Charlotte Metcalf is the Editor of Great British Brands and the co-presenter of Break Out Culture, a weekly podcast with former Minister of Culture, Lord Vaizey. She is also a film-maker, author and journalist. Every week she’ll be reporting on cultural events, exhibitions, fairs and publications that are of interest to the communities of craftsmen we represent and celebrate, with a particular focus on goldsmiths and silversmiths.
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On November 13th at the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, a beautiful golden cross was seen glinting in the light, swathed in scarlet poppies, held aloft for the procession to follow. This precious artifact is known as the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Processional Cross, designed and handcrafted by Royal Warrant holder, silversmiths and goldsmiths, Thomas Lyte.
Commissioned by the Royal Warrant Holders Association, while simultaneously raising money for multiple charities, the processional cross was gifted to the Late Queen ahead of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It will be seen at religious services and state occasions, a replacement for the cross used by the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace.
The artifact has already been seen in public life gracing the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s reign at St. Paul’s Cathedral in June. And, as Thomas Lyte played a significant role in this story, we thought it would be a fitting way to round off the year, ahead of Christmas, by telling of how the cross came to be made to celebrate the company’s proudest achievement to date.
The processional cross in use at the National Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph in 2022
Conversations about how best to recognise and celebrate such a long and stable reign began in 2019 when the Reverend Canon Paul Wright, the Sub-Dean of the Chapel Royal, approached Thomas Lyte and the Royal Warrant Holders Association with a brief to design and create the cross. Thomas Lyte already had a long, friendly relationship with Canon Paul so they agreed fast that the cross should be elegantly understated, reflecting the Queen’s personal style. As a processional cross is carried during all liturgical processions and plays an important role in most Chapel Royal services, it was also important it blended seamlessly into the chapel’s unostentatious, oak-paneled interior.
Initial design concepts were inspired by the Queen’s coronation bouquet, which contained the four Flowers of the Home Nations: English lily-of-the-valley, Scottish stephanotis, Welsh orchids, and carnations for Northern Ireland (and the Isle of Man). Multiple designs were reviewed by a committee, but the Queen chose the final design herself.
The chosen design for the Queen Elizabeth II Processional Cross by silversmiths and goldsmiths Thomas Lyte
The Royal Warrant Holders Association launched an appeal amongst its 700-plus member companies to fund the construction of the cross, enabling almost a quarter of a million pounds to be raised for distribution to local charities across the UK through the RWHA’s Charity Fund.
The Royal Warrant Holders Association logo is engraved on the reverse of the cross
In a process that took 340 hours, the 2.2 metre silver-gilt cross was crafted from 2.8 kgs of sterling silver and mounted on an oak staff. Rather than using a lathe, the cross’s exquisitely fine, sharp edges were hand-polished for over 120 hours to prevent them softening. At its centre is a circle decorated with 70 diamond lozenges to represent the years of Her Majesty’s reign.
The arms were decorated with the hand-chased national flowers, and highlighted with bright silver, reflecting details in the coronation dress designed by Norman Hartnell.
Finally, the Christogram or monogram, an acronym for Jesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus Saviour of Mankind) was made from a mould using the latest techniques in 3D-printing, indicative of Thomas Lyte’s ability to harness the latest technology to traditional craftsmanship dating back centuries.
The solid staff was turned by QEST Scholar Joey Richardson, who selected the oak from the Sandringham Estate and applied our national floral emblems (Tudor rose, daffodil, shamrock and thistle) with a pyrography wood burning tool before hand-painting them.
The piece was presented in person to Her Majesty at Windsor Castle by the Royal Warrant Holders Association, and Thomas Lyte’s CEO and founder, Kevin Baker on 20th May.
This is a magnificent cross that leads, so it’s been designed to be visibly clear with its bright sharp edges, easy to follow, as well as being beautiful. In many ways it’s an emblem of Thomas Lyte’s ambition to be a company of Britain’s finest goldsmiths and silversmiths and a leading influence on global design.
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Note from the editor: With Christmas Day fast approaching and a new year visible over the horizon, this will be the last “Culture Round-Up” article of 2022. From Charlotte, myself, and all of our staff at Thomas Lyte, we wish you a very merry Christmas and only the best for 2023.
We have selected a number of case studies that demonstrate the broad range of our capabilities designing and making in precious metals.