The Anointing Screen
29 April 2023
The Anointing Screen which has been designed and produced for use during the Coronation Service on 6th May at Westminster Abbey has been blessed at a special service of dedication at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
The blessing follows a private visit by Their Majesties The King and The Queen Consort to the Royal School of Needlework to view the Anointing Screen’s progress, and to meet the craftspeople and embroiderers who contributed to the project. As Duchess of Cornwall, Her Majesty The Queen Consort became Patron of the Royal School of Needlework in 2017.
The Anointing Screen
The Anointing Screen has been designed and produced for use at the most sacred moment of the Coronation, the Anointing of His Majesty The King. The screen combines traditional and contemporary sustainable embroidery practices to produce a design which speaks to His Majesty The King’s deep affection for the Commonwealth. The screen has been gifted for the occasion by the City of London Corporation and City Livery Companies.
The Anointing takes place before the investiture and crowning of His Majesty. The Dean of Westminster pours holy oil from the Ampulla into the Coronation Spoon, and the Archbishop of Canterbury anoints the Sovereign on the hands, chest and head. It has historically been regarded as a moment between the Sovereign and God, with a screen or canopy in place given the sanctity of the Anointing.
The Anointing Screen was designed by iconographer Aidan Hart and brought to life through both hand and digital embroidery, managed by the Royal School of Needlework. The central design takes the form of a tree which includes 56 representing the 56 member countries of the Commonwealth. The King’s cypher is positioned at the base of the tree, representing the Sovereign as servant of their people. The design has been selected personally by The King and is inspired by the stained-glass Sanctuary Window in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, which was gifted by the Livery Companies to mark the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.
The Anointing Screen is supported by a wooden pole framework, designed and created by Nick Gutfreund of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. The oak wooden poles are made from a windblown tree from the Windsor Estate, which was originally planted by The Duke of Northumberland in 1765. The wooden poles have been limed and waxed, combining traditional craft skills with a contemporary finish.
At the top of the wooden poles are mounted two eagles, cast in bronze and gilded in gold leaf, giving the screens a total height of 2.6 metres and width of 2.2 metres. The form of an eagle has longstanding associations with Coronations. Eagles have appeared on previous Coronation Canopies, including the canopy used by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Equally, the Ampulla, which carries the Chrism oil used for anointing, is cast in the shape of an eagle.
The screen is three-sided, with the open side to face the High Altar in Westminster Abbey. The two sides of the screen feature a much simpler design with maroon fabric and a gold, blue and red cross inspired by the colours and patterning of the Cosmati Pavement at Westminster Abbey where the Anointing will take place. The crosses were also embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework’s studio team.
At the Coronation Service, the Anointing Screen will be held by service personnel from Regiments of the Household Division holding the Freedom of the City of London. The three sides of the screen will be borne by a Trooper and Guardsman from each of The Life Guards, Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, Irish Guards, and Welsh Guards.
The screen has been gifted for the Coronation by the City of London Corporation and participating Livery Companies, the City’s ancient and modern trade guilds. His Majesty The King is a keen advocate and supporter of the preservation of heritage craft skills, and the Anointing Screen project has been a collaboration of these specialists in traditional crafts, from those early in their careers to artisans with many years of experience.
The individual leaves have been embroidered by staff and students from the Royal School of Needlework, as well as members of the Worshipful Company of Broderers, Drapers and Weavers.
As well as heritage craft, contemporary skills and techniques have formed part of this unique collaboration. The outline of the tree has been created using digital machine embroidery by Digitek Embroidery. This machine embroidery was completed with sustainable thread, Madeira Sensa, made from 100% lyocell fibres.
The threads used by the Royal School of Needlework are from their famous ‘Wall of Wool’ and existing supplies that have been collated over the years through past projects and donations. The materials used to create the Anointing Screen have also been sourced sustainably from across the UK and other Commonwealth nations. The cloth is made of wool from Australia and New Zealand, woven and finished in UK mills.
The script used for the names of each Commonwealth country has been designed as modern and classical, inspired by both the Roman Trojan column letters and the work of Welsh calligrapher David Jones.
Also forming part of the Commonwealth tree are The King’s Cypher, decorative roses, angels and a scroll, which features the quote from Julian of Norwich (c. 1343-1416): ‘All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’.
This design has again been inspired by the Sanctuary Window in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, created for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. At the top of the screen is the sun, representing God, and birds including the dove of peace, which have all been hand embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.
The dedication and blessing of the Anointing Screen took place earlier this week at the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, where it was officially received and blessed by the Sub-Dean and Domestic Chaplain to The King, Paul Wright, on behalf of The Royal Household.