The Coronation of Mary II and William III

As the semester winds down, I find myself in a familiar position: avoiding the work I need to do by any means necessary. In the spirit of my current mood and my interest in iconography and ideology, here are some images and much commentary on the coronation of Mary and William.


As we know, Mary and William were crowned as joint-monarchs in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on 11 April 1689. An interesting note, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who typically presides over the coronation, refused to do so because he continued to support James II. So for this coronation, the bishop of London crowned the new queen and king (things like this happened several times in the Middle Ages, but there would often be a second coronation done with the AB of Canterbury for sake of continuity and because of fears over the illegitimacy of the ceremony). Above you can see wax models of Mary and William, as they can be seen in the museum of Westminster Abbey. A new museum is currently under construction and is to be opened in 2018 as part of the ongoing Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Elizabeth II.


King Edward’s Chair (or St. Edward’s Chair or the Coronation Chair) has been used for the coronation of English (and British later on) since Edward II, with the exceptions of Edward V and Edward VIII, both of whom were not crowned. Oddly enough, Mary II was not crowned in the chair as well. A second chair was constructed before the coronation for Mary to sit in. The chair currently resides in the museum of Westminster Abbey, but I cannot find a picture of it. Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside the Abbey (I had to check my bag when I visited several years ago), so I haven’t even been able to find a picture someone took with their iPhone. From what I’ve read, the chair supposedly looks just like the coronation chair above. I would hazard the guess that it probably did not have a space beneath it like the chair above.


I wasn’t wrong! I found this when I was wrapping up the post. Its a nineteenth century drawing of the coronation chair used by Mary.


I promise I won’t go on too many tangents (hopefully), but here is a picture of the coronation chair with the Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny). The Stone was taken by Edward I after his “conquest” (however temporary it ended up being) of Scotland in 1296. It was the stone chair (for lack of a better way of putting it) used for the coronation of the kings of Scotland. There is plenty of mythology (or history depending on who you ask) related to the Stone, with one legend claiming that it is the Stone of Jacob as described in the book of Genesis. Legend says that the stone was carried to Ireland in c. 700 CE and that sometime between 700 and 840 it was brought to Scotland during an invasion by the Celtic Scots (Irish). King Edward’s Chair was built on the command of Edward I to house the Stone of Scone, with the intended purpose of the Stone being incorporated into coronation regalia for the English king. Indeed, it reinforced Edward’s consolidation of the British Isles into one crown, a goal that he nearly completed on one island if it weren’t for Mel Gibson and FRREEEEDDDOOOMMMM! The Stone was removed in 1996 and it was returned to Scotland to be kept at Edinburgh Castle, only to be removed for future coronations.


It was a pretty serious affair.


Lucky there is not a rabbit hole for me to fall down this time in terms of crowns. For the coronation of Mary and William there is no mention of the use of St. Edward’s Crown. Instead, some of the sources state that they wore their pair of imperial state crowns. A second crown, then, was either used from a previous queen (perhaps the consort of James II?) or a new crown imperial state crown was made for one or both of the new monarchs. The image above is a printing of an engraving made in 1689 by the Dutch artist Romeyn de Hooghe. Here we can see two crowns, both similar in look, though Mary’s is notably smaller.


Here we have Mary, and you can see in the background a crown. Again, it’s fairly small. Also, note the orb that she has her hand on: more on that later!


Above is William in his kingly attire. The crown in this portrait is pretty prominent, and as you can see is much larger than the crown in the portrait of Mary above it. If I were to make a guess, I would say that the crown depicted here is the imperial state crown, mostly due to the similarity between it and the current imperial state crown used by Elizabeth II. Again, I’m resisting the temptation to go back down the trail of crowns.



If you scrolled through my first post on the Crown Jewels, you’ll recognize this piece (if you didn’t, I don’t blame you: it was long and complicated). This is the head of the specter made for Mary to use during the coronation.


There is also a specter used during the coronation that has a dove, but as you can see, there is a pretty clear difference between the one above and the one commissioned for Mary.


Here is the specter of the sovereign, or in this case William. As I mentioned in my previous post, the diamond was added later, but the object itself dates back to the coronation of Charles II. Note the difference between the specter now and the one we can see in the portrait of William above.


Next we have the orb that was made for Mary.


Here is the orb used for the sovereign. Again, the difference it pretty apparent.


Interestingly enough, there was a set of coronation regalia made for the wife of James II, Mary of Modena. They were made for the coronation of James and Mary in 1685. The pieces are still in use and presented during the Queen Consort during the coronation ceremony. The last time they were used was for the coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth (more affectionally known as the Queen Mother) in 1936. The distinction that is being made her is rather interesting and distinct. Rather than use the regalia of the queen consort, it was decided (I don’t know by whom) that a second set of regalia should be made for Mary.

447378-1392819240To further support my claim that a crown was commissioned for Mary, above is the diadem made for Mary of Modena to be used at the coronation in 1658. Considering this, the state imperial crown said to have been worn by Mary was most likely commissioned specifically for her. Indeed, the state imperial crown would have been worn at all state occasions, such as the opening of Parliament, in which case both Mary and William would need crowns as displays of their regality.


From what I’ve been reading, it seems like the joint coronation ma have been a compromise on all sides. I feel like this is probably part of the older historiography Prof. Rabin mentioned in class regarding Mary, but there seems to be some suggestion that she had no intention of reigning on her own, with one source (I’m not convinced of the validity) claiming that Mary wanted William to rule solely as king regent. I haven’t done enough research to say anything related to this, but I would be interested in hearing more about it if anyone has some information they would like to share. Nudge nudge, Prof. Rabin.

I hope you all have enjoyed these types of posts. Its a fun break for me and hopefully interesting for you. Now back to my work…

One thought on “The Coronation of Mary II and William III

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts. Maybe you should write a book about this particular topic. Also, in my last post I mentioned that you should discuss King Edward’s Chair, and you did! I was really excited to read about that because I found it so interesting when I was at Westminster Abbey. I wonder why there are so many carvings in the chair and I also wonder why it wasn’t destroyed during the Commonwealth. Why would the Commonwealth destroy the crown jewels, but not the chair that emulates royalty. Either way, it’s nice that this chair is still around and still in use. What I really wanted to discuss were the differences between Mary and William’s crowns and orbs. It is clear that William’s was much larger than Mary’s, probably to showcase his authority over a woman. In class we looked at document 9.2 in Sources and Debates which discussed the declaration of rights for William and Mary. In the document, Mr. Henry Pollexfen begged the question of Mary’s role in context to William’s, saying that he would not come to England if she is looked as more important than William. So, I guess it is from these little symbols of sovereignty that distinguish William from Mary and the authority that William had over Mary.

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