The 6th May 2023 is the coronation of His Majesty the King. Known as King Charles III, His Majesty is not the first King Charles we have had – clearly, he is the third. Here at the archives, we hold material showing the first two kings called Charles – Charles I and Charles II – in the form of portrait initials on charters.
The Reading Charter of 1638 (reference R/IC1/10) has a coloured portrait initial of Charles I. You can see the detail of the King sat on what may be the coronation chair made for King Edward I in 1300. Charles I is dressed in what appears to be a red robe, possibly the Robe of State and is holding an orb and sceptre. He is wearing a crown, but this is not the one used today - read more about St Edward’s crown used today - as the one worn by Charles I was apparently melted down after his execution. You can read more about Charles I on the Royal Collection Trust website.
The charter itself is in Latin and has a large brown wax seal. It made provisions to elect a coroner and to hold a court of orphans. The Council was increased to 25 members and gained additional powers to prevent the subdivision of dwellings. It remained the principal governing document for the Borough of Reading until the reforms of the Municipal Corporations Act in 1835.
Charles II can be seen on the Newbury Charter of 1664 (reference N/IC1/3). This charter is also in Latin and made provision to appoint officials – sadly there is just a fragment of the original seal. The portrait initial differs significantly from that of Charles I in that Charles II is not shown with his crown, sceptre, orb or robes. He is in what appears to be armour, wearing a cravat and has rather glorious hair which was popular for the period. Fashion of the time meant that men would often wear wigs if they did not have long curly hair of their own. Whilst not in colour, the portrait is still a striking image and one that almost passes for a photograph when it is in fact hand drawn. You can discover more about Charles II on the Royal Collection Trust website.
We do not have much relating to Charles III at the archive. However, he was HRH Prince of Wales until the late Queen’s death in 2022 and he visited Windsor in 1980 as can be seen in the image above (reference D/EX1951/10/8/10). He is walking near Windsor Guildhall which is just down the road from Windsor Castle, a favourite residence of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
As Prince of Wales, Charles received the Freedom of the Borough of Windsor in 1970, something that the late Queen had also done in 1947 when she was HRH Princess Elizabeth. You can read more about that on our website.
The 1970 Freedom of the Borough scroll (reference WI/RF2/6) is signed by the Mayor and Town Clerk of Windsor and bestows freemen, in this case Prince Charles, with ceremonial roles at civic events. It is a very colourful and ornate item.
The scroll is stored inside its original presentation wooden box with the letter C and the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales on the lid.
There is also a plaque inside the lid that reads:
“Presented to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales on his admission as a freeman of the Royal Borough of New Windsor 27th June 1970”.
The 6th May 2023 will be a day to remember in history as we witness the Coronation of The King and The Queen Consort and you can read more about the day itself on the Royal website.
[Image of The King and the Queen Consort credit: Chris Jackson]