Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, originally the Crown Jewels of England, are 140 royal ceremonial objects kept in the Tower of London, which include the regalia and vestments worn at their coronations by British kings and queens.
|Location||Jewel House and Martin Tower at the Tower of London|
|Oldest||Coronation Spoon (12th century)|
|Newest||Elizabeth II's Armills (1953)|
|Owner||Elizabeth II in right of the Crown|
Royal Collection Trust
Historic Royal Palaces
Symbols of 800 years of monarchy, the coronation regalia are the only working set in Europe – other present-day monarchies have abandoned coronations in favour of secular ceremonies – and the collection is the most historically complete of any regalia in the world. Objects used to invest and crown the monarch variously denote his or her roles as head of state, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and head of the British armed forces. They feature heraldic devices and national emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and recent pieces were designed to reflect the monarch's role as Head of the Commonwealth.
Use of regalia by monarchs in England can be traced back to when it was converted to Christianity in the Middle Ages. A permanent set of coronation regalia, once belonging to Edward the Confessor, was established after he was made a saint in the 12th century. They were holy relics kept at Westminster Abbey – venue of coronations since 1066. Another set was used at religious feasts and State Openings of Parliament. Collectively, these objects came to be known as the Jewels of the Crown. Most of the present collection dates from around 350 years ago when Charles II ascended the throne. The medieval and Tudor regalia had been sold or melted down after the monarchy was abolished in 1649 during the English Civil War. Only four original items pre-date the Restoration: a late 12th-century anointing spoon (the oldest object) and three early 17th-century swords. Upon the Acts of Union 1707, the English Crown Jewels were adopted by British monarchs; the Scottish regalia are known today as the Honours of Scotland.
The regalia contain 23,578 stones, among them Cullinan I (530 carats (106 g)), the largest clear cut diamond in the world, set in the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. It was cut from the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found, the Cullinan, discovered in South Africa in 1905 and presented to Edward VII. On the Imperial State Crown are Cullinan II (317 carats (63 g)), the Stuart Sapphire, St Edward's Sapphire, and the Black Prince's Ruby – a large spinel given to Edward the Black Prince by a Spanish king in 1367. The Koh-i-Noor diamond (105 carats (21 g)), originally from India, was acquired by Queen Victoria and has featured on three consort crowns. A small number of historical objects at the Tower are either empty or set with glass and crystals.
At a coronation the monarch is anointed using holy oil poured from an ampulla into the spoon, invested with robes and ornaments, and crowned with St Edward's Crown. Afterwards, it is exchanged for the lighter Imperial State Crown, which is also usually worn at State Openings of Parliament. Wives of kings are invested with a plainer set of regalia, and since 1831 a new crown has been made specially for each queen consort. Also regarded as Crown Jewels are state swords, trumpets, ceremonial maces, church plate, historical regalia, banqueting plate, and royal christening fonts. They are part of the Royal Collection and belong to the institution of monarchy, passing from one sovereign to the next. When not in use the Jewels are on public display in the Jewel House and Martin Tower where they are seen by 2.5 million visitors every year.
The earliest known use of a crown in Britain was discovered by archaeologists in 1988 in Deal, Kent, and dates to between 200 and 150 BC. A sword, brooch, ceremonial shield, and decorated bronze crown with a single arch, which sat directly on the head of its wearer, were found inside the tomb of the Mill Hill Warrior. At this point, crowns were symbols of authority worn by religious and military leaders. Priests continued to use crowns following the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD. A dig in a field at Hockwold cum Wilton, Norfolk, in 1957 revealed a bronze crown with two arches and depictions of male faces, dating from the period of Roman occupation.
By the early 5th century, the Romans had withdrawn from Britain, and the Angles and the Saxons settled. A heptarchy of new kingdoms began to emerge. One of the methods used by regional kings to solidify their authority over their territories was the use of ceremony and insignia. The tomb of an unknown king – evidence suggests it may be Rædwald of East Anglia – at Sutton Hoo provides insight into the regalia of a pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon king. Inside the early 7th-century tomb discovered in 1939 was found the ornate Sutton Hoo helmet, comprising an iron cap, a neck guard, and a face mask, decorated with images of animals and warriors in copper-alloy and set with garnets. He was also buried with a heavy whetstone sceptre, on top of which is an iron ring surmounted by the figure of a stag; a decorated sword; and a ceremonial shield.
In 597, a Benedictine monk had been sent by Pope Gregory I to start converting Pagan England to Christianity. The monk, Augustine, became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Within two centuries, the ritual of anointing monarchs with holy oil and crowning them (initially with helmets) in a Christian ceremony had been established, and regalia took on a religious identity. There was still no permanent set of coronation regalia; each monarch generally had a new set made that was usually buried with him or her upon death. In 9th-century Europe, gold crowns in the Byzantine tradition were replacing bronze, and gold soon became the standard material for English royal crowns.
Æthelstan ascended the throne in 924 and united the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to form the Kingdom of England. In the earliest known depiction of an English king wearing a crown, he is shown presenting a copy of Bede's Life of St Cuthbert to the saint himself. Until his reign, kings had been portrayed on coins wearing helmets and circlets, or wreath-like diadems in the style of Roman emperor Constantine the Great. Whether or not they wore such an item is questionable. Edgar the Peaceful was the first English king to be crowned with an actual crown, and a sceptre was also introduced for his coronation in 973. After crowns, sceptres were the most potent symbols of royal authority in medieval England.
Edward the Confessor
Edward the Confessor is depicted on a throne and wearing a crown and holding a sceptre in the first scene of the Bayeux Tapestry. In 1066, Edward died without an heir, and William the Conqueror emerged as the first Norman king of England following his victory over the English at the Battle of Hastings. Wearing a crown became an important part of William I's efforts to cement his authority over his new territory and subjects. At his death in 1087, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reported: "[William] kept great state … He wore his crown three times a year as often as he was in England … He was so stern and relentless … we must not forget the good order he kept in the land". Those crown-wearings were held on the religious festivals of Easter, Whitsun and Christmas.
In 1161, Edward the Confessor was made a saint, and objects connected with his reign became holy relics. The monks at his burial place of Westminster Abbey claimed that Edward had asked them to look after his regalia in perpetuity and they were to be used at the coronations of all future kings. A note to this effect is contained in an inventory of relics drawn up by a monk at the abbey in 1450, recording a tunicle, dalmatic, pallium, and other vestments; a gold sceptre, two rods, a gold crown, comb, and spoon; for the queen's coronation a crown and two rods; and for the Holy Communion a chalice of onyx stone and a paten made of gold – all of which were considered precious relics. Although the Abbey's claim is likely to have been an exercise in self-promotion, and some of the regalia had probably been taken from Edward's grave when he was reinterred there, it became accepted as fact, thereby establishing the first known set of hereditary coronation regalia in Europe. Westminster Abbey is owned by a monarch, and the regalia had always been royal property – the abbots were mere custodians. In the following centuries, some of these objects would fall out of use and the regalia would expand to include many others used or worn by monarchs and queens consort at coronations.
A crown referred to as St Edward's Crown is first recorded as having been used for the coronation of Henry III in 1220, and it appears to be the same crown worn by Edward. Being crowned and invested with regalia owned by a previous monarch who was also a saint reinforced the king's authority. It was also wrongly thought to have been originally owned by Alfred the Great because an inscription on the lid of its box, translated from Latin, read: "This is the chief crown of the two, with which were crowned Kings Alfred, Edward and others". The crown would be used in many subsequent coronations until its eventual destruction 400 years later. Few descriptions survive, although one 17th-century historian noted that it was "ancient Work with Flowers, adorn'd with Stones of somewhat a plain setting", and an inventory described it as "gold wire-work set with slight stones and two little bells", weighing 2.25 kilograms (79.5 oz). It had arches and may have been decorated with filigree and cloisonné enamels. Also in the Royal Collection in this period was an item called a state crown. Together with other crowns, rings, and swords, it comprised the monarch's state regalia that were kept separate from the coronation regalia, mostly at the royal palaces.
Late Middle Ages
The transferring of crowns symbolised the transfer of power between rulers. Following the defeat in 1282 of the Welsh prince Llewelyn ap Gruffydd by Edward I, the Welsh regalia, including the crown of the legendary King Arthur, were surrendered to England. According to the Chronicle of Aberconwy Abbey, "and so the glory of Wales and the Welsh was handed over to the kings of England". After the invasion of Scotland in 1296, the Stone of Scone was sent to the Tower of London "in recognition", as the chronicler Walter of Guisborough put it, "of a kingdom surrendered and conquered". It was fitted into a wooden chair, which came to be used for the investiture of kings of England, earning its reputation as the Coronation Chair. The Scottish regalia were also taken to London and offered at the shrine of Edward the Confessor; Scotland eventually regained its independence. In Edward II's treasury in 1324 there were 10 crowns. When Richard II was forced to abdicate in 1399, he symbolically handed St Edward's Crown to Henry IV, saying "I present and give to you this crown … and all the rights dependent on it".
Monarchs often pledged various items of state regalia as collateral for loans throughout the Middle Ages. Edward II pawned his Great Crown in Flanders. Three crowns and other jewels were held by the Bishop of London and the Earl of Arundel as security for £10,000 in the 1370s. One crown was handed over to the Corporation of London in exchange for a £4,000 loan in 1386. Sometimes objects were temporarily released from pawn by mayors, knights, peers, bankers, and other wealthy subjects in both England and continental Europe for the king to use at state occasions, then returned after the ceremony. Kings also distributed plate and jewels to their troops in lieu of money.
At some point in the 14th century, all of the state regalia were moved to the White Tower at the Tower of London owing to a series of successful and attempted thefts in Westminster Abbey. The holy relics of the coronation regalia stayed behind intact at the Abbey. After a long absence, two arches topped with a monde and cross were added to new images of St Edward's Crown by the time of Henry IV and to the state crown during the reign of his successor Henry V, though arches did not feature on the Great Seal until 1471. Known as a closed or imperial crown, the arches and cross symbolised the king's pretensions of being an emperor of his own domain, subservient to no one but God, unlike some continental rulers who owed fealty to more powerful kings or the Holy Roman Emperor.
Tudor and early Stuart periods
The traditions established in the medieval period continued later. By the middle of the 15th century, a crown was formally worn on six religious feasts every year: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Whitsun, All Saints' Day, and one or both feasts of St Edward. A crown was displayed and worn at the annual State Opening of Parliament, and three were placed on the heads of monarchs at a coronation: St Edward's Crown, the state crown, and a "rich crown" made specially for the king or queen.
Around this time, three swords – symbols of kingship since ancient times – were being used in the coronation ceremony to represent the king's powers in the administration of justice: the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice, and the blunt Sword of Mercy. An emerging item of regalia was the orb, described in Tudor inventories as a round ball with a cross of gold, which underlined the monarch's sovereignty. Orbs had been pictorial emblems of royal authority in England since the early Middle Ages but a real orb was probably not used at any English coronation until that of Henry VIII in 1509. After the English Reformation, the Church of England denounced the veneration of medieval relics, and starting with the coronation of Edward VI in 1547, the significance of St Edward's regalia was downplayed in the ceremony.
State regalia increasingly passed from one king to the next. The best known example of this was Henry VIII's Crown. Its date of manufacture is unknown, but it was probably created at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, maybe in the reign of Henry VII. The concept of hereditary state regalia was enshrined in English law when James I decreed in 1605: "Roiall and Princely ornaments and Jewells to be indyvidually and inseparably for ever hereafter annexed to the Kingdome of this Realme". After James died in 1625, Charles I succeeded to the throne. Desperate for money, one of his first acts as king was to load 41 masterpieces from the Jewel House onto a ship bound for Amsterdam – the hub of Europe's jewel trade. This hoard of unique bejewelled pieces, like the Mirror of Great Britain, a 4.7-kilogram (10 lb) gold salt cellar known as the Morris Dance, and much fine Elizabethan plate, was expected to swell the king's coffers by £300,000, but they fetched £70,000.
Charles's many conflicts with Parliament, stemming from his belief in the divine right of kings and the many religious conflicts that pervaded his reign, triggered the English Civil War in 1642. Parliament deemed the regalia as "Jewels of the Crown", vested in the monarch because of his public role as king, and not owned by him personally. To avoid putting his own subjects at risk, Charles and his wife once again raised money by exporting royal jewels at a heavy discount. On learning of the king's scheme, both Houses of Parliament declared traffickers of the Crown Jewels to be enemies of the state. Just two years later, Parliament seized 187 kilograms (412 lb) of rare silver-gilt pieces from the Jewel House, which included a royal christening font, and used them to bankroll its own side of the war.
After six years of war, Charles was defeated and executed in 1649. Less than a week after the king's execution, the Rump Parliament voted to abolish the monarchy. The newly created English Republic found itself short of money. To raise funds, the Act for the Sale of the Goods and Personal Estate of the Late King, Queen and Prince was brought into law, and trustees were appointed to value the Jewels – then regarded by Oliver Cromwell as "symbolic of the detestable rule of kings" and "monuments of superstition and idolatry" – and sell them to the highest bidder. The most valuable object was Henry VIII's Crown, valued at £1,100. Their gemstones and pearls removed, most of the coronation and state regalia were melted down, and the gold was struck into hundreds of coins by the Mint.
Two nuptial crowns, the Crown of Margaret of York and the Crown of Princess Blanche, survived as they had been taken out of England centuries before the Civil War when Margaret and Blanche married kings in continental Europe. Both crowns and the 9th-century Alfred Jewel give a sense of the character of royal jewellery in England in the Middle Ages. Another rare survivor is the 600-year-old Crystal Sceptre, a gift from Henry V to the Lord Mayor of London, who still bears it at coronations. Many pieces of English plate had been presented to visiting dignitaries and can be seen in museums throughout Europe. The Scottish regalia of Charles II, who was crowned King of Scotland in 1651, also survive even though Cromwell made an attempt to seize and destroy them. In England, Cromwell declined invitations by Parliament to be made king and became Lord Protector. It was marked by a ceremony in Westminster Hall in 1657, where he donned purple robes, sat on the Coronation Chair, and was invested with many traditional symbols of sovereignty, except a crown. A crown—perhaps made of gilded base metal, as was typical of funerary crowns in those days—was placed beside Cromwell at his lying in state in 1660.
Restoration to present day
The monarchy was restored after Cromwell's death. For the English coronation of Charles II, who had been living in exile abroad, new Jewels were made based on records of the lost items. They were supplied by the banker and Royal Goldsmith, Sir Robert Vyner, at a cost of £12,184 7s 2d – as much as three warships. It was decided to fashion the replicas as much as possible like the medieval regalia and to use the original names. These 22-carat gold objects, made in 1660 and 1661, form the nucleus of the Crown Jewels today: St Edward's Crown, two sceptres, an orb, an ampulla for the holy anointing oil, a pair of spurs, a pair of armills or bracelets, and a walking stick. A medieval silver-gilt anointing spoon and three swords survived and were returned to the Crown, and the Dutch ambassador arranged the return of extant jewels pawned in Holland. The king spent additional money on 2,270 kilograms (5,000 lb) of altar and banqueting plate, and he was presented with conciliatory gifts.
In 1669, the Jewels went on public display for the first time in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. The Deputy Keeper of the Jewel House took the regalia out of a cupboard and showed it to visitors for a small fee. This informal arrangement was ended two years later when Thomas Blood, an Irish-born army officer loyal to Parliament, attacked the 77-year-old and stole a crown, a sceptre, and an orb. Blood and his three accomplices were apprehended at the castle perimeter, but the crown had been flattened with a mallet in an attempt to conceal it, and there was a dent in the orb. He was pardoned by the king, who also gave him land and a pension; it has been suggested that Blood was treated leniently because he was a government spy. Ever since, the Jewels have been protected by armed guards.
Since the Restoration, there have been many additions and alterations to the regalia. A new set was commissioned in 1685 for Mary of Modena, the first queen consort to be crowned since the Restoration, Charles II having been unmarried when he took the throne. Another, more elaborate set had to be made four years later when Mary II was crowned as joint sovereign with her husband William III. After the Acts of Union 1707 joined England and Scotland together, the Scottish Crown Jewels were locked away in a chest, and the English Crown Jewels continued to be used by British monarchs. Gemstones were hired for coronations – the fee typically being 4% of their value – and replaced with glass and crystals for display in the Jewel House, a practice that continued until the early 20th century.
During World War II, the Crown Jewels were stored in the basement of Windsor Castle. The most valuable gems, such as the Koh-i-Noor and Cullinan diamonds, were sealed in a biscuit tin and hidden in the basement, allowing them to be recovered swiftly. After the war, the Jewels were kept in a vault at the Bank of England for two years while the Jewel House was repaired as the Tower had been struck by a bomb. In 1953, St Edward's Crown was placed on the head of Elizabeth II in what is now the only ceremony of its kind in Europe. Today, 140 objects make up the Crown Jewels, which are permanently set with 23,578 precious and semi-precious stones, and they are seen by around 2.5 million visitors every year.
Crowns are the main symbols of royal authority. All crowns in the Tower are decorated with alternating crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis, a pattern which first appears on the great seal of Richard III, and their arches are surmounted with a monde and cross pattée. Most of them also have a red or purple velvet cap and an ermine border.
St Edward's Crown
The centrepiece of the coronation regalia is named after Edward the Confessor and is placed on the monarch's head at the moment of crowning. Made of gold and completed in 1661, St Edward's Crown is embellished with 444 stones, including amethysts, garnets, peridots, rubies, sapphires, topazes, tourmalines and zircons. The crown was fashioned to closely resemble the medieval one, with a heavy gold base and clusters of semi-precious stones, but the disproportionately large arches are a Baroque affectation. It was long assumed to be the original as their weight is almost identical, and an invoice was produced in 1661 for the addition of gold to an existing crown. In 2008, new research found that a coronation crown had been made in 1660, and it was enhanced the following year when Parliament increased the budget for Charles II's delayed coronation. The crown is 30 cm (11.8 in) tall, and at a weight of 2.23 kg (4.9 lb) has been noted to be extremely heavy. After 1689, monarchs chose to be crowned with a lighter, bespoke coronation crown (e.g., that of George IV) or their state crown, while St Edward's Crown rested on the high altar. The tradition of using St Edward's Crown was revived in 1911 for the coronation of George V. In 1953, Elizabeth II opted for a stylised image of this crown to be used on coats of arms, badges, logos and various other insignia in the Commonwealth realms to symbolise her royal authority. It replaced the image of a Tudor-style crown adopted in 1901 by Edward VII.
Imperial State Crown
A much lighter crown is worn by the monarch when leaving Westminster Abbey, and at the annual State Opening of Parliament. The current Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 for George VI and is a copy of the one made in 1838 for Queen Victoria, which had fallen into a poor state of repair, and had been made using gems from its own predecessor, the State Crown of George I. In 1953, the crown was resized to fit Elizabeth II, and the arches were lowered by 2.5 cm (1 in) to give it a more feminine appearance. The gold, silver and platinum crown is decorated with 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. Among the largest stones are the 317-carat (63.4 g) Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa, added to the crown in 1909. The 170-carat (34 g) Black Prince's Ruby, set in the front cross, is a large spinel given to Edward the Black Prince by a Spanish king in 1367 and worn by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. How the stone found its way back into the Royal Collection after the Interregnum is unclear, but a substantial ruby was acquired for the Crown Jewels in 1661 at a cost of £400, and this may well have been the Black Prince's Ruby. On the crown's back is the 104-carat (20.8 g) Stuart Sapphire, and in the top cross is St Edward's Sapphire, reputedly taken from the ring of the Confessor when his body was re-interred at the Abbey in 1163. Below the monde hang four pearls, three of which are often said to have belonged to Elizabeth I, but the association is almost certainly erroneous.
After the Restoration, wives of kings – queens consort – traditionally wore the Crown of Mary of Modena, wife of James II, who first wore it at their coronation in 1685. Originally set with 561 hired diamonds and 129 pearls, it is now set with crystals and cultured pearls for display in the Jewel House along with a matching diadem that consorts wore in procession to the Abbey. The diadem once held 177 diamonds, 1 ruby, 1 sapphire, and 1 emerald. By the 19th century, the crown was judged to be too theatrical and in a poor state of repair, so the Crown of Queen Adelaide was made for the wife of William IV to wear in 1831 using gemstones from her own collection of jewellery.
Thus began a tradition of each queen consort having a crown made specially for her. In 1902, the Crown of Queen Alexandra, a European-style crown – flatter and with eight half-arches instead of the traditional four – was made for Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, to wear at their coronation. Set with over 3,000 diamonds, it was the first consort crown to include the Koh-i-Noor diamond presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 following the British conquest of the Punjab. Originally 191 carats (38 g) and set in an armlet, it was cut down to an oval brilliant weighing 105 carats (21 g), which Victoria mounted in a brooch and circlet. The second was Queen Mary's Crown; also unusual for a British crown in having eight half-arches, it was made in 1911 for the coronation of Queen Mary and George V. It contains 2,200 diamonds and has contained Cullinans III and IV. In 1914, both stones and the Koh-i-Noor were replaced with crystal replicas and the arches were made detachable so it could be worn as an open crown. Mary paid for the Art Deco-inspired crown and originally hoped that it would be used by future queens consort.
After George V died, Mary continued wearing the crown (without its arches) as a queen mother, and so the Crown of Queen Elizabeth was made for Queen Elizabeth, wife of George VI and later known as the Queen Mother, to wear at their coronation in 1937. It is the only British crown to be made entirely of platinum, and was modelled on Queen Mary's Crown, but has the usual four half-arches instead of eight. The crown is decorated with about 2,800 diamonds, most notably the Koh-i-Noor in the middle of the front cross. It also contains a replica of the 22.5-carat (5 g) Lahore Diamond given to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851, and a 17.3-carat (3 g) diamond given to her by Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in 1856. Elizabeth last wore it as an open crown at the coronation of her daughter Elizabeth II in 1953. The crown was laid on top of Elizabeth's coffin during her lying in state and funeral in 2002.
Prince of Wales coronets
A relatively modest coronet was made in 1728 for Frederick, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of George II. It takes the form laid down in a royal warrant issued by Charles II, which states that the heir apparent of the Crown shall use and bear a coronet of crosses and fleurs-de-lis with one arch surmounted by a ball and cross. The single arch denotes inferiority to the monarch and shows that the prince outranks other royal children, whose coronets have no arches. Frederick never wore his gold coronet; instead, it was placed on a cushion in front of him when he first took his seat in the House of Lords. It was used by his son, George III, then his son, George IV, and was last used by Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales. Due to its age, a new silver-gilt coronet was made for his son, the future George V, to wear at Edward's coronation in 1902. In contrast to the earlier coronet, which has a depressed arch, the arch on this one is raised. At George's own coronation in 1911, the coronet was worn by his son, Edward, the next Prince of Wales. After he became king in 1936, Edward VIII abdicated later the same year and, as the Duke of Windsor, went into exile in France, taking the 1902 coronet with him; it remained abroad until his death in 1972. In its absence, another coronet had to be made for the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969. Unlike the defunct coronets, this one is not a part of the Crown Jewels but the Honours of Wales.
In the Jewel House there are two crowns that were not intended to be used at a coronation. Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown is just 10 cm (3.9 in) tall, and was made in 1870 using 1,187 diamonds for Victoria to wear on top of her widow's cap. She often wore it at State Openings of Parliament in place of the much heavier Imperial State Crown. After the queen's death in 1901 the crown passed to her daughter-in-law Queen Alexandra and later to Queen Mary. The Imperial Crown of India was created in 1911 when George V visited the Delhi Durbar with Queen Mary to be proclaimed (but not crowned) as Emperor of India. Since the British constitution prohibits the removal of Crown Jewels from the United Kingdom, a new crown had to be made for the event, with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and 6,100 diamonds. It has not been used since and is now a part of the Crown Jewels.
The swords of state reflect a monarch's role as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces and Defender of the Faith. Three are carried before the monarch into the Abbey: the blunt Sword of Mercy (also known as Curtana), the Sword of Spiritual Justice, and the Sword of Temporal Justice. All are believed to have been supplied at the time of James I between 1610 and 1620, probably by a member of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, using blades created in the 1580s by Italian bladesmiths Giandonato and Andrea Ferrara. They were deposited with St Edward's regalia at the Abbey by Charles II; before then, new swords had been made for each coronation since the 15th century. Sold in the civil war, they were returned at the Restoration, and their first recorded use was at the coronation of James II in 1685.
Two other swords are used. The two-handed Sword of State, made in 1678 – a 1660 sword was last used in the 18th century – symbolises the monarch's royal authority. It is also carried before the monarch at State Openings of Parliament. Its wooden sheath, made in 1689, is bound in crimson velvet decorated with silver-gilt emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland, fleurs-de-lis and portcullises. The lion of England and unicorn of Scotland form the cross-piece to the sword's handle. Before the investiture, it is exchanged for the principal Sword of Offering, of which the Sword of State is a metaphor. Commissioned by George IV for his 1821 coronation, its gilded leather sheath is encrusted with 1,251 diamonds, 16 rubies, 2 sapphires and 2 turquoises. The sword has a Damascus steel blade and is set with 2,141 diamonds, 12 emeralds and 4 rubies. The precious stones are arranged to form roses, thistles, shamrocks, oak leaves and acorns. Two diamond lion heads, one at each end of the cross-piece, have ruby eyes. George paid more than £5,000 for the sword out of his own pocket in a radical change from the austere £2 swords used by his 18th-century predecessors. It remained in personal ownership of the Royal family until 1903 when it was deposited with the Crown Jewels and has been used at every coronation since 1911. A monarch is girded and blessed using the sword, which is returned to the Keeper of the Jewel House by the Abbey for a token sum of £5, and it is borne unsheathed for the rest of the ceremony.
The defunct Irish Sword of State, made in 1660, was held by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (a viceroy) prior to Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom in 1922, and also resides at the Tower of London. Its handle takes the form of a lion and a unicorn and is decorated with a celtic harp. Each new viceroy was invested with the sword at Dublin Castle, where it usually sat across the arms of a throne, representing the king or queen. It was borne in procession in front of monarchs upon their official visits to Dublin. In June 1921, the sword was present at the official opening by George V of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in Belfast. It was displayed at Dublin Castle from September 2017 until April 2018 as part of the 'Making Majesty' exhibition – the first time it had been to Ireland in 95 years.
St Edward's Staff
St Edward's Staff is a 1.4-metre-long (4.6 ft) gold walking stick made for Charles II in 1661. It has a plain monde and cross at the top and a steel pike at the bottom. This object is almost certainly a copy of the long rod of silver-gilt mentioned in the list of royal plate and jewels destroyed in 1649. The staff's intended role in the coronation has been forgotten since medieval times, and so it is carried into the Abbey by a peer as a holy relic and laid on the altar, where it remains throughout the ceremony.
The Crown Jewels include 16 silver trumpets dating from between 1780 and 1848. Nine of these are draped with red silk damask banners embroidered with coats of arms in gold, originally made for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. They have not been used since the Corps of State Trumpeters was disbanded as a cost-cutting measure in the 19th century. The trumpeters' main job was to sound a fanfare at key points in the coronation, and they also played at the banquet afterwards in Westminster Hall. Today, the Band of the Household Cavalry and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force play their own trumpets at state occasions.
Beginning as lethal weapons of medieval knights, maces evolved into ceremonial objects carried by sergeants-at-arms and now represent a monarch's authority. The House of Commons can only operate lawfully when the royal mace – dating from the reign of Charles II – is present at the table. Two other maces dating from the reigns of Charles II and William III are used by the House of Lords: One is placed on the Woolsack before the house meets and is absent when a monarch is there in person. In the late 17th century, there were 16 maces, but only 13 survive, 10 of which are on display at the Tower of London. Two of these are carried in the royal procession at State Openings of Parliament and coronations. Each mace is about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) long and weighs an average of 10 kg (22 lb). They are silver-gilt and were made between 1660 and 1695.
The Ampulla, 20.5 cm (8.1 in) tall and weighing 660 g (1.5 lb), is a hollow gold vessel made in 1661 and shaped like an eagle with outspread wings. Its head unscrews, enabling the vessel to be filled, and the oil exits via a hole in the beak. The original ampulla was a phial made of stone, sometimes worn as a pendant by kings, and otherwise kept inside a gold eagle. Fourteenth-century legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared in front of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170, and presented to him a gold eagle and phial of oil for anointing English kings. This ampulla was first recorded as being used at the coronation of Henry IV in 1399 and was deposited for safekeeping with St Edward's regalia at the Abbey by Richard III in 1483. The same batch of oil was used to anoint all kings and queens (except Mary I) until it ran out in 1625. No one is quite sure why the vessel itself came to be reinterpreted as an eagle standing on a domed base after the Restoration. In terms of religious importance, the anointing objects are second only to St Edward's Crown, and in 2013 the ampulla was placed beside the crown on the altar of Westminster Abbey at a service marking the 60th anniversary of Elizabeth II's coronation.
The 27-centimetre-long (10.6 in) Coronation Spoon, which dates from the late 12th century, is silver-gilt and set with four pearls added in the 17th century. A ridge divides the bowl in half, creating grooves into which the Archbishop of Canterbury dips two fingers and anoints the monarch, confirming him or her as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Originally, the spoon may have been used for mixing water and wine in a chalice, and it is first known to have been used to anoint a monarch at the English coronation of James I in 1603. It is the oldest surviving piece of regalia, first recorded in the Royal Collection in 1349 as "a spoon of ancient form", and was probably made for Henry II or Richard I. In 1649, the spoon was sold to Clement Kynnersley, Yeoman of the Removing Wardrobe, who returned it to Charles II upon the restoration of the monarchy.
Robes and ornaments
All the robes have priestly connotations and their form has changed little since the Middle Ages. A tradition of wearing St Edward's robes came to an end in 1547 after the English Reformation but was revived in 1603 by James I to emphasise his belief in the divine nature of kingship. As well as robes, a monarch also wore either cloth-of-gold buskins or sandals, depending on the size of his or her feet. The holy relics were destroyed along with royal crowns and ornaments in the Civil War, and new robes were made for each monarch starting with Charles II, a practice that ended in 1911, when George V wore the Supertunica (a dalmatic) and the Imperial Mantle (a cope), both made for George IV in 1821. The robes are of gold thread and together weigh approximately 10 kg (22 lb). They were also worn by his successors George VI and Elizabeth II. A new stole was made in 1953 for Elizabeth II by the Worshipful Company of Girdlers. It is adorned with floral emblems of Australia, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, and the four countries of the United Kingdom – members of the Commonwealth, which is headed by the Queen.
Prick spurs remade for Charles II are presented to the monarch. They are made of solid gold, richly embossed with floral patterns and scrolls, and have straps of crimson velvet embroidered in gold. Both necks terminate in a Tudor rose with a spike at its centre. Also known as St George's Spurs, they are one of the emblems of knighthood and chivalry, and denote the sovereign's role as head of the Armed Forces. Gold spurs are first known to have been used in 1189 at the coronation of Richard I, though it is likely they were introduced for Henry the Young King in 1170, and this element of the service was probably inspired by the initiation ceremony of knights. A pair of mid 14th-century spurs were added to St Edward's regalia at the Abbey in 1399 and used at all coronations until they were destroyed in 1649. Historically, spurs were fastened to a monarch's feet, but since the Restoration they are simply brushed against the heels of kings or shown to queens.
The Armills are gold bracelets of sincerity and wisdom. Like spurs, they were first used at English coronations in the 12th century. By the 17th century, armills were no longer delivered to the monarch, but simply carried at the coronation. A new pair had to be made in 1661; they are 4 cm (1.6 in) wide, 7 cm (2.8 in) in diameter, and champlevé enamelled on the surface with roses, thistles and harps – the national symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland – as well as fleurs-de-lis. For Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, the medieval tradition was revived, and a new set of plain 22-karat gold armills lined with crimson velvet was presented to the Queen on behalf of various Commonwealth governments. Each bracelet is fitted with an invisible hinge and a clasp in the form of a Tudor rose. The hallmark includes a tiny portrait of the Queen, who continued to wear the armills on leaving the Abbey and could be seen wearing them later, with the Imperial State Crown and Sovereign's Ring, at her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
An orb, a type of globus cruciger, was first used at an English coronation by Henry VIII in 1509 and then by all subsequent monarchs apart from the early Stuart kings James I and Charles I, who opted for the medieval coronation order. The Tudor orb was deposited with St Edward's regalia at Westminster Abbey in 1625. Today the Sovereign's Orb is a hollow gold sphere about 16.5 cm (6.5 in) in diameter and weighing 1.2 kg (2.6 lb) (more than twice as heavy as the original) made for Charles II in 1661. A band of gems and pearls runs along the equator and there is a half-band on the top hemisphere. Atop the orb is an amethyst surmounted by a jewelled cross, symbolising the Christian world, with a sapphire on one side and an emerald on the other. Altogether, the orb is decorated with 375 pearls, 365 diamonds, 18 rubies, 9 emeralds, 9 sapphires, 1 amethyst and 1 piece of glass. It is handed to the sovereign during the investiture rite of the coronation and is borne later in the left hand when leaving Westminster Abbey. A small version, originally set with hired gems, was made in 1689 for Mary II to hold at her joint coronation with William III; it was never used again at a coronation and is now set with imitation gems and cultured pearls. The orb is 14.6 cm (5.7 in) in diameter and weighs 1.07 kg (2.4 lb). Both orbs were laid on Queen Victoria's coffin at her state funeral in 1901. Officially, no reason was given for using Mary II's orb, but it may have been intended to reflect Victoria's position as Empress of India.
The Sovereign's Ring has been used by all monarchs from William IV in 1831 to Elizabeth II in 1953, with the exception of Queen Victoria, whose fingers were too small to retain it. In the centre of the gold ring is an octagonal sapphire overlaid with a square ruby and four long, narrow rubies forming a cross. Around the sapphire are 14 brilliant diamonds. The general design is intended to represent the red Cross of St George on the blue background of St Andrew's Cross. Rubies symbolise all the kingly virtues and have featured on coronation rings since the early Middle Ages. A small copy was made for Victoria, who wrote in a letter: "The Archbishop had (most awkwardly) put the ring on the wrong finger, and the consequence was that I had the greatest difficulty to take it off again, which I at last did with great pain". In fact, the ring had been sized to fit the queen's little finger instead of her ring finger due to a misunderstanding by the jewellers. In 1919, it was deposited at the Tower of London along with the Sovereign's Ring and Queen Consort's Ring, which has been worn by all wives of kings from Queen Adelaide onwards.
Before 1831, each monarch received a new ring to symbolise his or her "marriage" to the nation. A possible exception was the Stuart Coronation Ring, probably used at the English coronations of Charles I and Charles II, and certainly that of James II, who took the ring into exile with him in France after the Glorious Revolution in 1688. It returned to the United Kingdom 100 years later and is now part of the Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels. The gold ring has a large ruby etched with a St George's Cross and bordered by 26 diamonds. Since 1830, it has been on permanent loan from Windsor Castle to Edinburgh Castle, where it is displayed with the Honours of Scotland. Mary II's coronation ring also survives in the Portland Collection at Welbeck Abbey.
The sceptre, a symbolic ornamental rod held by the monarch at a coronation, is derived from the shepherd's staff via the crozier of a bishop. Two gold sceptres made in 1661 are part of the coronation regalia. The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross is a token of his or her temporal power as head of state. The whole object is 92 cm (3 ft) long, weighs around 1.17 kg (2.6 lb), and is decorated with 333 diamonds, 31 rubies, 15 emeralds, 7 sapphires, 6 spinels and 1 composite amethyst. In 1910, it was redesigned to incorporate Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which, at over 530 carats (106 g), is still the largest clear cut diamond in the world. It was part of a rough diamond weighing 3,106 carats (621.2 g) found in South Africa in 1905 and was named after the chairman of the mining company, Thomas Cullinan. The gold clasps holding it can be opened and the stone removed to be worn as a pendant hanging from Cullinan II, which is set in the Imperial State Crown, to form a brooch – Queen Mary, wife of George V, often wore it like this. Above the pear-shaped diamond is the amethyst surmounted by a cross pattée encrusted with an emerald and small diamonds.
The Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, which also has been known as the Rod of Equity and Mercy, is emblematic of his or her spiritual role. It is a bit longer at 1.1 m (3.6 ft) but weighs about the same as the Sceptre with Cross. The sceptre is decorated with 285 gemstones, including 94 diamonds, 53 rubies, 10 emeralds, 4 sapphires and 3 spinels. Circling the rod are bands of precious stones. At the top is a gold monde set with diamonds and topped by a plain cross, upon which sits a white enamelled dove with its wings outspread, representing the Holy Ghost. A sceptre like this first appeared in the 11th century, and it was probably based on the German sceptre, which was topped by an Imperial Eagle. The Sceptre with Dove is the penultimate piece of regalia to be delivered. As the monarch holds both sceptres, he or she is crowned with St Edward's Crown.
The Crown Jewels include two sceptres made for Mary of Modena, the wife of James II, in 1685: a gold sceptre with a cross known as the Queen Consort's Sceptre with Cross and another topped by a dove known as the Queen Consort's Ivory Rod with Dove, which, as the name suggests, is made of ivory. Unlike the sovereign's dove, this one has folded wings and is relatively small. It was last used by Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, at the coronation of her husband George VI in 1937. For the coronation of Mary II, the wife and joint sovereign of William III, a more elaborate gold sceptre with dove was commissioned in 1689. It has not been used since, and went missing for several decades, only to be found in 1814 at the back of a cupboard in the Tower of London.
In the Jewel House there is a collection of chalices, patens, flagons, candlesticks and dishes – all silver-gilt except five gold communion vessels – that are displayed on the high altar or in front of the royal box at Westminster Abbey during coronations. Some are also used at other times. Although most are not held by monarchs, such items are Crown Jewels by virtue of their long association with the Jewel House.
One of the most striking pieces is a large dish 95 cm (3.12 ft) across and weighing 13 kg (28.7 lb), in the centre of which is a relief depiction of the Last Supper. Around the edge are four engravings of biblical scenes: the Washing of the Feet, the Walk to Emmaus, the Coming of the Holy Ghost, and Christ's Commission to the Apostles. Made in 1664 for James, Duke of York, and later acquired by Charles II, it stands on the high altar during a coronation ceremony. At each end of the altar stands a 91 cm (3 ft) tall candlestick made in the 17th century, which is engraved all over with scrolls, leaves and flowers, and they were also used at the lying in state of Edward VII at Buckingham Palace in 1910.
An altar dish and flagon were made in 1691 for the royal Church of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London. The dish measures 70 cm (2.3 ft) across; it also has a depiction of the Last Supper, below which is the coat of arms of co-regents William III and Mary II. The flagon stands 42.5 cm (1.4 ft) tall. Both pieces are still used in the chapel on Easter, Whitsun and Christmas, and they were first displayed at a coronation in 1821. Another dish still in regular use is the Maundy Dish – one of six used by the Queen at Royal Maundy for handing out alms to elderly people in recognition of their service to the church and local community. The ceremony, which takes place in a different cathedral every year, entirely replaced the ancient custom of washing the feet of the poor in 1730, and the dish, though it bears the royal cypher of William and Mary, dates from the reign of Charles II. Two purses containing specially minted coins are taken from the dish and presented to each recipient.
The last coronation banquet held at Westminster Hall took place in 1821 for George IV. Silverware used at those banquets include the Plymouth Fountain, a wine fountain made around 1640 by a German goldsmith and presented to Charles II by the city of Plymouth. Gilded for George II in 1726, it is 77.5 cm (2.5 ft) tall and decorated with flowers, fruit, dolphins, mermaids and sea monsters. The nautical theme is continued in the silver-gilt Wine Cistern, also known as the Grand Punch Bowl, which is cast as a giant oyster shell. It weighs 257 kg (40.5 st), is 0.76 m (2.5 ft) tall, 1.38 m (4.5 ft) long and 1.01 m (3.3 ft) wide, and can hold 144 bottles of wine on ice. It was commissioned in 1829 by George IV but completed after his death. Weighing over a quarter of a ton, it is the heaviest surviving piece of English banqueting plate. In 1841, the cistern was re-purposed as a punch bowl, with the addition of an ivory-stemmed ladle, which is 1.05 m (3.4 ft) long and has a silver-gilt bowl in the form of a nautilus shell.
The Exeter Salt is a 45-centimetre (1.5 ft) tall salt cellar in the form of a castle on a rocky outcrop. Each of its four main compartments, in the turrets, held about 29 g (1 oz) of salt, and smaller compartments in the walls held pepper and spices. It was made c. 1630 in Germany and is set with 73 gems probably added later. The Salt was originally bought in Hamburg in 1657 by the city's British Resident as a peace offering to the Russian court, which had cut all ties with Britain during the Interregnum. He was turned away at the border and eventually took it back to London. In 1660, it was acquired from a private dealer for £700 by the city of Exeter and presented to Charles II.
Eleven smaller salts named after St George were originally made for a St George's Day banquet of the Knights of the Garter and Charles II in the 17th century. Each one is topped with a small figure of a knight on horseback. Another, the Queen Elizabeth Salt, was made in 1572 during the reign of Elizabeth I for a member of the aristocracy; it was acquired by Charles II. Twelve spoons made for George IV in 1820 complement the salts.
Three silver-gilt objects which have been used at royal christenings are displayed in the Jewel House. Charles II's marriage to Catherine of Braganza produced no heir, but a font and basin made in 1661 may have been used to baptise some of his 13 illegitimate children. The font stands 95.2 centimetres (3.12 ft) tall, and the whole objects weighs 28.43 kilograms (62.7 lb). Its domed lid is surmounted by a figure of Philip the Evangelist baptising the Ethiopian eunuch. It was last used to baptise Princess Charlotte of Wales (child of the future George IV) in 1796, and the basin found a new role as an altar dish in the 19th century, while the font was used as a plinth for the Lily Font.
A christening ewer and basin made in 1735 were used at the christening of the future George III in 1738. His father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, had been banished from the royal court by George II and was forbidden to use the Charles II Font. An inscription at the front of the ewer records its use at the christening of George III's son, Prince Alfred, in 1780. The handle of the ewer is topped by a figure of Hercules slaying the Hydra, symbolising the triumph of virtue over vice; it stands 45.7 centimetres (1.5 ft) tall.
The Lily Font was made in 1840 for the christening of Victoria, Princess Royal, the first child of Queen Victoria, who declined to use the Charles II Font because of its unseemly history. The font is decorated with water lilies, symbolising purity and new life, and cherubs plucking lyres. It has been used for the christenings of all of Elizabeth II's children and grandchildren except Princess Eugenie, with holy water from the River Jordan. The font stands 43.2 centimetres (1.42 ft) tall and weighs approximately 10 kg (22 lb).
Ownership, management and value
The Crown Jewels, part of the Royal Collection, do not officially belong to the nation, but are effectively public assets. Like Royal palaces such as Buckingham Palace, ownership is regarded as inalienable and passes from one monarch to the next by virtue of his or her position as king or queen. However, a 17th-century ruling by Sir Edward Coke, which states "the ancient jewels of the crown are heirloomes and shall descend to the next successor and are not devisable by testament", contains an exception allowing the monarch to dispose of objects via letters patent. In practice it is unlikely the Crown Jewels will ever be sold, nor are they insured against loss, and are officially priceless. Their maintenance falls to the Crown Jeweller, a member of the Royal Household who cleans them at the Tower of London each January after visiting hours. The jeweller also accompanies the regalia and plate when they leave the Tower. Older items such as the Coronation Spoon are cleaned by experts from the British Museum. The Royal Collection Trust keeps an inventory of the regalia, and Historic Royal Palaces is responsible for their display.
- Three maces from the Jewel House are on permanent loan to the Palace of Westminster. Objects can be temporarily moved to other exhibitions.
- This figure counts items that have two or more parts as one object.
- Technically, the Crown Jewels are the regalia and vestments used or worn by monarchs at a coronation. However, since at least the 17th century, the term has been commonly used to refer to the contents of the Jewel House. The inventory in Keay (2011) extends to items displayed in the Martin Tower.
- Husbands of queens regnant are not crowned in the United Kingdom.
- British Museum number 1990,0102.24
- British Museum number 1957,0207.15
- British Museum number 1939,1010.160
- Thomas Frederick Tout gives an illuminating second-hand account of one such theft in A Mediæval Burglary (1916).
- Edward the Confessor's feast day was 13 October and Edward the Martyr's 18 March.
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- Full statement in John Rushworth (1721), Historical Collections, vol. 4, p. 736.
- Vyner outsourced work to fellow members of the Goldsmiths' Company.
- A popular theory that the Ampulla pre-dates the Restoration because of its antiquated style was conclusively rejected in Claude Blair's 1998 history and catalogue raisonné on the Crown Jewels.
- A comprehensive list of additions and alterations up to the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 can be found in Jones, pp. 63–72. For a timeline of changes between 1855 and 1967 see Holmes and Sitwell, pp. 76–78. A thorough history is contained in Blair, vol. 2.
- In 1937 and 1953, the coronation was rehearsed using a set of replicas, now on display in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries at Westminster Abbey.
- Objects are listed in the order in which they are presented to a monarch.
- George IV did not wear the Supertunica. Westminster Abbey took custody of both robes, and they were given to the Crown by a private owner in 1911.
- While this common law was made before the Interregnum, it was cited by lawyers for the Crown in a 1709 legal case, and jurist Charles Viner wrote in his A General Abridgment of Law and Equity: "the King cannot dispose of … the Jewels of the Crown".
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