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York Minster is celebrating the Coronation of King Charles III through an updated exhibition showcasing royal treasures from the cathedral’s historic collection that mark a centuries-old relationship with the monarchy.
The exhibition, which will open on Saturday 25 March, traces the influence of the monarchy and the significance of coronations throughout York Minster’s history. From the humble baptism of King Edwin of Northumbria on Easter Day in 627 AD in a small wooden church built hastily for the service – the first York Minster – to HM King Charles III’s poignant return to the cathedral in November 2022 to unveil a statue of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II. These royal events have shaped life and worship at York Minster over the centuries.
Running until 1 October 2023, the exhibition – Majesty: Monarchy and York Minster – will be located in the cathedral’s Treasury and features some items never before seen on public display.
Visitors can see a Bible and matching Prayer Book, bound in red velvet and finely decorated in silver with the keys of St Peter, purchased York Minster with a grant from King Charles I in 1633, a Minster Police truncheon with royal arms, Maundy Money distributed by Queen Elizabeth II during her last visit to York Minster in 2012 and the Great Seal of Queen Anne used to authenticate important documents.
Other highlights include the ancient ‘coronation chair’, once believed to have been used in the coronation of Anglo-Saxon kings and more recently in the enthronement of the Archbishops of York, which was carried ablaze from York Minster following a fire in 1829, Chinese silk gifted to Queen Victoria on her wedding day which has been transformed into burses and veils used in preparation for the celebration of Holy Communion, and a Victorian fire bucket with a royal crest. The brilliantly coloured cope worn by Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury, to officiate at George III’s coronation draws the eye.
The exhibition showcases the range of York Minster’s nationally important collections, with a focus on local connections. From the script of the 1909 York Pageant, to the Yorkshire Post Coronation Supplement for King George VI and a specially bound copy of the BBC publication ‘The Year that Made the Day: how the BBC planned and prepared the Coronation day broadcasts’ presented to the Archbishop of York, Cyril Garbett, to mark his role in the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, it offers insights into the royal history of York Minster.
York Minster is renowned for its choir and music, and on display will be Handel’s Celebrated Coronation Anthems in score, for voice and instruments. These include Zadok the Priest, composed for the coronation of George II in 1727 and performed at every British coronation since.
Visitors can also try on regal robes, bear a crown and sceptre, and pose for a majestic photograph showing off their best royal wave with a soft-toy corgi, before adding their wishes for the Coronation year to a special crown-shaped tag.
Helen Rawson, Head of Collections and Interpretation at York Minster, explains: “The Coronation provides a splendid opportunity to showcase York Minster’s fascinating collections with royal associations, some held in the cathedral for centuries. From music and celebration to emblems of regal power and authority, gorgeous textiles and stunning silver, the exhibition is a visual and sensory extravaganza.”
The exhibition will be open from Saturday 25 March during normal visiting times until Sunday 1 October. Entry is included with a standard admission ticket and entry to York Minster is free for York residents with valid proof of address.
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