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How heavy is the Sword of State? Its weight explained and what Penny Mordaunt has said about the coronation

Penny Mordaunt has admitted she took painkillers ahead of her highly-publicised sword-wielding duties at King Charles III’s coronation.

The Tory MP became one of the stories of coronation day, with many people surprised to see her play such a prominent role in the ceremony.

Ms Mordaunt’s involvement was due to her position as Lord President of the Privy Council – a group of the UK’s most senior politicians charged with presenting business to the King. She was given the role by former prime minister Liz Truss last September, and kept it when Rishi Sunak took over No 10.

The MP for Portsmouth North carried the 17th-century Sword of State into Westminster Abbey at the start of the ceremony. She also had the job of presenting the Jewelled Sword of Offering to the King and holding it for the rest of the ceremony – more than an hour.

How heavy are the Sword of State and Jewelled Sword of Offering?

The Sword of State, which Ms Mordaunt carried into the ceremony, is the heaviest sword in the royal collection, weighing 3.6kg. The 1.2m weapon is also used during the State Opening of Parliament.

The intricate tapered sword, made for Charles II, has a broad, straight, flat, two-edged steel blade with etched decoration, and a cruciform silver-gilt hilt, the quillons in the form of a rampant lion and unicorn, a fleur-de-lis at the front of the quillon block and a Tudor rose at the back, with a portcullis above.

The wooden scabbard is covered in red velvet with silver-gilt rose, thistle and fleur-de-lis emblems.

During the coronation ceremony, Ms Mordaunt had to carry the sword pointing directly upwards. She said she had been “doing some press-ups to train” ahead of the big day, adding that she was also able to “practise with some replicas which are weighted the same”.

Speaking to Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast on the BBC, Ms Mordaunt said she was “not in the gym for six months prior to this” but added: “You want to make sure you are in good nick.”

She admitted: “I did take a couple of painkillers before just to make sure I was going to be alright.”

The sword she carried for the majority of the ceremony was the Jewelled Sword of Offering. The coronation was the first time it has been carried and presented by a woman.

An intricately tapered sword made for George IV’s 1821 coronation, it symbolises royal power and the monarch accepting his duty and knightly virtues.

After the King offered the sword to the Dean of Windsor, it was placed on the altar. It was then “redeemed” by Ms Mordaunt, who placed the redemption money on an alms dish, held by the Dean.

She then drew the sword and carried it in its naked form – without its scabbard – before the King for the rest of the service.

Its exact weight is unknown, but it is smaller and lighter than the Sword of State.

The sword has a straight, narrow, sharply tapering blade made of partly blued and gilt steel, decorated on both faces with the national emblems among strapwork scrolls, the royal coat of arms, a royal crown, a trophy of arms, and a figure of Britannia. Its gold hilt is decorated with 2,141 diamonds, 12 emeralds and four rubies.

What is the Privy Council?

The Privy Council dates back to the 13th Century, when it was an executive arm of the English government. However, its powers declined over time and its political authority transferred to the Cabinet in the late 17th Century.

It remains an advisory body to the monarch, with the Privy Counsellors required to take special oaths.

Counsellors are appointed by the monarch on the advice of those who have held senior political or judicial roles in the UK or Commonwealth.

There are 739 Privy Counsellors, including lifetime peers and senior politicians, civil servants, Commonwealth high commissioners, and the Lord Mayor of London. In normal circumstances these members advise the monarch on matters of state.

The Privy Council Office is responsible for summonsing or inviting Privy Counsellors and certain other dignitaries to the King’s accession.

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