Secular ceremonies and rituals

Secular ceremonies and rituals

The Imperial Mantle is a large, semi-circular mantle or cloak worn by the sovereign during the British coronation ceremony. The Imperial Mantle is also known as the Pallium or the Dalmatic Robe. The design is based on earlier mantles and has its origins in a priestly garment (cope). Its form has not changed much since the medieval period.

Otto IV (1175-1218) was the son of the German ruler, Henry the Lion and Matilda, an English princess. He was also one of two rival kings of Germany between 1198 and 1208/9 (the other king was eventually murdered, probably at the instigation of Otto).

The King George Jubilee cope was commissioned and made in order to celebrate the silver jubilee of George V of Britain (r: 1910-1936) in 1935. Five copes were made that were worn during the official church celebrations in St. Paul's Cathedral, London (England).  

The throne canopy dates from 1916 and was first used by King George V of Great Britain (r: 1910-1936). It is made from red velvet and gilt wood and consists of the domed canopy itself surmounted by a crown, with a gilded wooden frieze. The draped upper part of the canopy is decorated with an applied, embroidered crown and further embellished with gold and silk tassels.

Lady Curzon’s Peacock Dress is an elaborately embroidered garment dating from the early twentieth century. It was worn by Lady Mary Curzon (1870-1906) at the Coronation Ball of the Delhi durbar of 1903. The dress is currently kept at Kedleston Hall (Derbyshire, England), the ancestral home of the Curzon family (National Trust Inventory Number 107881).

The Mahdi flag now in the British Museum, London (BM acc. no. AF1949,46.694.b) represents a particular type of flag used by the Mahdi and his followers in the late nineteenth century. The Mahdi army used two types of flags to indicate the position of their leaders.

The Mantle of Roger II, the Norman king of Sicily (r. 1130-1154), is made of red silk and is embroidered with gold and silk thread as well as with applied semi-precious and glass jewels. It formed part of the imperial regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. The mantle dates from c. 1134. The garment was made in Palermo, Sicily, probably by Arab craftsmen.

The concept of the Maundy Money Purse relates to a tradition in England, in which the reigning monarch gives special, so-called Maundy coins to elderly people. The tradition dates back to the fifteenth century. Royal Maundy is a Church of England religious service held on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday, as part of the Easter services that culminate in the Easter Sunday service a few days later.

The Nicobar Islands form an archipelago in the eastern Indian Ocean. They lie about 150 km north of Aceh on the island of Sumatra (Indonesia). Although they lie about 1,300 km southeast of the Indian subcontinent, the Nicobar Islands, together with the Andaman Islands, form the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which, since 1950, have come under the jurisdiction of India.

The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, houses a robe for an actor in the Japanese Noh theatre. it dates to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and is made of silk with silk thread embroidery and gold leaf applications. The robe measures 164 x 138 cm.

The robe is embroidered with satin and outline stitches and couching. The decoration includes weeping cherry trees and irises in the snow. The gold leaf decoration would indicate that the male actor wearing this robe (which was worn underneath another garment) was playing a female role.

See also the Noh Theatre robe now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (acc. no. T.297-1963).

Cleveland Museum of Art online catalogue (retrieved 6th September 2017).


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York houses a woman's ceremonial outer robe (uchikake) that dates to the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century. It is made of tie-dyed satin damask with silk embroidery and gold thread couching. The robe, which measures 176.5 x 123.2 cm, was traditionally worn without a sash on top of another robe called the kosode.

The pallium, or pall, is a liturgical vestment worn by an archbishop and the Pope. It is a narrow strip of material worn around the shoulders with a strip hanging down at the front and at the back. It is usually made of white wool, and decorated with embroidered crosses.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam houses a remarkable shoulder sash with the embroidered text: "Representant". It was worn by Jan Couperus (1755-1833), the 'representative' from the Dutch town of Gouda at the national convention (Nationale Vergadering) in The Hague, which was elected in 1796 by all men in The Netherlands who did not live on social welfare. All 126 representatives wore a sash.

The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Glove is made of leather with goldwork embroidery and was presented to Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1953. It was made by the firm of Dents, glove-makers. The glove for the right hand of the monarch is made of white kid leather with the grain on the outside and lined with crimson silk.

Queen Victoria's Coronation Glove is an embroidered accessory said to have been worn at the coronation of Queen Victoria on 28th June, 1838. It has been suggested that this coronation glove is a replica and made between 1870-1876, rather than the actual glove worn at the coronation.

On the 10th February 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburgh and Gotha. Queen Victoria wore a white wedding dress made of silk satin, which was trimmed with a flounce of Honiton lace, from Beer (a village close to Honiton, in Devon), worked under the guidance of Miss Jane Bidney (Jane Washbourne). She also wore lace frills, a bertha, and a white lace veil, also made of Honiton lace from Beer. 

The Raven Crown is the name of the royal crown worn by the King of Bhutan. The design of the crown dates to the late nineteenth century and was developed for the father of the first king of the Wangchuck dynasty of Bhutan (Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck, 1862–1926), who came to power in 1907.

The Noh theatre in Japan was developed in the fourteenth century and reached its classical form some centuries later. It is marked by its austerity, understatement and frugality of expression. No actors were often wearing special garments called atsuita. These were worn under kariginu robes by the (male) actors. The decoration of the atsuita was often rather simple, since very little could be seen by the audience.

During the British coronation service, the sovereign wears a number of different garments, some of which are embroidered. One of the most elaborate and spectacular items is the Robe of Estate, which is a long, purple velvet mantle worn by the British monarch after the actual coronation. 

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