The 390-year-old stirrups of Britain’s King Charles I to be offered at auction

The stirrups were used for the coronation of Britain's King Charles I. Photos: Christie's
The stirrups were used for the coronation of Britain’s King Charles I. Photos: Christie’s

A pair of copper-alloy riding stirrups made for the coronation of Britain’s King Charles I will be auctioned in London early next month, with a price of up to £60,000 predicted.

The stirrups, which date from the second quarter of the 17th century, will be offer at The Exceptional Sale being staged by auction house Christie’s on July 6.

Christie’s believes the stirrups, which carry the cypher of Charles I, will fetch between £40,000 and £60,000 ($US50,800 and $US76,200)

Each stirrup features a slotted tread and bowed side-pieces. They are decorated with incised shells and lightly punched scrollwork, with a plain cross-piece for the attachment of the stirrup-leather.

There is decorative incised shell to the top, with traces of gilding, and the reverse of each shell is punched with a crowned ‘CR’ cypher and the date ‘1626’. The cypher was possibly added later in the 17th century.

The stirrups measure 8 inches (20.3cm.) high from the tread to top of the shell and 5½ inches (14cm.) wide.

The stirrups carry the cypher of Charles I.
The stirrups carry the cypher of Charles I.

Christie’s say the stirrups were made for the coronation of Charles I, and were later used by William III in the Battle of the Boyne in 1690).

Charles I became King in 1625, but his coronation did not take place until the following year.

Although there are no detailed depictions of the trappings of Charles I’s horse, it is known that that the coronation procession by barge from Hampton Court to Westminster was derailed by strong tides, forcing Charles to make the last part of the journey on horse — with his feet secured by these very stirrups.

This royal provenance is given credence by entries to the 19th-century journal Notes and Queries. Major Stewart Blacker writes: “The stirrups, however, bear evidence… as being the property of an earlier king than William III, viz. Charles I… the leather was looped on, is plainly marked, dotted or inscribed, a royal crown, with the cypher C.R. and the date 1626 beneath.”

In the previous edition of Notes and Queries, a correspondent had written: “Some time previous to the month of August 1835, I saw in the house… a pair of stirrups, which were then very carefully preserved, and were represented (no doubt truly) as what had been used by King William III at the battle of the Boyne.”

William’s use of accoutrements belonging to his grandfather, Charles I, such as these stirrups, was a symbolic gesture — he had been born and raised in Holland, and invited to take the British throne by influential British Protestants, deposing his Catholic father-in-law James II in the process. It is believed that no other pairs of 17th-century stirrups with a royal association are known to survive.

Following the Battle of the Boyne, it is believed that William III gifted his horse furniture including the stirrups, a pair of gloves and an embroidered saddle cloth to his Aide-de-Camp, Sir Frederick Hamilton.
Hamilton died in 1732 and his estates and property were divided between the Cary and Beresford families. Within two generations the Cary estates passed by marriage to the Blacker family of Carrickblacker.

The auction listing can be viewed here.

The decorative shell work.
The decorative shell work.

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