Westminster Abbey prepares to host King Charles III Coronation

Westminster Abbey Conservation
Westminster Abbey Conservation

Westminster Abbey, with a history stretching back over a thousand years, has been Britain’s coronation church since 1066. King Charles III will be the 40th reigning monarch to be crowned in May 2023, with the Queen Consort crowned alongside him.

The Coronation Chair, one of the most precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world, which has been the centrepiece of coronations for over 700 years, is undergoing conservation work before the Coronation of Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort on Saturday 6 May at Westminster Abbey. The work being undertaken by the Abbey’s paintings conservator, Krista Blessley, focuses on cleaning the chair and stabilising the gilding.

The King will be crowned in the Coronation Chair, as monarchs have been before him, including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Elizabeth II in 1953. Made in circa 1300, the chair was commissioned by Edward I to house the stone of scone, also known as the stone of destiny, which was brought from Scotland in 1296, and was the throne for Scottish kings for hundreds of years.

The chair is made of oak and was originally covered in gold leaf gilding, and elaborately decorated with coloured glass. It is known to be have been painted by Walter, the King’s Master Painter who decorated it with patterns of birds, foliage and a king. It would have looked to the medieval eye as if it was made of solid gold, and been a glittering spectacle in the holy ceremony. The chair’s gilding is decorated with intricate tiny dots, known as punchwork, which create exquisite images and patterns. This work is of the highest quality and is unparalleled in surviving medieval art in the British Isles. The base, an 18th century replacement, is also gilded and has a lion at each corner.

Click here to learn more about the Coronation.