Tell me about…The Sovereign’s Ring

The rings is used at coronations and dates back to William IV

The Sovereign’s Ring is part of the Crown Jewels, and one of the items used during the coronation ceremony, along with the Orb and Sceptre and the Crowns: State Imperial and St Edward’s.

Having been used in almost all coronations since William IV, it is safe to assume that the ring will be part of King Charles III’s coronation in May.

The Sovereign’s ring is used during the coronation of a new Monarch. (RCT)

The back of William IV’s ring used in coronations since Edward VII. (RCT)

But what’s the history of this unique piece?

Made for William IV’s coronation in 1831, the ring consists of an octagonal sapphire, overlaid with five rubies (four rectangular-cut and one square-cut) to form the shape of a cross. The border sees 14 cushion-shaped diamonds, with a further two where the band attaches. Everything is set in gold.

The piece noticeably gives a nod to the Union flag of the UK.

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Elizabeth II wears the Coronation Ring on her right hand in 1953

During the main coronation ceremony, the ring is placed on the fourth finger of the Sovereign by the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a symbol of ‘kingly dignity’. Since the 13th century it has been traditional to include a ruby as the principal stone in the ring.

The presentation of the ring forms part of the investiture of the coronation; it is preceded by the anointing with holy oil, and is followed by the crowning itself.

Each Monarch had a newly-made ring which formed part of their personal collection, and was not kept with the other regalia until the 20th century. William IV left this coronation ring to his widow, Queen Adelaide, who in turn passed it down to Queen Victoria, together with her Consort’s ring.

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Queen Adelaide’s Consort’s Ring, Queen Victoria’s Sovereign’s Ring, and William IV’s Sovereign’s Ring

Queen Victoria had a new ring made for her coronation, which took the inspiration from her uncle’s ring, as the jewellers were unable to make the piece small enough for her. It is more rounded in shape than her William IV’s.

However, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell misunderstood the brief and made the ring for the wrong finger – they made it for her little finger, not the ring finger. During her coronation, the Archbishop forced it on her ring finger and Queen Victoria had to soak her hand in iced water after the ceremony. She later wrote in her diary: ‘I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, – which I at last did with great pain’.

Queen Victoria’s ring used in her coronation. (RCT)

Queen Victoria left both of these rings, and Adelaide’s Consort’s Ring, to the Crown in 1901. All three rings were then stored in the Tower of London, along with the other Crown Jewels, by George V in March 1919.

Since Edward VII, all Monarchs have used William IV’s ring at their retrospective coronations.

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