Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
|Location||Jewel House and Martin Tower at the Tower of London
Debating chambers at the Palace of Westminster
|Oldest||Coronation Spoon (12th century)|
|Newest||Queen Elizabeth II's Armills (1953)|
|Owner||Queen Elizabeth II in right of the Crown|
|Managers||Martin Swift (Crown Jeweller)
Royal Collection Trust
Historic Royal Palaces
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, originally the Crown Jewels of England, are 140 historic royal ceremonial objects, including the regalia and vestments worn by kings and queens of the UK at their coronations.[b]
A symbol of 800 years of monarchy, the sovereign's coronation regalia is the only working collection in Europe – other present-day monarchies have abandoned coronations in favour of inauguration or enthronement ceremonies – and is the largest set of 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 Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces. Wives of kings are crowned as queen consort with a plainer set of regalia.[c] Since 1831, a new crown has been made specially for each queen consort.
Use of regalia by monarchs in England can be traced back to its early history. A permanent set of coronation regalia, once belonging to Edward the Confessor, was established after he was made a saint in the 12th century. By the Tudor period it was usual for monarchs to inherit state regalia from his or her predecessor. Most of the present collection as a whole dates from around 350 years ago when King Charles II ascended the throne. The medieval and Tudor regalia had been either sold or melted down by Oliver Cromwell, a republican who overthrew the monarchy in 1649, during the English Civil War. Only four original items pre-date the Restoration: a late 12th-century anointing spoon, which is the oldest object in the collection, and three early 17th-century swords.
Notable among the 23,578 precious and semi-precious stones are Cullinan I, the largest clear cut diamond in the world at 530 carats (106 g), set in the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. On the Imperial State Crown are Cullinan II (second-largest of the Cullinan diamonds), 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 has featured on three consort crowns.
In addition to coronations, the Imperial State Crown is usually worn at State Openings of Parliament, where the Sword of State and two maces are carried in procession. Fonts are used at royal christenings, and altar plate is used for weddings, Royal Maundy, and a few other occasions. Many pieces have fallen out of use altogether, like the trumpets and banqueting plate, and some were only designed to be used once. When not in use the Jewels are on public display, mainly in the Jewel House, a vault at the Tower of London where they are seen by around 2.5 million visitors from across the world every year. Although they are part of the Royal Collection and owned by the king or queen for the duration of his or her reign, the Crown Jewels do not belong to the monarch personally.
- 1 History
- 2 Crowns
- 3 Processional objects
- 4 Anointing objects
- 5 Robes and ornaments
- 6 Altar plate
- 7 Banqueting plate
- 8 Christening fonts
- 9 Ownership and value
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 External links
In Britain the use of elaborate symbols of authority developed about 15,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. Ivory rods, carved antlers, painted animal skulls, and other objects were buried with tribal leaders at caves in Somerset and Derbyshire. Later, around 2400 BCE (BC), a group of peoples from mainland Europe known as Beaker folk conquered most of Britain. This warrior race had a tradition of investing their new leaders with polished ceremonial axes made of green quartzite, red tourmaline, and jadeite. Excavations at Bush Barrow, Wiltshire, unearthed an early example of a sceptre, decorated with bone in a zig-zag pattern, and topped by a stone. Archaeologists believe it and other treasures found in the grave may have belonged to the ruling family who built Stonehenge. By 1600 BCE, the rulers of southern Britain wore gold epaulettes, gold brooches, and gold-plated bronze daggers. A ceremonial gold cloak of the same period, the Mold cape, was found at a Bronze Age burial mound in Flintshire, Wales, in 1833.
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 BCE. A sword, brooch, ceremonial shield, and decorated bronze crown[d] with a single arch, which sat directly on the head of its wearer, were found inside the tomb of the Mill Hill Warrior. Following the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 CE (AD), crowns and other symbols of authority continued to be used by the governors of Britain. A dig in a field at Hockwold cum Wilton, Norfolk, in 1957 revealed a large number of circlets and a bronze crown with two arches and depictions of male faces, dating from the period of Roman occupation.
By the 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,[e] 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, with which he or she was usually buried upon death.
Æthelstan ascended the throne in 924 and united the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. 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 open to question. Coins are unreliable because the portraits were often generic or copied from overseas coins. Edgar the Peaceful was the first English king to be crowned with an actual crown, and a sceptre was also introduced into the ceremony for his coronation in 973.
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".
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 that 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 Richard Sporley, 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 to be considered precious relics. Although the claim is likely to have been an exercise in self-promotion on the abbey's part, 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.
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. The crown would be used in many subsequent coronations until its eventual destruction 400 years later. One of the few descriptions of St Edward's Crown to survive, from Henry III's time, is a "gold crown with diverse stones". Also in the Crown Jewels in this period was an item called a state crown. Together with other crowns, rings, and swords, it comprised the monarch's non-hereditary state regalia that was 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 – then known as King Edward's 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; 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. At some point in the 14th century, all of the state regalia were moved to the White Tower at the Tower of London due to a series of successful and attempted thefts in a part of Westminster Abbey that housed state regalia.[f] The holy relics of the coronation regalia stayed behind intact at the Abbey. Arches topped with a monde and cross were added to 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. Known as a closed or imperial crown, the arches 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.
Early modern period
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 also displayed and worn at the annual State Opening of Parliament. Around this time, swords – symbols of kingship since ancient times – were introduced into the coronation ceremony. Three swords were used to represent the king's powers in the administration of justice: the Sword of Spiritual Justice, Sword of Temporal Justice and Sword of Mercy. Another emerging item of state 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; it would be added to the coronation regalia in the 17th century.
State regalia were increasingly passed from one king to the next. The first 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. The gold crown was covered in pearls, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, and its rim was decorated with alternating crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis. The centre petals of the fleurs-de-lis had images of Christ, the Virgin Mary and child, St George, and possibly Edmund the Martyr and Edward the Confessor. Although some English monarchs laid claim to the French throne, the fleurs-de-lis on their crowns had evolved from the trefoil introduced by King Canute and were purely decorative. The concept of hereditary state regalia was enshrined in law after the Union of the Crowns when James VI and I decreed in 1605: "Roiall and Princely ornaments and Jewells [are] to be indyvidually and inseparably for ever hereafter annexed to the Kingdome of this Realme".
Following the death of James I in 1625, Charles I succeeded the throne. His 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. Parliament viewed the regalia as "Jewels of the Crown", vested in the monarch because of his public role, and not owned by him in a personal capacity. To avoid putting his own subjects at risk, Charles exported many of the state regalia, including the Mirror of Great Britain, to customers and pawn brokers in Amsterdam. In 1642, on learning of the king's scheme, both Houses of Parliament declared all traffickers of the Crown Jewels to be enemies of the state.
After six years of war, Charles was defeated and executed by the Roundheads 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. In order 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 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.
Oliver Cromwell, who led the uprising and declined invitations to be made king, became Lord Protector of England in 1657. It was marked by a ceremony in Westminster Hall, where he donned purple robes, sat on the Coronation Chair, and was invested with many of the traditional symbols of sovereignty, except a crown. A crown, perhaps saved from the melting pot in 1649, was placed beside Cromwell at his lying in state in 1660.
Restoration to present day
The monarchy was restored after Cromwell's death, and for the coronation of King 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[g] – as much as three warships. A medieval anointing spoon and three swords had survived and were returned to the Crown, as were some historically important gemstones. Between 1660 and 1663, at the additional cost of some £18,000, almost two tons (4,400 lb) of altar and banqueting plate were made for the king.
In 1669, the Jewels went on public display 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 Colonel Thomas Blood, an Irish-born army officer loyal to Parliament, attacked the 77-year-old and, with the help of three accomplices, stole a crown, a sceptre and an orb. They were apprehended at the perimeter, and the items were recovered, though some had been damaged: the crown was flattened with a mallet in an attempt to conceal it, and there was a dent in the orb. Blood was not only pardoned, but also given land and a pension. It has been suggested that 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.[h] A new set of regalia 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. Starting with Queen Anne, gemstones were hired for coronations and replaced with paste and crystals for display in the Jewel House, a practice which continued until the early 20th century.
During World War II, the Crown Jewels were stored in the basement of Windsor Castle.[i] The most valuable gems were sealed in a tin or pot, which may have been submerged in a pond or lake at the castle, so they could be taken elsewhere if there was an emergency. After the war, 34 boxes containing the Crown Jewels were kept in a vault at the Bank of England while the Jewel House was repaired; it had been struck by a bomb. In 1947, the Jewels went back on display at the Tower of London. In 1953, nine centuries after the coronation of its namesake, St Edward's Crown was placed on the head of Queen Elizabeth II in what is now the only ceremony of its kind in Europe. Today, the Crown Jewels are permanently set with 23,578 precious and semi-precious stones, and they are seen in the Jewel House by around 2.5 million visitors from across the world every year.
Crowns are the main symbols of royal authority.
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 actual moment of crowning by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Made of gold in 1661, St Edward's Crown has four fleurs-de-lis and four crosses pattée with two depressed arches on top. Surmounting the arches is a jewelled monde and cross pattée. Its frame is embellished with 444 precious and semi-precious stones, including amethysts, garnets, peridots, rubies, sapphires, topazes, tourmalines and zircons. There has been speculation that it may incorporate gold from a medieval crown seized by Cromwell and for some reason not melted down. The crown is 30 cm (11.8 in) tall, and at a weight of 2.23 kg (4.9 lb) it has been noted to be extremely heavy. After 1689, monarchs chose to be crowned with a lighter, bespoke coronation crown (e.g., the Coronation Crown of George IV) or their state crown. The tradition of using St Edward's Crown was revived in 1911 for the coronation of George V. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II opted to use a stylised image of this crown in coats of arms, badges, logos and various other insignia throughout the Commonwealth realms to symbolise her royal authority.
Imperial State Crown
A much lighter crown is worn by the monarch when he or she leaves 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 virtual copy of the one made in 1838 for Queen Victoria, which fell 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 Queen Elizabeth II, and the arches were lowered by 2.5 cm (1.0 in) to give it a more feminine appearance. It is made of gold, silver and platinum, and has four crosses pattée and fleurs-de-lis, with two arches surmounted by a monde and cross pattée. The 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, above which is the 170-carat (34.0 g) Black Prince's Ruby (a spinel), set in the front cross. At the back of the crown 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 Edward the Confessor when his body was reinterred at Westminster Abbey in 1163. Below the monde hang four pearls, three of which are often said to have belonged to Queen 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 a new crown was made for Queen Adelaide, 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, a European-style crown, flatter and with more arches than traditional British crowns, was made for Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII, to wear at their coronation. Set with over 3,000 diamonds, it was the first crown to include the 105-carat (21.0 g) Koh-i-Noor diamond which had been presented to Queen Victoria following the British conquest of the Punjab. The second was Queen Mary's Crown; also unusual for a British crown in having eight half-arches instead of the traditional four, the crown 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 Cullinan stones and the Koh-i-Noor were replaced with crystal replicas and, at the same time, the arches were made detachable so it could be worn as a circlet or open crown. Mary paid for the Art Deco-inspired crown out of her own pocket, and the queen had 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, the wife of George VI, 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 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 (4.5 g) Lahore Diamond given to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1851, and a 17.3-carat (3.5 g) diamond given to her by Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in 1856. The crown was laid on top of Elizabeth's coffin during her lying in state and at her funeral in 2002.
Prince of Wales coronets
The relatively modest Coronet of Frederick 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 that the Prince of Wales is inferior to the monarch but outranks the 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 took his seat in the House of Lords. It was used by his son, George III, then his son, George IV, and 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 the Principality 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, Queen Alexandra wore the crown, and it was also worn by 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.
A coronation begins with the procession into Westminster Abbey.
Three swords 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 three are believed to have been supplied at the time of James VI & I between 1610 and 1620, probably by a member of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers, using blades that were created in the 1580s by Italian bladesmiths Giandonato and Andrea Ferrara. Before the 17th century it was usual practice for new swords to be made for each coronation. 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,[j] made in 1678, symbolises the monarch's royal authority. It is also carried before the monarch at State Openings of Parliament. Its wooden sheath is bound in crimson velvet decorated with silver-gilt emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland, fleurs-de-lis and portcullises. In the centre is the royal badge of joint-sovereigns William III and Mary II, for whose coronation the sheath was made in 1689. The lion of England and unicorn of Scotland form the cross-piece to the sword's handle. At coronations, a peer gives the Sword of State to the Lord Great Chamberlain who places it on a table in St Edward's Chapel.
The jewelled Sword of Offering, made in 1820, has a gilded leather sheath, a blade of Damascus steel, and is encrusted with 3,476 precious stones. George IV paid almost £6,000 for the sword out of his own pocket. It remained in personal ownership until 1903 when it was deposited with the Crown Jewels. A monarch is either girded or presented with the sword as the Archbishop says: "With this sword do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the Holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order". Afterwards, it is returned to the Keeper of the Jewel House by the abbey in exchange for a token sum of £5, and the sword is borne unsheathed for the rest of the ceremony.
The defunct Irish Sword of State, made in 1681, also resides at the Tower of London, and was held by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland prior to Ireland gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1922. It was last used on George V's state visit to Ireland in 1911. At 1.27 m (4.2 ft) long, it is the largest sword in the collection.
St Edward's Staff
St Edward's Staff is a 1.4-metre (4.6 ft) long 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 by the Duke of Wellington 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 life as weapons carried by the king's sergeants-at-arms, or bodyguards, maces evolved into ceremonial objects carried by the king's officers. Today, they are used to represent the monarch's authority. The House of Commons can only operate when the royal mace – dating from the reign of Charles II – is present at the table. Two other maces are used by the House of Lords; one is placed on the Woolsack before the house meets and is absent from the chamber when the monarch is there in person. Originally, there were 16 silver-gilt 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 (22.0 lb).
When a monarch is anointed, the Dean of Westminster pours holy anointing oil from an ampulla into a spoon. In terms of religious importance, they are second only to St Edward's Crown, and the ampulla was placed beside the crown on the altar of Westminster Abbey to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
The Ampulla, 20 cm (7.9 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 some oil for anointing future kings of England. This could be why the ampulla was reinterpreted as a vessel in the form of an eagle after the Restoration.
The 27-centimetre (10.6 in) long Coronation Spoon, which dates from the late 12th century, is silver-gilt and set with four pearls. 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. 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, Oliver Cromwell sold the spoon to Clement Kynnersley, Yeoman of the Removing Wardrobe, who returned it to Charles II upon the restoration of the monarchy.
Robes and ornaments
The anointing is followed by the investment with the coronation robes and ornaments.
Robes include the Supertunica, a dalmatic made for George V in 1911; and the Imperial Mantle, a pallium made for George IV in 1821. Both robes are of gold thread and together weigh 10 kg (22.0 lb). A new girdle and stole were made in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II by the Worshipful Company of Girdlers. The stole is adorned with 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. All the robes have priestly connotations and their form has changed little since medieval times.
Spurs remade for Charles II are taken from the altar and 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. Known originally as St George's Spurs, they are one of the emblems of knighthood and chivalry, and denote the sovereign's role as Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces. Gold spurs were introduced into the coronation ceremony in 1189 at the coronation of Richard I. Historically, the spurs were fastened to the monarch's feet but since the Restoration they are simply brushed against the heels of kings or shown to queens and placed on the altar.
The Armills are gold bracelets of sincerity and wisdom. Like the spurs, they were first used at English coronations in the 12th century. For Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, a new set of plain 22-karat gold armills lined with crimson velvet was made and presented 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. They are on display at the Tower of London along with an older pair made for Charles II. The 17th century bracelets, 4 cm (1.6 in) wide and 7 cm (2.8 in) in diameter, are champlevé enamelled on the surface with roses, thistles and harps – the national symbols of England, Scotland and Ireland – as well as fleurs-de-lis. The Queen 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, during her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The Sovereign's Orb, a type of globus cruciger, 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) that was 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. 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. Queen Mary II's Orb is a smaller version 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 set with imitation gems and cultured pearls. Both orbs were laid on top of 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 dates from 1831. Before then, each monarch received a new ring to symbolise his or her "marriage" to the nation, but the current ring has been used by all monarchs from William IV to Queen Elizabeth II, 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, 1.5 cm (0.6 in) in diameter, overlaid with a square ruby and four long, narrow rubies to form a cross. Around the sapphire is a circle of 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.
A small copy of the ring 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. It was left to the Crown upon her death in 1901 and is on display at the Tower of London.
The sceptre, a symbolic ornamental rod held by the monarch at a coronation, is most likely derived from the shepherd's staff, via the crozier of a bishop; it may, however, be a remnant of the ceremonial spear that was presented to kings and queens at coronations in different parts of the world in early history.
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 (3.0 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 3,025 carats (605.0 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. During the coronation, the monarch bears the Sceptre with Cross in the right hand.
The less ornate Sovereign's Sceptre with Dove, which has also been known traditionally 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. At the top is a gold monde set with diamonds and topped by a plain cross, on which sits a white champlevé enamelled dove with its wings outspread; the eyes, beak and feet are gold leaf. The dove has been used to represent the Holy Ghost, who guides the sovereign's actions, for many centuries. Circling the rod are bands of precious stones. The Sceptre with Dove is the final piece of regalia delivered to the monarch in the investment part of a coronation. It is borne in the left hand, and as the monarch holds both sceptres, he or she is crowned with St Edward's Crown.
The Crown Jewels include two sceptres originally 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 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 a coronation, and used at various other times.
One of the most striking pieces is a large dish weighing 13 kg (28.7 lb), in the centre of which is a relief depiction of the Last Supper. Around the edge at the top, bottom and sides 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, divided by scrolls of foliage. Made by London goldsmith Henry Greenway in 1664 for the Duke of York and later acquired by Charles II, it stands on the high altar during the coronation ceremony.
Other pieces include the altar dish and flagon made in 1691 for the royal chapel 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 William III and Mary II. Its rim is engraved with cherubs, scrollwork and fruit. The flagon is 42.5 cm (1.4 ft) tall and has similar decoration. Both pieces are still used in the chapel on Easter, Whitsun and Christmas, and they were first displayed at a coronation in 1821.
The Maundy Dish is 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.
A pair of 96-centimetre (3.1 ft) tall candlesticks made in the 17th century stand on either side of the high altar. These are engraved all over with scrolls, leaves and flowers, and were also used at the lying in state of Edward VII at Buckingham Palace in 1910.
Silverware used at the 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. No record exists of it being used as a fountain, though it may have served as a fruit bowl.
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 made in 1829 for George IV but completed after his death. Weighing almost 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 by Queen Victoria, with the addition of a ladle. The ivory-stemmed ladle is 1.05 m (3.4 ft) long and has a silver-gilt bowl in the form of a nautilus shell.
The Exeter Salt, a 45-centimetre (1.5 ft) tall salt cellar in the form of a castle, was presented to Charles II after the Restoration by the city of Exeter. It was made in 1630 by a German goldsmith and is set with around 70 gemstones. Each of its four main compartments held about 29 g (1.0 oz) of salt, and smaller compartments held pepper and spices. 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. 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 the Crown at the time of Charles II. Complementing the salts are twelve salt spoons made for George IV in 1820.
Charles II, unmarried when he took the throne, persuaded his Treasury to pay for a christening font and basin. His marriage to Catherine of Braganza produced no heir, but the font may have been used to baptise some of his 13 illegitimate children. It was last used in 1796, while the basin found a new role as an altar dish in the 19th century and is on display with the altar plate at the Tower of London.
A christening ewer and basin made by the Garrard & Co. founder George Wickes 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.
The silver-gilt Lily Font was made in 1840 by E.E.J. & W. Barnard 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 weighs approximately 10 kg (22.0 lb) and 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.
Ownership and value
The Crown Jewels, part of the Royal Collection, do not belong to the state, but are owned by Queen Elizabeth II in right of the Crown. Their ownership is regarded as inalienable and passes from one monarch to the next. 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 under the Great Seal or Privy Seal. In practice it is unlikely the Crown Jewels will ever be sold, nor are they insured against loss, and are officially priceless.
- This figure counts pairs of items 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 and the Palace of Westminster.
- Husbands of queens regnant are not crowned in the United Kingdom.
- British Museum number 1990,0102.24
- British Museum number 1939,1010.160
- Thomas Frederick Tout gives an illuminating second-hand account of one such theft in A Mediæval Burglary (1916).
- Vyner outsourced work to fellow members of the Goldsmiths' Company.
- A comprehensive list of additions and alterations up to the coronation of Queen Victoria can be found in Jones, pp. 63–72.
- A persistent rumour the Crown Jewels were shipped out of the UK during WWII and stored at the Sun Life Building in Montreal, Canada, was deliberately spread in Montreal to account for increased activity at the building, which housed a large amount of European gold. The Royal family has never officially disclosed the wartime hiding place of the Jewels.
- Any sword carried before the monarch is a sword of state but only this one is named the Sword of State.
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