New Exhibition Showcases Royal Treasures From York Minster’s Historic Collection

York Minster’s centuries-old relationship with the monarchy is the subject of a new exhibition showcasing royal treasures from the Minster’s historic collection opening on Saturday 14 May as part of the celebrations of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

The exhibition traces the influence of the monarchy throughout York Minster’s history. From the humble baptism of King Edwin of Northumbria on Easter Day in 627 AD in a small wooden church built hastily for the service – the first York Minster – to HM Queen Elizabeth II’s glorious return to the cathedral to attend the Royal Maundy Service in 2012.  These royal events have shaped life and worship at York Minster over the centuries.

Running until the end of 2022, the exhibition – Majesty: Monarchy and York Minster – will be located in the cathedral’s Treasury and features some items never before seen on public display.

Visitors can see Great Seals used to authenticate important documents by previous monarchs; a Minster Police wooden truncheon emblazoned with the keys of St Peter, for York Minster, under a crown, signifying royal authority; and a Bible signed by Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, or possibly her granddaughter Queen Elizabeth I.

Other highlights include footage from the royal wedding of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent to his Yorkshire bride Katharine Worsley in York Minster in 1961 and Chinese silk gifted to Queen Victoria on her wedding day transformed into burses and veils used in preparation for the celebration of Holy Communion.

The exhibition showcases the range of York Minster’s nationally important collections, with a focus on local connections. From the ancient ‘coronation chair’ of York Minster, once believed to have been used in the coronation of Anglo-Saxon kings and more recently in the enthronement of the Archbishops of York, to Maundy money distributed in York by HM Queen Elizabeth II and a dialect poem celebrating the coronation of Queen Victoria, it offers insights into the royal history of York Minster.

York Minster is renowned for its choir and music, and also on display will be a rare manuscript part-book, compiled for the choir of York Minster in the 18th century, featuring Handel’s magnificent anthem Zadok the Priest, written for the enthronement of George III and performed at the coronation of every British monarch since.  The brilliantly coloured cope worn by Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury, to officiate at George III’s coronation draws the eye.

Younger visitors will also have the chance to try on regal robes, bear a crown and sceptre, and pose for a majestic photograph showing off their best royal wave. 

Helen Rawson, Head of Heritage at York Minster, explains: “Since King Edwin of Northumbria converted to Christianity in 627 AD and ordered the construction of a small wooden church for his baptism, the first York Minster, the cathedral has had strong royal connections.  It was the site of the wedding of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault in 1328, while Richard III’s son Edward was invested as Prince of Wales in 1483 in a glorious ceremony in the adjacent old Archbishop’s Palace. 

“These associations have continued over the centuries with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, then Duchess of York, attending the re-dedication of the famous medieval Five Sisters window in memory of the women who died in service of the British Empire during the First World War, while her husband the Duke of York, later George VI, unveiled the York City War Memorial.”

The exhibition is part of a series of activities at York Minster to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. For further details go to yorkminster.org/whats-on/category/platinum-jubilee/

The exhibition will be open from Saturday 14 May during normal visiting times, currently Monday to Saturday 9.30am – 4pm and Sunday 12.45pm – 3.15pm. Entry is included with a standard admission ticket and entry to the Minster is free for York residents with valid proof of address.