The British crown jewels are one of the most significant and well-preserved items in history. Dating back to the 1600s, these crown jewels are royal ceremonial objects that have been collected over time by the Queen or the British government as gifts. However, the fact of the matter is that these are not mere crown jewels but symbols of monarchy that had lasted over 800 years. Even today, these crown jewels attract millions of tourists across the globe. Amongst them, the most powerful and beautiful jewels such as Koh-i-Noor and Cullinan diamonds are the center of attraction.
The history of crown jewels dates back to the time when archbishops used to place crowns on the sovereign’s head. Medieval manuscripts discovered suggested the same as well. However, before crowns were introduced, ornate helmets were placed. Detailed manuscripts suggest that the earliest coronation held, date to 973 CE, and the time when Anglo-Saxon King Edgar was crowned. However, the tradition was started by William the Conqueror, who was himself crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas day in 1066 CE. The kings and queens that followed, held on to the same traditions to keep the legitimacy alive and are still part of the coronation ceremonies held today.
The crowns and jewels belonging to the monarchy were usually kept at the Tower of London or moved along the king or queen as they traveled through the kingdom. When it came to battles, both the sovereign and the jewels were shifted to much safer locations. However, in some cases, such as in the case of King John of England, some jewels managed to get lost in the river as he fled from the rebels. Over time, several incidents took place involving the destruction and restoration of some pieces but others managed to survive.
Crown of Queen Elizabeth
The crown of Queen Elizabeth was made in 1937 CE, out of platinum. The disputed 105.60-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond was from India and had been placed in several crowns until it found its last and present resting place, the Crown of Queen Elizabeth. Due to its history and hype, tourists would prefer to take a glimpse of the diamond before exploring the rest of the items.
There was a time when this diamond belonged to Mughal prince Babur. When Nadir Shah, a Persian leader captured New Delhi, he managed to capture the diamond as well, despite the fact that it was hidden in Babur’s turban. At first sight, Nadir Shah described it as ‘mountain of light’ and the name struck from there. Then during the mid-18th century, the ownership changed when the Durani of Afghanistan acquired it. Finally, it was gifted to Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was at the time, ruler of Punjab.
Following the peace treaty that had brought an end to the Anglo-Sikh wars, demanded that the stone be returned to Queen Victoria. When Queen Victoria received it, she was said to be dissatisfied with its sparkle and so the stone had major work done to make it as brilliant as we see it today. Furthermore, it was thought that the stone brought bad luck to a male wearer, whereas good luck to the female wearer, therefore, it only appeared in various Queen crowns at the time.
St. Edward’s Crown
The St. Edward’s Crown was used during the coronation of Charles II in 1661 CE. It is said that it was made using parts of one of the crowns that were damaged by the parliamentarians. Made of Gold, it weighs 2.3 kilos. However, due to its weight, it is only used when it is time to crown the monarch. After that, the crown is replaced by the Imperial State Crown as the St.Edward’s Crown is simply too heavy. The theme of the crown that features purple velvet with a diamond on top is associated with the rulers of Roman times. Perhaps the most amazing fact about the crown is that it used hired gems when coronations took place until 1911 CE when it finally found and received its permanent settings.
The Imperial State Crown
The Imperial State Crown was made for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 CE as a lighter version of St. Edward’s Crown. It is also known as the Crown of the State. The crown was then used by her son Edward VII and remodeled for use by George VI and then his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Today, the crown is still used for many occasions related to the state.
The Imperial State Crown is perhaps the most beautiful amongst other crowns. Decorated and covered with oak-leaf patterns, it weighs only over one kilogram and features more than 2, 800 diamonds, including 11 emeralds, 17 sapphires, 269 pearls, and four rubies. Furthermore, it is also amongst the crowns that consist of one of the oldest diamonds. Some of the diamonds such as the Black irregular-shape Prince’s Ruby was presented to Edward of Woodstock. Later, the diamond was converted into a crown and worn by Henry V of England. It was considered to be the only true ruby at the time.
Protector of Good
The Protector of Good, which is basically the Sovereign’s Orb is presented to the monarch during the coronation ceremony. It charges the monarch with the responsibility of protecting the good and punishing the evil. Furthermore, a sword is fastened around the waist of the King, whereas the Queens do not wear it. The Sovereign’s Orb consists of several gems and symbolizes the Christian World with a cross mounted on top. Before being placed in the altar, it is placed in the right hand of the monarch.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre and rod
Before crowning, the sovereign receives the Sceptre and rod in each hand. The significance of both items dates back to the time of William the Conqueror in 1066. At the time it was meant to confine people who stray as well as showcase pastoral care for his/her people. Additionally, the Sceptre and rod has been used at every coronation ceremony and features a spectacular Cullinan I diamond, which was added for George V in 1910. This diamond is the only top quality diamond existing in the world, weighing 530.2 carats.
Stars of the Show
If you happen to take a look at the crown jewels, you will find some extremely amazing jewels such as the stars of the show. These stars are basically diamonds that are truly exceptional in every aspect. First, is the blue Stuart Sapphire, which was said to be smuggled by James II out of the country in 1688 until it returned to the Imperial State Crown.
Then, there is a Cullinan, which is the largest cut diamond in the world. It was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and cut to produce nine other major stones. The second Cullinan could be now seen on Imperial State Crown’s front band.
Visitors get to see many of the crown jewels during state events. However, the security arrangement is strict and revised every year. Some of the crown jewels are chosen for a selected audience and you cannot see them regularly at state events. Considering their history, the crown jewels are bound to be important and close to the British kingship. If not else, these jewels continue to drop jaws whenever displayed.