It’s just 17 inches tall, but it has a world of history embedded in its jewels. The beautifully bejewelled sceptre given in thanks by King Henry V of England to the City of London for the funding of his forces against the French at the Battle of Agincourt, fought in 1415, will go on display.
It will be the first time in its 600-year-old history that the sceptre will go on display. It was not completely hidden from view before, but it was only removed from the Guildhall for coronations, the last one was in 1953, and for the swearing-in of each new Lord Mayor. The swearing-in is an annual ceremony where the outgoing and incoming Lord Mayors place their hands on the sceptre, called The Silent Ceremony.
The City of London alone contributed 10,000 marks to Henry’s venture into France, some three million pounds in today’s currency. With this money, he also commissioned the sceptre after his victory at Agincourt. The sceptre’s stem is thought to have been made in Paris and its jewels come from all over the world. It was presented to the city sometime before February 1421.
It is quite remarkable that the sceptre survives to this day. The sceptre was hidden away during the Civil War as it probably would’ve faced the same fate as the Crown Jewels, which were sold off. During the Great Fire of 1666 it was among the personal treasures of Sir Thomas Bloodworth, the serving Lord Mayor, who instead of leading the rescue efforts made sure his belongings were safely out of the city. The stem of the sceptre was replaced during the 1830’s as it was damaged though we don’t know who or what damaged it.
It will be on display for a limited time only, from 24 October to 3 December at Guildhall Art Gallery. Also on display will be the Hedon Mace sceptre that also dates back to the Battle of Agincourt. After the battle, Henry V and his Queen Catherine of Valois made a pilgrimage that included a visit to Hedon. There he gifted the Hedon Mace, which had originally been a weapon used in the battle.
This year marks 600 years since the Battle of Agincourt, which was a major victory for the English in the Hundred Years War.
Unveiling the Crystal Sceptre: Henry V’s Gift to the City, runs from October 24 to December 3 at the Guildhall Art Gallery, London, EC2. Free admission.