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History

The only joint coronation in British history

Westminster Abbey

11 April will be the 335th anniversary of a very unique British coronation- the only joint coronation in British history. Queen Mary II and King William III were crowned as co-monarchs at Westminster Abbey after being offered the crown. 

King James II became King upon his brother’s death in 1685. The once beloved Duke of York was Catholic, though, and this would be his downfall. After fleeing in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution, Parliament voted to offer the crown to James’ daughter Mary, and her Dutch husband, William, as co-rulers. 

This would prove to be an issue in more than one way for the pair. Firstly, the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to officiate the ceremony on the basis that he had sworn loyalty to King James. The Archbishop of London then had to oversee the coronation ceremony. 

Secondly, there is only one set of Crown Jewels; the regalia that the monarch uses throughout the ceremony (and at various functions) is one-of-a-kind. However, if you have two monarchs, you need two sets of everything. William used the original items- he sat in St. Edward’s Chair (also known as the Coronation Chair) and wore St. Edward’s Crown while holding the Orb and Sceptre.

Therefore, Mary sat in a chair specifically created for her, a new crown, a new orb, a new sceptre, and so on. Mary’s items were set with hired jewels that were returned afterwards; they are now on view at the Tower of London with replica gems. 

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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com