell, Bridge & Rundell were commissioned to craft the jewel, which features a sapphire stone overlaid with rubies forming a cross (an ode to the flag of Great Britain), all of it surrounded by diamonds. All monarchs who have come after—from King Edward VII to Queen Elizabeth—have used William's Coronation Ring rather than commission ones of their own.

coronation rings
From left: Queen Adelaide’s consort Coronation Ring, Queen Victoria’s Coronation Ring, and King William IV’s Coronation Ring.Print Collector - Getty Images

With the exception of Queen Victoria. When William's niece inherited the throne in 1837, his ring proved way too large and so the same jewelers were tasked with creating a smaller version for her dainty fingers. They ended up misunderstanding the assignment and made a ring for her pinky instead. No matter, the Archbishop of Canterbury forced it onto her fourth finger. "I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again," Queen Victoria later wrote in her journal, "which I at last did with great pain."

Even a man whose kingly destiny was granted by God Himself isn't completely immune to mortal concerns. King Charles is reportedly taking measures to avoid a similar Victoria situation—because nothing foreshadows bad luck quite like a promise ring that doesn't fit. With millions watching on national television, no less. According to a tidbit in the Daily Mail, he is worried about having puffy fingers on coronation day and is taking measures, like limiting travel.

And why should Charles have all the jewelry fun? Queen Camilla will wear her own consort's ring (a large ruby surrounded by diamonds) that William IV had commissioned for his wife Adelaide, and which has since been passed down the line of consorts, from Alexandra to the Queen Mother. It will undoubtedly pair nicely with her Queen Mary's Crown.

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