Henry V’s ‘Crystal Sceptre’ displayed at Guildhall Art Gallery
Exquisite and rarely seen 600-year old gift to the City on rare public view
Henry V’s Crystal Sceptre is as beautiful as it is mysterious.
Two shafts of spiral fluted and gold inlaid rock-crystal, with a jewel- and pearl-encrusted crown bearing the monarch’s coat of arms on parchment, the 43cm-long Sceptre was designed to the very highest standards.
Over the last six centuries, only a handful of people have seen or touched the Crystal Sceptre (or Mace) and it has not been previously researched, exhibited, written about, or even photographed.
And now, one of the City of London’s most iconic treasures will go on display at Guildhall Art Gallery to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. According to recent research by Dr Michael Hall and Ralph Holt, the Crystal Sceptre was given by Henry V to the City of London as a mark of his gratitude to the City for providing the funds to fight the historic battle.
‘Unveiling the Crystal Sceptre: Henry V’s Gift to the City’, which opens on Saturday 24 October, will be a unique opportunity to view the jewel and discover the story of the City’s financing of the Battle of Agincourt. The exhibition will also chart the pilgrimage made by the king, following his victory paying homage to his chosen patron Saints. As well as the Crystal Sceptre, the exhibition will display the Hedon Mace, a weapon used at Agincourt and subsequently encased in silver-gilt, and some of the coins made at the time from silver mined at Combe Martin, and displaying Henry V’s head.
Dr Michael Hall, Curator of Exbury House, Hampshire, and independent art historian, said:
“The most remarkable aspect of the story surrounding the Crystal Sceptre is that it is still safely in the hands of those for whom it was made 600 years ago – the City of London. As well as being a rare and surviving English royal treasury object, the precious materials - rock crystal, gems and gold - make it an object of great beauty which has been carefully hiding in plain sight for six centuries. The City of London should now take great pride and pleasure in sharing this relic of Henry V on the 600th anniversary of Agincourt.”
Dr Clare Taylor, who has worked with Dr Michael Hall and Ralph Holt, who uncovered the new research, said:
“I am delighted that Guildhall Art Gallery will exhibit this magnificent City treasure and, for the first time, tell its fascinating story. Over the last 600 years, the Crystal Sceptre has made the most fleeting of appearances at the Silent Ceremony at the Guildhall and at coronations, and few people, even, distinguished historians, knew much about its background. I am hugely grateful to Dr Michael Hall and Ralph Holt for their work to research the Crystal Sceptre, and I am sure that visitors to the art gallery will enjoy this opportunity to see it.”
Sonia Solicari, Principal Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery, said:
“The exhibition opens on the day before St. Crispin’s Day and will be a fitting and timely tribute to the City of London’s link to the Battle of Agincourt in this anniversary year. For the very first time, people will be able to see this legendary monarch’s gift to the City and I am sure that they will be fascinated by its history and beauty.”
‘Unveiling the Crystal Sceptre: Henry V’s Gift to the City’ runs from 24 October to 3 December at Guildhall Art Gallery, EC2. Admission is FREE.
A catalogue of the Lord Mayoral regalia, including the Crystal Sceptre, and the gold and silver collection at The Mansion House will be launched to accompany the exhibition.
Notes for Editors:
Dr Michael Hall, an independent art historian, and Katty Pearce, Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery, are available for media interviews about the Crystal Sceptre and the exhibition.
Limited opportunities are available for accredited journalists and photographers to view the Crystal Sceptre before the opening of the exhibition. Please call Andrew Buckingham (see below) for more details.
Guildhall Art Gallery will host a Private View of the exhibition on 28 October from 6pm. Please call Andrew Buckingham for more details.
For media enquiries, images and interviews:
Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Features), City of London Corporation
Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333 060
ABOUT THE CRYSTAL SCEPTRE (OR MACE):
The unique and ancient Crystal Sceptre (or Mace) has been identified by recent research as the gift given by Henry V to the City of London as a mark of his gratitude to the City for providing the funds (i.e. 10,000 marks) to fight the Battle of Agincourt. The Sceptre plays an important part in the City of London in the Silent Ceremony each year, when the new Lord Mayor is sworn in, and is a symbol of authority and of allegiance to the crown. It has been a working part of the Lord Mayor’s regalia for nearly 600 years, and yet has never been on public view, nor been written about in books, journals or online. This extraordinary history has been researched and uncovered by Dr Michael Hall and Mr Ralph Holt while working with Dr Clare Taylor (Lady Gifford) on a new book, which is the third in a series about art and The Mansion House. The findings are regarded as a genuinely significant historical discovery – it is new in all the study and scholarship surrounding the Battle of Agincourt and constitutes a substantive contribution to historical scholarship.
ABOUT THE CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION:
The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as the world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama; the Guildhall Library and Art Gallery and London Metropolitan Archives; a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge); the Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey; over 10,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. It is also London’s Port Health Authority and runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. It works in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on the regeneration of surrounding areas and the City Bridge Trust, which it oversees, donates more than £15m to charity annually.
ABOUT GUILDHALL ART GALLERY AND LONDON’S ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE:
Guildhall Art Gallery was established in 1886 as 'a Collection of Art Treasures worthy of the capital city'. See works dating from 1670 to the present, including seventeenth century portraits, Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces and a fascinating range of paintings documenting London's dramatic history. General admission to Guildhall Art Gallery is FREE; however, an entrance fee may be charged for some exhibitions, with concessionary rates for senior citizens, registered unemployed and registered disabled. Guildhall Yard, EC2.
Monday - Saturday, 10am - 5pmSunday, 12pm - 4pm
Call 020 7332 3700 / textphone 020 7332 3803 for a daily recorded message or for more information. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @GuildhallArt