A Proud Reign for Her Majesty
In 2017 Queen Elizabeth II reached her Sapphire Jubilee. Find out how The Queen’s Beasts were brought to life for Her Majesty’s coronation more than six decades ago.
Connection to the Queen
As Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in June 1953, the entrance to Westminster Abbey was guarded by ten fantastical creatures. They symbolised her heritage, with each statue representing a royal ancestor that had gone before her. They have watched over Her Majesty through an astonishing reign; from a young woman inheriting the throne at the age of 25 to an experienced monarch 65 years later.
The Coronation Beasts
The beasts that lined the entrance to Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953 were formidable six-feet tall, plaster sculptures created by James Woodford RA. They were unpainted, except for their shields, which featured coats of arms that signified which of The Queen’s ancestors they represented.
After the coronation, the statues were displayed at Hampton Court and then Windsor. Today, The Queen’s Beasts can be found at the Canadian Museum of History in Quebec, where they are now painted with their bright and impressive heraldic colours. Portland stone replicas, also carved by James Woodford, watch over Kew Gardens.
These proud protectors of the monarch can also be spotted in some surprisingly everyday places, like British passports, on our pound coins, and regularly appear in British art and sculpture.
The King’s Beasts
Each of The Queen’s Beasts had been used as a heraldic badge by Her Majesty’s ancestors, including Henry VIII, who was represented by the Lion of England and Red Dragon of Wales. The coronation statues of 1953 were inspired by the King’s Beasts of Henry VIII, commissioned for Hampton Court Palace in celebration of Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour. The King’s Beasts can still be seen lining the bridge over the moat at the palace.