A restorer at Westminster Abbey in London is carrying out painstaking work to restore a fragile 700-year-old chair to ensure King Charles III can sit on it at his coronation in May.
The ancient throne, known as the Coronation Chair, has been at the centre of English coronations for centuries, including those of Henry VIII, Charles I, Queen Victoria and the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Westminster Abbey – where the ceremony will take place – describes the chair as “one of the most precious and famous pieces of furniture in the world” and says it is in “remarkable condition” given its age.
However, it is due to undergo conservation work before the coronation ceremony for the King and Queen Consort on Saturday 6 May.
The chair was made in the 1300s
The oak chair is believed to have been made around 1300, according to a statement from the abbey – which has hosted the coronation of 39 monarchs since 1066.
Edward I commissioned the 8ft-high chair to house the Stone of Scone – also known as the Stone of Destiny – which he captured in 1296, along with the Scottish crown and sceptre. The stone, which has been used as a seat at the coronation of Scottish kings for centuries, is now kept in Scotland but is reunited with the seat for British coronations.
Originally covered with gold leaf, the chair was also decorated with coloured glass, as well as designs of birds, foliage and a painted king by the master painter of Edward I.
Despite its importance, the chair “suffered occasionally during its lifetime,” according to the abbey. There is graffiti on the back dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, believed to be the work of local scholars and visitors. One of the carvings reads “Fr Abbott slept in this chair 5-6 July 1800”.
Further damage includes a small corner knocked down by a bomb attack in 1914.
Blessley told the PA that he began to discover overlooked details in the chair’s decoration.
“I think there are previously undiscovered fingers in the perforated gilding on the back of the chair,” she said.
“So there are areas where you can tell there might have been a figure. It could be figures of kings or it could be the figure of a saint, because so much has been lost that we can’t really say at this point, but I will do more investigation.”
The updates will be “completely invisible,” according to the abbey’s statement, “but will ensure the preservation of these historic decorative layers not only for the Coronation but for centuries to come.”
Despite its age, the chair will not be the oldest artifact involved in the ceremony. The king will be anointed with holy oil poured into the gilded silver coronation spoon, which dates from the 12th century.