Coronation throne to be given first makeover in 700 years

The chair, in Westminster Abbey, which has been used to crown English and then British monarchs for 700 years is to be given a £200,000 makeover.

King Edward's Chair was commissioned in 1296 by King Edward I (Longshanks), though the chair was not named after him, and was designed to hold the red sandstone block known as the Stone of Scone (pronounced "scoon"), which has been used during English, and then British, Coronations ever since. The stone fits into the bottom of the chair.

Longshanks captured the stone from the Scots as a spoils of war in 1296. The Scots used the Stone to crown their monarchs (although 1296 was when the second of three eras of Scottish history started, not including the English Civil War, when Scotland had no monarch). He intended to symbolise his claim to be "Lord Paramount" of Scotland with right to oversee its King (he referred to the Stone as a "turd", as though it is through such a vile object that he rules Scotland).

The Stone was given back to Scotland in 1996, but arrangements have been made to have it temporarily transported back to England and Westminster Abbey to have it fitted into the chair during future Coronations.

Westminster Abbey conservators will start work in April. Brown paint applied for Queen Victoria's golden jubilee celebrations in 1887 and other additions over the years like polish and wax may be removed. The work is expected to cost £200,000.

The chair remains heavily protected.

Coronation throne to be given £200,000 makeover

By Tony Jones
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
The Independent

King Edward's Chair, named after King Edward the Confessor, was commissioned in 1297 by King Edward I and has been used to crown almost every English, and then British, monarch ever since. It was last used in 1953.

The chair used in the coronation of almost every monarch for 700 years is to undergo extensive conservation work to preserve what remains of its fragile medieval decorations.

Only three sovereigns – Edward V, Mary I and Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936 before the ceremony was held – were not crowned seated in the large oak chair, which was commissioned in 1296 by Edward I.

Much of its rich paintings (it may once have had the beautiful image of Edward the Confessor), ornate gold gilt and glasswork has been lost over the centuries and the wood was damaged by the graffiti of 18th and 19th century schoolboys. One carved "P Abbott slept in this chair 5, 6 July 1800" on the back.

Conservators at Westminster Abbey will start work at the end of April and spend 12 months examining the chair in the £200,000 project. Brown paint applied for Queen Victoria's golden jubilee celebrations in 1887 and other additions over the years like polish and wax may be removed. The imposing oak artefact is two metres high and is decorated in a gothic style reminiscent of a medieval church and stands on four gold lions, one at each corner, added during the Georgian era.

It was built to hold the ancient Stone of Scone – now housed in Edinburgh Castle – and decorated by Master Walter, a court painter, on the orders of Edward I. Dr Tony Trowles, head of the Abbey Collection, said: "At first sight it looks an odd chair for a monarch to be sat in.

"It's a slightly battered object but what does survive is particularly fragile and needs to be stabilised.

"The work is really conserving the original medieval paintwork and gilding, much of which was lost over the centuries."

Visitors to Westminster Abbey will be able to watch conservator Marie Louise Sauerberg at work through a glass wall built into the side of a studio constructed within St George's Chapel.

King Edward's Chair and the Stone of Scone

King Edward's Chair was commissioned in 1296 by England's King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307). It was designed to house Scotland's coronation stone - the Stone of Scone - which the English had taken from the Scots during a period of warfare between the two countries.

The year 1296 was the start of one of three periods in Scottish history, not including the time of Oliver Cromwell, when Scotland had no monarch but was instead ruled by the "Guardians of Scotland." The terrorist, William Wallace, was Guardian of Scotland from 1297 to 1298. Wallace was hanged, then cut down whilst still alive, eviscerated, had his bowels burnt before his eyes, before being beheaded and chopped into four parts in London's Smithfield in 1305.

The chair is not named after Edward I but after Edward the Confessor (reigned 1042-1066), England's only canonised king.

Only three monarchs - Edward V, Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Edward VIII - were not crowned in the chair.

The chair was carved in 1297 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.

Under the seat of the chair is a platform and cavity which until 1996 contained the Stone of Scone, which Edward I called a "turd." This has was returned to Scotland in 1996 but will be temporarily returned to Westminster Abbey, and installed into the chair, whenever a monarch is crowned.

There are several theories as to the origins of the Stone, including the theory that it was once the coronation stone of the Dál Riata Gaels, which they brought with them from Ireland when settling Scotland; that the Stone is the Lia Fáil, the coronation stone of the kings of Tara; and that the stone was actually the travelling altar used by St Columba in his missionary activities throughout what is now Scotland and was only later used for coronations. Some legends even place the origins in Biblical times and consider the stone to be the pillow stone used by Jacob.

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 chair has only been removed from Westminster Abbey twice - in the 17th Century when it was moved to Westminster hall for the coronation of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector and during World War II when it was moved to Gloucester Cathedral to escape the Luftwaffe.

Today the chair is very heavily protected and only leaves its secure resting place - on a raised pedestal near the tomb of King Henry V - when it is taken near the High Altar of the Abbey for Coronations.

The chair was last used in 1953.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Apr 25th, 2010 at 12:29 PM..
I think they should use the stone for a better purpose and replace it with a whoopee cushion.
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