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Sir Robert Viner, 1st Baronet (1631-88)

Robert Vyner, or Viner, was Royal Goldsmith from 1660 until his death in 1688. He was instrumental in the creation of new regalia and royal plate for the coronations of Charles II (1630–85) and James II (1633–1701). Today, the items he supplied remain the central components of the Crown Jewels.

When Charles II returned to England from exile after the Interregnum (1649–60), all the medieval Crown Jewels except the coronation spoon had been sold or melted down. He therefore set about commissioning new items for his 1661 coronation, based as closely on medieval precedent as possible. The commission was passed from the Jewel House in the Tower of London to Vyner, who had been sworn in as Royal Goldsmith in September 1660. In this capacity, Vyner oversaw the production of some of the most important pieces of regalia in the Royal Collection, including St Edward's Crown (used at the moment of coronation), the Sovereign's Orb and the two Sovereign's Sceptres. He was also responsible for procuring some of the outstanding seventeenth-century banqueting and church plate in the Collection, not least the Communion chalice and paten, and the Exeter Salt and Plymouth Fountain.

Vyner's role was closer to that of a financer and a manager than of a craftsman. With his business partner, Sir Thomas Vyner, he outsourced work to a number of jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, many of whom have never been firmly identified. Once completed, their productions were gathered and an aggregate bill submitted to the king. In 1661, the bill for new regalia came to the staggering sum of £12,184 7s. 6d. Late and incomplete payments from Charles II nevertheless prompted a number of petitions from Vyner and his associates, including one in 1673 in which Vyner pleaded that he was close to bankruptcy.

Vyner's position as Royal Goldsmith was secured for life by letters patent in July 1661, and he was knighted in 1665. He was created a Baronet in 1666. He died in 1688 and was succeeded as Royal Goldsmith by Robert Vyner the Younger, who is thought to have been his nephew.


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