Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal: A 1902 Royal Treasure

In the annals of British regalia, few items capture the grandeur of the monarchy as vividly as the Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal of 1902. This exquisite piece not only commemorates the ascension of King Edward VII but also stands as a testament to a pivotal moment in the history of the royal family. Crafted with the utmost attention to detail, this medal encapsulates the spirit of a new era under Edward VII’s reign, rendering it an invaluable treasure for collectors and historians alike. The Royal Mint, responsible for creating this emblem of royal heritage, imbued it with symbols and motifs that reflect the significance of Edward VII’s coronation, making it a sought-after piece for anyone interested in the legacy of the royal family and British numismatics.

This article delves into the historical context surrounding the coronation of King Edward 7, exploring the design and specifications of the coronation medal that mark it as a unique collector’s item. It further examines how the medals were distributed, sheds light on the distinguished recipients, and discusses the lasting significance and legacy of such tokens in the annals of the royal family’s history. By understanding the Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal’s place within the broader narrative of royal commemorative items, readers will gain insight into the intricate relationship between the monarchy, its symbols, and British heritage, marking a fascinating intersection of history, art, and royalty.

Historical Context

In 1902, they issued the Edward VII Coronation Medal to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Originally scheduled for 26 June 1902, the event faced an unexpected turn when doctors diagnosed the King with appendicitis. This serious health concern required urgent surgery, leading them to postpone the coronation ceremonies.

Despite the King’s health issues, they proceeded with the production and design of the coronation medals, which bore the original date of 26 June 1902. The actual coronation took place on 9 August 1902, creating a notable discrepancy on the medals that reflects the unforeseen and dramatic change in scheduling due to the King’s health crisis.

This historical context highlights the challenges faced during the coronation period and underscores the resilience and adaptability of the royal ceremonies in response to personal health crises within the royal family. The medals thus serve not only as commemorative items but also as historical documents that capture a unique moment in Britain’s royal heritage.

Design and Specifications


The Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal was crafted by the renowned artist Emil Fuchs. His expertise in medal design is evident in the intricate details and the overall aesthetic of the medal, which commemorates a significant royal event.

Material and Dimensions

The medal is oval-shaped, measuring 30 by 38 millimetres, and is surmounted by a regal crown. This size allows for detailed artwork while remaining a manageable item for collectors and recipients.

Obverse and Reverse Details

The obverse of the medal features a profile of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, both crowned and facing left. This depiction is surrounded by a wreath that forms the rim of the medal, adding to its ceremonial significance. The reverse side displays the king’s cypher above the date 26 June 1902, encircled by a wreath in a design that mirrors the obverse. This layout not only enhances the medal’s visual appeal but also serves as a historical record of the intended coronation date.

1902 Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal obverse

Distribution and Recipients

The Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal of 1902, a symbol of royal celebration, was distributed among various recipients, each signifying a different aspect of the coronation event. This section explores the distribution process and identifies the primary recipients.

Royal Family and Dignitaries

The authorities awarded the medal in both silver and bronze variants. They issued the silver medals to members of the royal family, dignitaries, senior government officials, and officers of the armed services. These individuals either attended the coronation ceremony, contributed to its preparation, or participated in the coronation parade, marking their direct involvement in the historic event.

Armed Services

They honoured a select group of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and other ranks who took part in the coronation parade with the bronze version of the medal. Furthermore, they awarded the bronze medal to one seaman or marine from each ship present at the Spithead Naval Review on 16 August 1902 in recognition of their exemplary character. This gesture underscored the importance of the armed services’ role in the proceedings and the nation’s appreciation of their service.

Special Cases

Among the recipients of the bronze medal were two members of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service who provided nursing care to King Edward VII during his pre-coronation illness. Their exceptional service during a critical time not only earned them this honour but also highlighted the broader contributions of medical professionals to the royal family and the nation.

This distribution strategy ensured that the medals served as a tangible acknowledgment of the contributions of a wide range of individuals to the coronation event. From the highest ranks of the royal family and government to the diligent service members and medical staff, the medals symbolised a collective celebration of a significant moment in Britain’s royal history.

Significance and Legacy

The Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal of 1902 holds a distinctive place in the annals of British royal memorabilia, emblematic not only of a pivotal royal event but also of the cultural and historical zeitgeist of the early 20th century. This section delves into the cultural and historical impact of the medal and compares it with other coronation medals to underscore its unique legacy.

Cultural and Historical Impact

  1. Reflection of the British Empire’s Pinnacle: The coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra was meticulously orchestrated to reflect the grandeur of the British Empire at its zenith. The medal, therefore, serves as a tangible connection to an era when Britain wielded unparalleled influence across the globe. Its design and issuance underscore the monarchy’s role in embodying and projecting the empire’s power and culture.
  2. Adaptation and Resilience: The medal’s existence, bearing the original coronation date despite the postponement due to Edward VII’s health crisis, symbolises the adaptability and resilience of the British monarchy. It highlights how people maintained tradition and celebration even in the face of unforeseen challenges, adapting to circumstances without losing their significance.
  3. Commemorative Tradition: The Edward VII Coronation Medal continues a long-standing tradition of producing commemorative medals for coronations, a practice dating back to Edward VI. These medals serve not only as souvenirs but also as historical documents that capture the essence of each coronation’s unique circumstances and character.

Comparison with Other Coronation Medals

FeatureEdward VII Coronation MedalOther Coronation Medals
DesignCrafted by Emil Fuchs, featuring the profiles of Edward VII and Queen AlexandraVaried designers, with some medals showcasing more simplistic designs
DistributionAwarded to royalty, officials, and armed forces, with special versions for mayors and provostsTypically distributed amongst attendees and specific groups, sometimes causing disorder
Historical ContextMarks a coronation postponed due to the king’s illness, reflecting a specific historical momentOften reflect broader historical and political contexts of their times
WearWorn on the left chest with other medals, with a specific order of wear establishedWorn in various manners, with some changes in wear protocol over time

The Edward VII Coronation Medal not only commemorates a significant royal event but also encapsulates the cultural and historical nuances of its time. Its comparison with other coronation medals highlights its unique design, distribution strategy, and the historical context it represents, underlining its enduring legacy in the realm of royal commemoratives.


The exploration of the Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal of 1902 reveals the medal as not just a collector’s item but as a vibrant historical document capturing a pivotal moment in British royal history. Reflecting on Emil Fuchs’s intricate design, the nuanced distribution to diverse recipients, and its symbolic resilience amid unforeseen challenges, the medal underscores the rich tapestry of tradition, celebration, and adaptation within the monarchy. Its significance extends beyond mere memorabilia, offering a lens through which one can view the cultural and historical zenith of the British Empire. This piece of regalia holds a special place in the sphere of royal collectibles, celebrated for both its aesthetic appeal and historical context.

The Edward VII Coronation Spithead Medal highlights the profound legacy of a monarch’s ascension and the meticulous efforts to commemorate such an event despite adversities. Comparing this medal with other coronation memorabilia accentuates its unique attributes—ranging from design to distribution—further solidifying its place in the annals of royal commemoratives. It stands as a testament to the enduring allure of royal traditions and their significance in Britain’s national identity, inviting further exploration and appreciation from historians, collectors, and enthusiasts alike.

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