The “Crown Jewels of England” is now considered today as an old term so it was revised to “Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom”. I cannot see anything wrong with the original name or any point of changing it. Besides, these precious treasures and antiques belonged to the past so in my own personal opinion, the original name is a lot more suitable.
According to Wikipedia, these precious crown jewels consists of “140 Royal Ceremonial Objects” that are currently being kept in the “Tower of London”. These are wearable objects purposely designed for the royal family to wear on special occasions such as coronation, parades, religious rites and etc… Some of the most valuable items includes the “regalia and vestments” that were often worn by the highest rulers which were the British kings and queens.
Regalia is more commonly known as “emblems or insignias” which are symbols representing the royal family. They are often marked on objects like the crown, scepter and jewelries. Along with many other items, they are safely being kept at the Tower of London. This is considered a “historic castle” which is situated at the “London Borough of Tower Hamlets” just exactly at the north bank of the River Thames right at the Central London.
The original purpose of the crown jewels of England was for the royal family to wear them during coronation events and then later, it became the symbol of monarchy for about 800 years. And throughout these period of years, it is the only working set of “sovereign’s coronation regalia” in the entire continent of Europe. When it comes to an international fame, it is currently the largest set of regalia that is known around the world.
There are a lot of varied symbols used on the crown jewels of England where each of these symbols denotes the particular role of the monarch or Head of the State. A good example was the Armills or bracelets that were purposely made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The symbols used has something to do with her role being the Head of the Commonwealth.
How old are the Crown Jewels of England?
Crowns were already being used in Britain since the ancient period of time. Currently, what’s on the record today are the relics that were discovered by the archaeologists inside the tomb of the “Mill Hill Warrior” back in 1988. These ancient relics composed of a sword, brooch, ceremonial shield, and well decorated crown made of bronze materials. Study shows that these objects dates between 200 and 150 BCE (Before the Common Era). Within this period, crowns were worn mostly by religious and military leaders symbolizing their power and authority.
The second ancient crown of England was discovered in the field of Hockwold cum Wilton, Norfolk in 1957. It is also made out of bronze material with symbols consisting of two arches and male faces. Study shows that this ancient relic dates back during the period of the Roman occupation. Thus, some experts claim that this bronze crown probably belonged to a priest. It was because in 43 CE (Common Era) or much more commonly known as “Roman Conquest of Britain”, priests continued their practice of wearing their crowns.
Better crowns and other wearable adornments with regalia used by the early monarchs of England was known to have started at the time of “Edward the Confessor”. He was the last “Anglo-Saxon kings of England” and considered as the last king of the “House of Wessex” where he reigned from 1042 to 1066. In the following “Tudor period”, they also followed the same practice. It was also common for the successors to inherit the state regalia from their predecessors. As a result, these objects got accumulated since new created items were also made.
Unfortunately, a tragic event occurred back in 1649. This was the year of the “English Civil War” where monarchy was abolished. Since the regalia were representations of monarchy, they were most likely sold or melted. So there all goes the early original crown jewels of England.
Somehow, there are four items that got mysteriously spared. One is the oldest “12th century Anointing Spoon”. While, the remaining three are swords dated to be around the 17th century old.
Moreover, the crown jewels of England got reborn due to the “Acts of Union 1707” passed by the Parliament of Scotland in 1707. This means that the British monarchs adopted the use of crown jewels. Thus, majority of the crown jewels in existence were aged or started from this period such as the 16 silver trumpets where experts claim to be around 1780 to 1848.
Crown Jewels Tower of London – Where are they being kept?
Many tourists from around the world are actually visiting the crown jewels of England. You might be surprised to know that these precious collections has been kept in “The Jewel House” Tower of London since the 14th century up until today.
So if you want to pay a visit, your target destination should be at the “Tower Hill Underground Station”. There are other two locations which are at the Monument and London Bridge but they are a walking distance away from your destination. And as already stated above, the Tower of London is situated adjacent to the Tower Bridge. Anyway, I best recommend to use Google map for directions.
Who Guards the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London?
If you think that you can just go inside The Jewel House and grab any of the crown jewels then run away with it, you are wrong. There are guards that are always on-duty and they are armed. Some call them as “Yeoman Warder” or simply “Yeoman Guards” but they are more popularly known as “Beefeaters”.
As ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London, they have been performing their duty for over 900 years now. Many tourists are also amused by their presence because they themselves have their own interesting performance. If you want to see their performance then you must come to the place at 09:00 in the morning to witness the “Ceremonial Opening”. At 15:00, the guards will march to collect “The Word”. Then at night is the “Ceremony of the Keys”.
The Ceremonial opening is always performed by the beefeaters in the morning before allowing anyone or the public to gain entrance inside the London Tower. When the time hits 09:00, the on-Duty Yeoman Warder accompanied by a military escort will open the Middle and Byward Tower. This completes the opening ceremony which mean that the public is now allowed for entry.
You are probably wondering about “The Word” that the guards need to collect at 15:00. This word is actually a secret code or password that only the staffs, residents and soldiers that are on duty knows about. It is also regularly changed on a daily basis.
Sadly, the Tower of London is not open for 24 hours. They closes down at night but before they do, the guards along with their Chief Yeoman Warder will perform Ceremony of the keys.
Who Stole the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London?
There were already several attempts by various individuals trying to steal the crown jewels of England from the tightly secured Tower of London. But throughout the history, the most popular person who managed to steal them was no other than “Colonel Thomas Blood”.
It all started on April or May 1671 when Blood commenced on his plan. He disguised himself as a parson with a wife when they first visited the Tower of London. While spectating the crowns on display, it was a part of their plan for Blood’s wife to cause a commotion by acting about having severe stomach pain. The Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards took the bait by tending to their needs. Edward’s wife even invited Blood and his wife into their apartment located just up the stairs. Then at a certain period of time, Blood and his wife thanked the old couple before they left.
Blood’s first plan was actually to get to know and draw a closer relationship to the Master of the Jewel House. So on the next day, Blood returned to the Tower but this time, to visit Edward and his wife giving them four pairs of white gloves as a huge thanks for their kind help. The trust grew even to a point that Mr. and Mrs. Edwards made an offer for Blood’s fictitious nephew to marry their daughter.
The second and final plan was carried out on May 9 1671 right at the apartment of the old Edwards couple. Blood had three companions where one of them was his fictitious nephew. Just to make it clear, the apartment was in the Martin Tower itself and at the basement, the jewels were kept behind the metal grille.
While waiting for the dinner that Mrs. Edwards was preparing, Blood convinced Mr. Edwards to show them the jewels. So when they went down into the basement, they knocked the poor old man down, tied and gag him before they started grabbing everything that they could to put inside their coats and bags.
The plan was almost perfect but the old man managed to woke up and loosen his gag allowing him to shout for an alarm. Thus, Blood and his accomplices went for an immediate escape trying to run towards the St. Catherine’s Gate where their horses were waiting for them. They managed to outwit most of the guards that confronted them on their way but not “Captain Beckman”. This legendary man captured all three of them before they can even reach the Iron Gate.
How Secure are the Crown Jewels today?
Thieves from the past like Thomas Blood got some chances of stealing the crown jewels of England. But today, thieves surely doesn’t stand a chance at all because these precious collections are now highly secured with the assistance of advance technologies.
There are literally over 100 hidden CCTV cameras scattered around the place. With these cameras, anyone who step foot at the Tower of London is closely observed by the security personnel. In case that the thief or thieves manages to find their way inside the storage room, the crown jewels is protected by a bombproof glass. Without proper tools, it would be impossible for the thieves to even lay a hands on the items.
And just like the old days, there are guards that are always on duty 24/7. These guards aren’t just like any other security guards around. They are elite security personnel with good military backgrounds. There are 22 Tower Guards from the British Army ordered by the Ministry of Defense to protect the Crown Jewels. And, an additional 38 Yeoman Warders who are ex-military personnel hired by the Historic Royal Palaces.
The Yeoman guards have a lot more responsibilities than the Tower guards especially during the day when there are many visitors. They are actually the ones who manages the crowd. Unlike the Tower Guards with assigned rotations, Yeoman Warders spend their entire time living inside the tower which must be pretty boring and lonely for them.
Interesting Facts about the Crown Jewels of England
Some of the interesting facts about the British crown jewels are already discussed above. Thus, they are not included from the list below.
1. During the coronation of George III, a large piece of diamond which is a part of the Imperial State Crown that he was about to wear just suddenly fell off. The people in-charge got extremely worried that someone might secretly took and hid it. Fortunately, no one did so it was eventually found after some troubling search.
2. Among all the crown jewels, there is one crown that holds a curse which is the Queen Mother’s crown that contain the “Koh-i-Noor diamond”. It is not actually the crown but it is the diamond that bears the curse. They say that the person whoever owns this diamond will own the world but also, there will be misfortunes. It is also known that the crown must only be worn by God or woman with impunity. This is the main reason why the Queen Mother’s crown can only be worn by female royal.
3. Perhaps one of the funniest coronation event involving the crown jewels was at the time of George VI wearing his St Edward’s Crown. An issue started when the king so as anybody else could hardly tell the difference between the front and the back of the crown. So the king placed some kind of red cotton at the back of the crown to avoid confusion. However, at the time of coronation, somebody took the marker off. As a result, the king wore the crown by mistake making the front as the back.
4. In 1845, a State Opening of Parliament was held. In-charge of carrying the Imperial State of Crown was the Duke of Argyll. He must have been too clumsy enough to let the precious crown slip out of his hands where it got crashed when it landed on the hard surface of the ground.
5. Some crowns are filled with many decorative pieces of precious objects which makes them so heavy. The coronation of William IV made him unfortunate to wear a heavy crown that it caused his aching tooth at a level of very excruciating pain.
6. Speaking about heavy crowns, there was one earlier crown that weighed over 7 lbs. But, it is no longer in existence because in the 1600s, monarchy was abolished by Oliver Cromwell where he ordered the crown jewels to be sold. Most heavy crowns in existence weigh about 2 to 5 pounds which is still a pain in the neck.
7. Somewhere in Africa back in 1905, a large diamond was discovered which was known as the “Cullinan Diamonds” weighing 3,601 carats. In 1907, the Transvaal Colony government bought this large precious gem and gave it to king Edward VII as a birthday present. It was later cut into several pieces where one of them became a part of the Imperial State Crown. This is the Cullinan II which sits just below the Black Prince’s Ruby set at the central panel. The Cullinan I which is the largest size is embedded on a scepter.
8. If you think that the reigning monarchs owns the crown jewels of England then you are completely wrong. It is actually owned by the State where they are only being lend to the Sovereign officials to wear it on special occasions.
9. Among all the crowns, the most important one is the St. Edward’s Crown that was originally made back in 1661 for Charles II’s coronation. The current queen is supposed to be wearing this crown but it is quite heavy for her. It is actually made of solid gold that weighs 5 pounds along with embedded 444 gemstones. Thus, the queen prefer to wear the second much lighter crown which is the Imperial State Crown.
10. During the WW2, at the time when the Nazis were rising into power, the Crown Jewels of England got securely hidden from a special place. A royal librarian revealed that they were secretly stored from a certain room found at 60 feet deep below the Windsor Castle. This room can only be accessed by using a very long ladder or perhaps a rope.
Uses of the Crown Jewels of England
St. Edward’s Crown
As already mentioned above, St. Edward’s Crown is the most important crown with significant role. It is actually regarded as the “official coronation crown”. So majority of the monarch wore it on their coronation except for Queen Victoria and Edward VII simply because of its weight.
Imperial State Crown
The most commonly used crown by the monarch is the Imperial State Crown. This crown is often worn by the monarch at the end of his or her coronation. It is also either worn or carried during the annual State of Opening Parliament.
Crown of Mary of Modena
This crown was used for coronation until the Crown of Queen Adelaide replaced it on 1831. There was really nothing wrong about this crown but it just happens that the monarch simply doesn’t like it. In 1838, the Modena crown was described as “extremely small” and already quite an antique, the main reason why it was no longer favored.
Crown of Queen Adelaide
Perhaps the most useless crown of all is the Crown of Queen Adelaide. It was used for Queen Adelaide’s coronation in 1831. But soon afterwards and for some unknown reason, all the jewels on it were emptied so the queen never wore it ever since.
Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown
This crown is not intended for coronation but often wore by the monarch at State Openings of Parliament as a replacement for the much heavier Imperial State Crown.
Imperial Crown of India
Currently, this crown is not being worn by the monarch. Its original purpose was for the proclamation of George V as the Emperor of India when he visited Delhi Durbar along with Queen Mary in 1911. Although, he was not crowned.
The Three Swords
The Crown Jewels of England includes three swords which are the Sword of Mercy (also known as “Curtana”), Sword of Spiritual Justice and the Sword of Temporal Justice. All three swords are used for coronations.
St. Edward’s Staff
This staff used to have a role in coronation events until the medieval age. Now, its purpose simply ends up as a display on the altar.
These 16 trumpets were originally made for Queen Victoria in1838 for her coronation. Today, they are no longer used because the band already have their own personal instruments to play.
There were a total of 16 maces but only 13 of them managed to survive to this date. When it comes to usage, only two of the maces are used for the State Openings and coronations.
The Ampulla is a hollow gold vessel shaped with some kind of bird spreading its wings out. Its first recorded event on the history was used as a display on the coronation of Henry IV in 1399.
The Spoon is the oldest item on the collection. Some speculation claim that it was probably used for mixing water and wine contained in a chalice. Today, it doesn’t have any use but merely for display.
The Crown Jewels of England also includes robes that were elegantly designed with “priestly connotations”. Although, most of the robes were destroyed or lost especially in 1911. In 1953, a new stole was made for Elizabeth II with attractive designs consisting of floral emblems.
Spur is a metallic object consisting of rotating spikes at one end and it is worn at the heels of the boots. As a part of the Crown Jewels, these items are made out of solid gold with beautiful engravings or markings. Kings wore it on their coronation as a symbol of being both the sovereign ruler and as a Commander-in-chief of the British Army.
Armills are huge bracelets that originated from the medieval period. Another more common term for it is “armlet” which is usually worn in pairs, one on the left and the other on the right. Just like most of the Crown Jewels, this items were worn by the monarch as a representation of sincerity and wisdom.
The first orb made was the “Globus Cruciger” which represents Christian symbol of authority during the middle ages. However, orbs were last used in 1689 at the joint coronation of Mary II and William III.
In 1831, all succeeding monarchs were given rings to wear. This symbolizes their “marriage to the nation”.
Scepters are one among the highly decorated items filled with many precious stone. Just like the crowns, scepters were also held by the monarchs at their coronations symbolizing their sovereignty or imperial authority.
How much are the Crown Jewels worth?
One of the most common and more specific question asked about the Crown Jewels of England is the worth value of the Imperial State Crown in today’s money. Unfortunately, nobody really knows while some experts claim that it’s priceless.
There are actually a total of 140 objects consisting of crowns, swords, altar plates and robes that composed the precious collections. In all of these objects, they are decorated with a total of 23,578 valuable stones. One of them is the largest clear cut diamond in the world known as the “Cullinan I”.
Again, all items on the collection are considered priceless but some experts estimated all the Crown Jewels to be worth more than 3 Billion pounds.
Are the Crown Jewels on Display Replicas?
There are a lot of individuals theorizing about the Crown Jewels of England displayed in the Tower of London as fakes or just replicas. To understand the theory a lot much better, you have to put yourself in a situation where you are the one who owns a collection of valuable treasures. Would you even want to display it for public view? Of course, if you value them too much then the answer is a huge “NO” unless you are going to trick the people by displaying copies while the real ones are stored somewhere safe.
On the other hand, majority of people are saying that the Crown Jewels on display are real because it is heavily guarded. Any attempt of stealing these precious collections will surely get caught. Aside from very tight security, some gem experts claim that there are optical qualities of a gem that cannot be faked.
Moreover, either real or fake, what really matter most is being able to see the actual appearances of these royal relic items.