For centuries there has been some confusion over the armills and armilla, and I thought I had finally got the story straight.
Starting with some books, I prepared selections for posting here, then went to the Royal Collection site for pics - and found some contradiction, again.
Anyway, here are links to the two sets of Armills or Bracelets as used in coronations, where descriptions are given on that site.
Link to the Royal Collection for The Armills used for every coronation from 1661, Charles II, up to and including 1937, George VI.
Link to the Royal Collection for Queen Elizabeth II’s Armills used for her coronation in 1953.
According to Barker, armills were introduced for the coronation of Richard I, 1189.
Barker says -
“ The bracelets for the Queen’s Coronation were presented by the nations of the Commonwealth. In some reigns there has been some confusion between the bracelets and a stole, part of the coronation vestments. The ancient name for the bracelets was ‘armills’ from the Latin armillae. Through a faulty translation the term came to be applied to a long piece of silk worn stole-wise round the neck and tied to the arms. In 1953 the confusion was resolved. The ‘armills’ were ‘bracelets’ again and the silk was named the ‘Royal Stole’. ”
While the Queen was still dressed in the gold Supertunica and after the Jewelled Sword of Offering (above) was presented to HM and returned to the Altar by her -
“ The Dean came carrying the Armills, restored after much liturgical confusion, for the first time since the coronation of the first Elizabeth. The golden Bracelets, the gift of the Commonwealth, were gently closed on the Queen’s wrists as the ‘symbols of sincerity and wisdom’ and ‘pledges of that bond which unites you with our Peoples’. The Groom of the Robes, coming from St Edward’s Chapel behind the Altar, handed to the Dean the long and heavily embroidered length of the Stole Royal (below).
It was placed around the Queen’s neck and gently tied to her arms above the elbow. “
I had not realised the Stole was tied to the Queen’s arms. I’m not sure that is correct.
Turning to Coronation Costume, the Liber Regalis, the Royal Book, ‘a splendidly-illuminated Order of Service’ of about 1380, apparently for the coronation of Edward I and ‘contains references, for the first time, to the cult of the Confessor’.
About the armills -
“ They are to be suspended around the wearer’s neck like a stole, hanging over both shoulders to the elbows, and are to be secured to his arms at the elbows by silken laces. In other words, the massive bracelets of gold are prevented from slipping down by being fastened to a band of fabric that goes over neck and shoulders like a very short stole, and is hidden, in a moment, by the imperial mantle, the next garment to be put on. “
That was about 1380. Jumping to 1838, the time of Queen Victoria, about the stole “its function as a band to support the armills had long since been forgotten, the name armill was mistakenly applied to the strip of fabric itself… “
Next The English Regalia -
“ The Armills, or bracelets, appear to have been originally large rings of gold worn on the upper arm, and kept from slipping down by being tied with ribbons to a band of silk that went over the wearer’s shoulders and behind his neck. This point must have been forgotten when the new armills were made for Charles II, as they are too small to go higher than the wrists. The strip of fabric was still provided, and was even equipped with its silken ribbons, but these were only to tie it to the wearer’s arms, and in subsequent generations they were omitted, the strip itself being lengthened and given the form of an ecclesiastical stole, which it still remains. “
Also, from Crowning the King about the stole -
“ It is worn round the neck, as by a bishop, hanging down on either side, and it is not easy to see why the name armill or armyll, meaming a bracelet, should have come to be applied to it since the Coronation of Henry VII. The reason may be that at medieval Coronations it was worn crossed over the breast and tied at the level of the elbows with a girdle, as a priest wears it at the present time. In fact, when the tomb of Edward I was opened in 1774 a rich white pearl-embroiderd stole was found crossed upon his breast in this manner. On the other hand the armills of Henry VII and of James II hung from the shoulder to elbow, where they were fastened, the former with silk, the latter with crimson taffeta laces. “
A pic from this same book. Note C. The Armill, but also all the ties on B, the Surcoat of Crimson Satin, for anointing on the shoulders and elbows as well as breast.
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