Imperial State Crown

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Imperial State Crown
Illustration of the Imperial State Crown published in 1919, digitally altered to resemble its current appearance
CountryUnited Kingdom
OwnerKing Charles III in right of the Crown[1]
Weight1.06 kg (2.3 lb)
Arches2 (four half-arches)
MaterialGold, silver, platinum
CapVelvet trimmed with ermine
Notable stonesCullinan II, St Edward's Sapphire, Black Prince's Ruby, Stuart Sapphire

The Imperial State Crown is one of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and symbolises the sovereignty of the British monarch. It has existed in various forms since the 15th century. The 1937 version is worn by a new monarch for the first time in the royal procession following their coronation (having been crowned with St Edward's Crown during the ceremony) and subsequently used at State Openings of Parliament. The crown is adorned with 3,170 precious stones, including the Cullinan II diamond, St Edward's Sapphire, the Stuart Sapphire, and the Black Prince's Ruby (a spinel).



St Edward's Crown, used to crown English monarchs, was considered to be a holy relic,[2] kept in the saint's shrine at Westminster Abbey and therefore not worn by monarchs at any other time. Instead, a "great crown" with crosses and fleurs-de-lis, but without arches (an open crown), was a king's usual headgear at state occasions until the time of Henry V, who is depicted wearing an imperial crown of state with gold arches (a closed crown).[3] Arches were a symbol of sovereignty, and by this point in history, the king of England was being celebrated as rex in regno suo est imperator – an emperor of his own domain – subservient to no one but God, unlike some continental rulers, who owed fealty to more powerful kings or to the Holy Roman Emperor.[4]

Henry VII or his son and successor Henry VIII may have commissioned a more elaborate version of the state crown which is first described in detail in an inventory of royal jewels in 1521, and again in 1532, 1550, 1574, and 1597, and was included in a painting by Daniel Mytens of Charles I in 1631.[5] The Tudor Crown had more pearls and jewels than its medieval predecessor, and the centre petals of each of the fleurs-de-lis had images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and St George.[6] The crown weighed 2.8 kg (7 lb 6 oz troy) and was set with 168 pearls, 58 rubies, 28 diamonds, 19 sapphires, and 2 emeralds.[7][8]

Following the abolition of the monarchy and the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Tudor Crown was broken up by order of Oliver Cromwell during the Interregnum,[9] and its valuable components were sold for £1,100.[7]

Restoration to present day[edit]

Edward the Confessor holding a sapphire ring in The Wilton Diptych[10]

Upon the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, a new state crown was made for Charles II by Sir Robert Vyner. About 10 versions of the crown have existed since the Restoration.[11] The one made for Queen Victoria in 1838 is the basis for today's crown. Made by Rundell and Bridge using old and new jewels, it had a crimson velvet cap with ermine border and a lining of white silk. It weighed 39.25 troy ounces (43.06 oz; 1,221 g) and was decorated with 1,363 brilliant-cut, 1,273 rose-cut and 147 table-cut diamonds, 277 pearls, 17 sapphires (including St Edward's Sapphire, thought to have been taken from the Confessor's ring when his body was reinterred at Westminster Abbey in 1163), 11 emeralds, 4 rubies, and the Black Prince's Ruby (a cabochon red spinel).[12]

At the State Opening of Parliament in 1845, the Duke of Argyll was carrying the crown before Queen Victoria when it fell off the cushion and broke. Victoria wrote in her diary, "it was all crushed and squashed like a pudding that had sat down".[13] In 1909, the crown was altered to accommodate the 317-carat (63 g) Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa.[14] A faithful copy of the Victorian crown, which had fallen into a poor state of repair, was made in 1937 by the jewellers Garrard & Co. for George VI.[15] (The empty frame of Victoria's crown survives in the Royal Collection, its monde and cross now sit on the current crown)[16] The Imperial State Crown's inner headband was adjusted and its arches lowered by 1 in (2.5 cm) in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II.[17]


External videos
video icon Newsreel of the 1953 alteration work (black and white)
video icon Clip from Monarchy: The Royal Family at Work (2007)
video icon Clip from The Coronation (2018)
video icon Short HD video of the crown by Royal Collection Trust (2023)

The Imperial State Crown is 31.5 cm (12.4 in) tall and weighs 1.06 kg (2.3 lb), and has four fleurs-de-lis alternating with four crosses pattée, supporting two arches topped by a monde and cross pattée. Its purple velvet cap is trimmed with ermine. The frame is made of gold, silver and platinum, and decorated with 2,868 diamonds, 269 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies.[18]

Notable stones are St Edward's Sapphire on the top cross, reputedly taken from the ring of Edward the Confessor when he was re-interred at Westminster Abbey in 1163, and the Black Prince's Ruby (a large spinel) on the front cross. In 1909, the 104-carat (21 g) Stuart Sapphire, set in the front of the crown, was moved to the back and replaced by the 317-carat (63 g) Cullinan II.[19] Below the monde hang four pearls, three of which are often said to have belonged to Queen Elizabeth I, but this association is almost certainly erroneous.[20]


The crown is worn by the monarch on leaving Westminster Abbey at the end of his or her coronation.[21] It is usually also worn at State Openings of Parliament, although Elizabeth II wore a hat in March 1974, June 2017 and December 2019 after snap general elections, and in May 2021; and, in October 2019 she wore the State Diadem, while the Imperial State Crown was carried beside her.[22] Usually, it is taken to the Palace of Westminster under armed guard in its own carriage and placed in the Robing Room, where the monarch dons the Robe of State and puts on the crown before giving the speech to Parliament. If a State Opening occurs before a coronation, the crown is placed on a cushion beside the monarch. In 1689, one week after being proclaimed king, William III wore his crown in Parliament to pass the Crown and Parliament Recognition Act 1689.[23] When not in use, the Imperial State Crown is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Crown Jewels". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Vol. 211. United Kingdom: House of Commons. 16 July 1992. col. 944W.
  2. ^ Hoak, p. 59.
  3. ^ Steane, John (2003). The Archaeology of the Medieval English Monarchy. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-134-64159-8.
  4. ^ Hoak, pp. 55, 63.
  5. ^ Twining, Edward Francis (1960). A History of the Crown Jewels of Europe. Batsford. p. 139.
  6. ^ Loach, Jennifer; Bernard, G.W.; Williams, Penry (1999). Edward VI. Yale University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-300-07992-0.
  7. ^ a b Collins, Arthur Jefferies (1955). Jewels and Plate of Queen Elizabeth I: The inventory of 1574. Trustees of the British Museum. p. 266.
  8. ^ Millar, Oliver, ed. (1972). The Inventories and Valuations of the King's Goods, 1649–51. Walpole Society. p. 43. ISBN 095023740X.
  9. ^ "The King, the Crown, and the Colonel". The National Archives of the United Kingdom.
  10. ^ Keay, p. 126.
  11. ^ Mears; Thurley; Murphy, p. 29.
  12. ^ Tennant, Prof. (14 December 1861). "Queen Victoria's crown". Scientific American. 5 (24): 375.
  13. ^ "Crown jewels factsheet" (PDF). Historic Royal Palaces Agency. Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  14. ^ Mears, et al., p. 30.
  15. ^ Keay (2011), pp. 174–175.
  16. ^ "Frame of Queen Victoria's Imperial State Crown". Royal Collection Trust (
  17. ^ Keay, Anna (2011). The Crown Jewels: The official illustrated history. Thames & Hudson. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-500-51575-4.
  18. ^ "The Imperial State Crown". Royal Collection Trust. Inventory no. 31701.
  19. ^ Mears; Thurley; Murphy, p. 30.
  20. ^ Dixon-Smith, Sally; Edwards, Sebastian; Kilby, Sarah; Murphy, Clare; Souden, David; Spooner, Jane; Worsley, Lucy (2010). The Crown Jewels: Souvenir Guidebook. Historic Royal Palaces. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-873993-13-2..
  21. ^ The Royal Household. "The Royal Collection: The Crown Jewels". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015.
  22. ^ Shearing, Hazel (14 October 2019). "Queen's Speech: Why didn't the Queen wear her crown?". BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  23. ^ Twining, p. 173.


External links[edit]