Designer Diaries – Coronation Robes

The Coronation will reflect the monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.

The Royal Family Website

The coronation ceremony of King Charles III will be shorter than previous ceremonies. However, we hope that certain traditional elements remain. This would include the traditional six parts of the ceremony: the recognition, the oath, the anointing (also referred to as the hallowing), the investiture (which includes the moment of crowning), the enthronement, and the homage.

The spectrum of robes worn during the coronation runs the gamut from utterly plain to completely regal. With one exception, robes are not re-worn but made anew for each monarch.

Since Edward II’s coronation in 1308, these robes have been worn in a specific order, as described in the 14th-century manuscript, the Liber Regalis (Royal Book). The Liber Regalis is housed at Westminster Abbey.

Robe of State

Also known as the Parliament robe, the Robe of State is worn by the monarch when entering Westminster Abbey and for the first parts of the ceremony. It is traditionally a crimson velvet robe, embellished with handmade gold lace, lined in regal Canadian ermine, and accompanied by an ermine cape. Whether the fur will remain for this coronation is unknown.

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in their Robes of State.

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The George VI Robe of State (first slide) and Imperial Robe (second slide) are shown below.

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Shroud Tunic (Colobium Sindonis)

During the anointing, all symbols of status are removed from the monarch, who then wears a simple shroud tunic known as the colobium sindonis. (Below are images from Wikimedia Commons)

This is an engraving of the colobium sindonis worn by James II.

Queen Elizabeth II is shown in her version of the colobium sindonis.

Supertunica and Robe Royal (Pallium Regale)

This is the exception to the rule of “new robes.” During the Investiture and Crowning, the new monarch dons the Supertunica and Robe Royal, both of which have been in use since the coronation of George V.

 The design of the Supertunica is said to be inspired by the full-dress consul uniform of the Byzantine Empire. It consists of gold silk decorated with golden lace and embellished with the national symbols of the home nations. Worn over the Supertunica at the moment of crowning is the Robe Royal (Pallium Regale). This is also embroidered with national symbols and is accompanied by the Imperial mantel.

The Supertunica and Imperial Mantel on display.

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Queen Victoria’s Supertunica and a portrait showing her wearing the robe. It looks like the Supertunica worn by Queen Victoria, shown below, was different – it may have been a one-off change. If anyone is well-versed on this topic, please let us know in the comments.

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George VI in the Supertunica and Robe Royale.

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Imperial Robe (Robe of Estate)

The Imperial Robe, or Robe of Estate (not to be confused with “Robe of State”), is what most of us think of when we think of “coronation robes.” Made of purple silk and traditionally lined with ermine, it is worn at the conclusion of the ceremony and exit from the Abbey.

Queen Elizabeth II’s famous Imperial robe, which weighed 15 pounds, and involved the work of 12 seamstresses from the Royal School of Needlework, is shown below.

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King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with their daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, in their Imperial robes.

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King George V and Queen Mary in their Imperial robes.

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So what are your thoughts? Will King Charles III stay with fur, or will a more modern equivalent be used? Will we see all the robes? It’s been mentioned that the anointing may be done privately, so we may not see the colobium sindonis.