Restoration project for medieval Coronation Chair

THE Coronation Chair is to undergo extensive conservation work to preserve what remains of its fragile medieval decorations.

The ancient artefact has been used in the coronation service of almost every monarch since it was made more than 700 years ago.

Only three sovereigns – Edward V, Mary I and Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936 before the ceremony was held – were not crowned seated in the oak chair.

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But wear and tear has taken its toll since the royal seat, housed at Westminster Abbey, was commissioned by Edward I in 1300.

Much of its rich paintings, ornate gold gilt and glasswork has been lost over the centuries and the wood damaged by the graffiti of 18th and 19th century schoolboys.

Dr Tony Trowles, head of the Abbey Collection, said: "At first sight it looks an odd chair for a monarch to be sat in but it originally had foliage and birds and the image of a king.

"It's a slightly battered object but what does survive is particularly fragile and needs to be stabilised.

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"The work is really conserving the original medieval paintwork and gilding, much of which was lost over the centuries."

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has given Westminster Abbey a 150,000 grant towards the project, with the religious institution contributing a further 50,000. Conservators will start work at the end of April.

The imposing oak artefact was built to hold the ancient Stone of Scone – now housed in Edinburgh Castle. But its wide seat and back are covered with initials, names and dates carved on to its oak surface.

Much of the chair's defacing happened when it was stored in one of the Abbey's many rooms and pupils from the nearby Westminster School found what may have appeared to them as an abandoned piece of furniture.

Dr Trowles said: "The schoolboys carved their names on it and one wrote 'P Abbott slept in this chair 5,6 July 1800'."

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