The British Monarchy’s close and contractural relationship with its people has enabled it to survive internal upheavals and the revolutions of Europe.

The Wriothesley Garter Book

Sir Thomas Wriothesley, who from 1505 to 1534 occupied the post of Garter King of Arms, compiled many books and rolls of arms, pedigree and precedence. This manuscript contains a variety of records on heraldic matters, particularly the Order of the Garter, and descriptions of heralds' fees and oaths.

However, the most striking image in the manuscript is what may be the first contemporary view of the opening of Parliament, at Blackfriars in April 1523. Henry VIII is enthroned in the middle, with three earls in front of him bearing the Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance. To the King's left are the Garter King of Arms (Wriothesley himself, wearing the distinctive tabard of a herald) and officers of the Royal Household. To the King's right are three bishops: Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York and William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury are seated; behind stands Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London. Below these men, and to the King's right, sit the Lords Spiritual: nine bishops with seventeen abbots behind; to the King’s left and on the cross-bench sit the Lords Temporal: two dukes, seven earls, sixteen barons, and the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. The four woolsacks in the middle are a symbol of the wealth of England's wool trade, and accommodate two Chief Justices, eight judges, and four Serjeants of the law, behind whom kneel two clerks with their quills and inkpots. Behind the cross-bench, at the bar of the House (at the bottom of the page) stands Sir Thomas More, Speaker of the House of Commons, with thirteen Members of Parliament behind him.

Parliamentary rule evolved in the United Kingdom before it was established anywhere else in the world. The ideal is for monarchs, ministers, members of both Houses of Parliament and people to work together for the greater good. Monarchs such as Henry VIII on many occasions forced Parliament to their will. When Charles I did so, Parliament and the people rose up, and ultimately deposed the king. Today, British constitutional government has evolved so that a strong and established working relationship exists between the Sovereign and Parliament. The Sovereign’s influence confers legitimacy on those who exercise power, and that influence now derives from the respect and affection The Queen receives from the public. The House of Lords – in which Wriothesley’s symbolic depiction of ‘King in Parliament’ is located – is still the location of the State Opening of Parliament, and of the reading – by the Sovereign – of her speech, announcing the major business of government over the following session.



Caddinets were designed for the service of salt, spices and bread. Their use was reserved for royalty, and was introduced to Britain by Charles II, who had seen caddinets whilst in exile in France. They are therefore highly symbolic in securing the position of a new monarch. This particular example was supplied to William III and Mary II by Anthony Nelme. The superb engraving, by the Huguenot craftsman Blaise Gentot, shows the coat of arms of 1688, before Scotland had recognised William and Mary as sovereigns. As a consequence the arms of Ireland is repeated in place of the arms of Scotland. Scottish recognition of William and Mary took place at a Convention on 4 April 1689.

Memorial ring

In 1642 Queen Henrietta Maria rewarded those who had lent money to the loyalist cause with rings, lockets and slides bearing the royal cipher and portrait; the intention was that these tokens would be exchanged for honours or repayment once the troubles were over.  The enamelled skull on the reverse of this ring indicates that it was produced after the king’s death in 1649.  The image is derived from Van Dyck’s frontal portrait in armour and the king wears a falling collar and the riband of the Garter.  Many of the surviving memento mori rings bear the king’s portrait with an inscription such as ‘remember me’.  This ring was first recorded in the Royal Collection during the reign of King George V.

The Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, 10 April 1848

This daguerreotype records the immense crowds at one of the Chartist rallies held in South London in 1848. Calling for political reform, and spurred on by the recent February Revolution in France, the Chartist movement was seen by many as a terrifying threat to the established order. Fears were so great that on the eve of the meeting pictured, the Duke of Wellington stationed troops across London and the royal family were removed to Osborne House, their holiday home on the Isle of Wight. This is one of two daguerreotypes of the event acquired by Prince Albert.

The Queen's Garden Party, 1897

According to the artist’s Diary, Tuxen was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1897 to paint a picture of the Jubilee Garden Party at which would be present the elite members of London society together with other individuals from the British Empire who had connections with the court of St James’s. The Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII) showed a particular interest in progress on the picture and visited Tuxen in Copenhagen and at Windsor to discuss the composition.

The artist was given permission to work in the Garden Entrance at St James’s Palace and was authorised to apply for sitting to anyone who had been present at the Garden Party ‘in accordance with The Queen’s wishes it may be a faithful Representation of that interesting Occasion’. An account of the Garden Party, with a list of those present, was printed in The Times on 29th June 1897. The Queen and members of the Royal Family entered the garden at a quarter past five. In the painting Queen Victoria appears to be returning to the Palace at the end of the party. In the background is the lake and on the right the royal tent. The Queen is accompanied in her carriage by the Princess of Wales who had changed places with the Empress Frederick during the afternoon.

No Key to the picture has survived but the following can be recognised.
-    the Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple
-    the Bishop of Winchester, Randall Davidson
-    A J Balfour
-    Joseph Chamberlain
-    the Marquess of Salisbury
-    Sir Spencer Ponsonby-Fane
-    Sir Arthur Sullivan
-    Sir Henry Irving

A set of fifteen studies by Tuxen, of sitters who were to be incorporated into the composition is in a private collection in Denmark. The majority are inscribed by the artist with the name of the sitter. They enable the following to be identified: Princess Hohenlohe, Cardinal Vaughan, Earl Spencer, Sir William MacCormac, the Duchesses of Devonshire and Portland, Lord Mount Edgcumbe, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Lord and Lady Rothschild, Lord and Lady Balfour of Burleigh, Sir Squire and Lady Bancroft, the Countess of Pembroke, Lord Halsbury, Sir Fleetwood Edwards, Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Commerell and Lord Egerton of Tattonp. In attendance on the Queen are Miss Aline Majendie, Miss Harriet Phipps, Miss Mary Hughes, the Earl of Kintore, the Duke of Portland and Mr Fellowes. The Prince of Wales can be seen on the left, talking to a guest.

Investiture Sword

The sword used by H.M The Queen at investitures is one of two near identical swords that belonged to The Queen’s father George VI. They were worn by him in his duties as Colonel of the Scots Guards from 1932-37. The sword The Queen uses for investitures is the 'picquet' weight version which is a slightly smaller light dress version worn in court. The Queen lent the other version to the Royal Armouries in the Tower of London in 1952 at the request of the then Master of The Armouries Sir James Mann so that the Royal Armouries could display a sword belonging to each Monarch going back to George II.

Both swords are almost identical, made by the same maker, Edward Smith, etched in bright polished relief with a frosted background with the badges mottoes and battle honours of the Scots Guards and the Cipher of George V. There are two possibilities for the appearance of George V's cypher on the blade: the sword may have been acquired when George VI was Duke of York and Colonel of the Scots Guards, or it belonged to George V and was inherited by his son.


Learning resources to accompany the series have been developed in partnership with BBC Schools. These can be accessed on the BBC's Famous people website.

To listen to The Art of Monarchy series, please visit the BBC Radio 4 site.

Explore more