The Crown Jewels are displayed at the Jewel House in the Tower of London and can be viewed there by the public.
The coronation of a new sovereign is one of the monarchy's most glittering pageants, staged in the gothic splendour of ancient Westminster Abbey, where every King and Queen of England, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII, has been crowned since King Harold II in 1066. This time honoured ritual emphasizes the continuity and majesty of the British monarchy.
The oldest items in the present coronation regalia date from the Restoration, when they were made for the coronation of King Charles II. The original Crown Jewels were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell following the execution of Charles I in 1649, as they were then considered to be redundant. In an appalling act of historical vandalism, Cromwell had the entire collection sold or melted down and made into coin. Many of these irreplaceable and historic pieces, collected over the centuries, were Saxon or Medieval and included Alfred the Great's State Crown and the eleventh century crown of Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor.
There is no certain depiction of the most precious item of the collection, the Crown of St.Edward the Confessor, ( re-named King Alfred's crown after the Reformation). We know the appearance of the State Crown of Henry VII, which shared their fate, as it is depicted in some of the portraits Charles I, by Daniel Mytens and Van Dyck. There were also various sceptres, swords, coronets, rings and an Anglo-Saxon comb, Some of the pieces were probably reclaimed burial regalia, including those stripped from the rich shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey by Henry VIII. Various medieval garments used in past coronation ceremonies were also sold off at the time, an irreparable loss.
The only item in the present collection to survive the Commonwealth is the golden Ampulla and spoon. The Ampulla is used in the coronation ceremony to annoint the monarch's head palms and breast with holy oil.
The Imperial Crown of State contains the principal surviving historic jewels, which were recovered at the time of the Restoration. These include Edward the Confessor's sapphire, which is set in a Maltese cross at the top of the crown. This sapphire was once part of a ring owned by Edward the Confessor, which was buried with him in 1066. In 1101, when his shrine was opened and the ring removed, the sapphire was re-set in a crown worn by Henry I. The ruby which adorns the centre of the Crown of State has a rich and dramatic history. It once belonged to a King of Granada, who was murdered by Pedro the Cruel, King of Castille. He presented it to Edward, the Black Prince, in gratitude for his military assistance at the Battle of Navaretto in 1367. It was inherited by Edward's son, Richard II. Richard had it in his possession when he surrendered to his cousin, the future Henry IV, at Flint, Wales in 1399. Henry later usurped the throne and Richard was murdered. Henry's son, Henry V, wore this ruby in the crown he wore around his helmet at the Battle of Agincourt, a bejewelled gold fleuron was struck off this same crown during the battle and lost. The ruby was similarly worn in the crown of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. When Richard was killed during the fighting it famously rolled under a hawthorn bush to be retrieved by Lord Stanley and placed on the head of the victorious Henry Tudor. The Imperial Crown of State also contains pearls worn as earrings by Elizabeth I, these are suspended from the arches of the crown. Within the wide jewel encrusted band that forms the base of the Crown of State is mounted an enormous diamond, named the Second Star of Africa. This was cut from the famous Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever mined, it was given to Edward VII, who had it set in the crown. This priceless crown contains in all 2,783 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 277 pearls, 11, emeralds and 5 rubies.
The sovereign is always crowned with St. Edward's crown. This is a golden crown encrusted with diamonds, rubies, pearls, emeralds and sapphires. It replaced the one destroyed by Cromwell. The crown has been used in the coronation of every British Monarch since Queen Victoria, by whom it was considered too heavy, she was crowned with the lighter State Crown.
One of the most impressive of the crowns on display at the Tower of London is the crown made for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This contains the legendary Koh-i-noor, or Mountain of Light diamond. Indian in origin, its history can be traced to the thirteenth century. It was presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company in 1850. A legend clings to it that it brings good luck to any woman that wears it, but disaster to any man and many of the men that have owned it have met a violent end. The Imperial Crown of India was made for the visit of King George V to Delhi as Emperor of India. It is set with more than 6,000 diamonds with rubies, sapphires and emeralds.
The George IV State Diadem was made for the coronation of George IV in 1820, designed to encircle the velvet cap worn by the king on his journey to Westminster Abbey. The diadem was worn by Queen Victoria at her coronation, when it was reset with jewels to replace those hired by George IV. It is composed of four diamond pave set cross pattee alternating with four bouquets of rose, shamrock and thistle. The front cross pattee is set with a four carat canary coloured diamond. It was left by Queen Victoria in her will to the crown and is often worn by the present queen at the State Opening of Parliament.
The largest cut diamond in the world is contained in the Royal Sceptre with the Cross. Made of gold and three feet in length, it also contains an enormous amethyst and a superb emerald. There are several other sceptres contained in the Crown Jewels.
The Orb, a golden globe topped by a diamond encrusted cross dates to 1661 for the coronation of Charles II and is symbolic of the world ruled by Christianity, it is held in the monarch's left hand during the coronation ceremony. The jeweled cross which surmounts the orb reflects the monarch's title of Defender of the Faith. A smaller orb was made in 1689 for the joint coronation of William III and Mary II.
The jewels additionally contain five Swords of State, three of which are the Great Sword of State, the Sword of Justice and the Sword of Mercy, all of which are used in the coronation ceremony. They are traditionally carried before the monarch as he/she enters Westminster Abbey. The Armills are gold bracelets which are meant to symbolize sincerity and wisdom There are also maces, a Queens orb, sixteen silver state trumpets and a variety of banqueting plate used in the coronation ceremony, which also form part of this priceless and unique collection.
There has been one near successful attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, this took place in 1671 and was masterminded by Colonel Blood. Blood was an Irish adventurer, who already had several daring exploits to his discredit, one of which was a plot to seize Dublin Castle. At the time of the Restoration his lands had been confiscated, leaving him bitter and penniless. Blood's plan commenced by making himself familiar to the Assistant Keeper of the Jewels, a seventy-six year old ex-soldier called Talbot Edwards who lived with his wife and family in the Martin Tower at the Tower of London. To supplement his wages, Talbot was allowed to show the jewels to visitors for a fee. Dressed convincingly as a parson, Blood came accompanied with a woman whom he addressed as his wife. She expressed a wish to see the crown and Edwards obliged. At this time the jewels were stored in a cupboard behind a wired grille in the Martin Tower. Having seen the jewels, the lady was seized with a violently upset stomach. This gained the pair admission to Edwards' private apartments, where the kindly Edwards lead them and allowed her to recuperate on a bed.
The 'parson' returned a few days later, bringing a gift of a pair of gloves as a gesture of thanks to Mrs Edwards, he was warmly received by the unsuspecting couple and invited to call again. The next time he did, Blood remarked that the Edwards had a daughter of marriageable age and raised the possibility that a marriage could be arranged between her and a nephew of his, whom, to whet their appetite, he added, was possessed of three hundred a year in land. The gullible Edwards' expressed themselves very interested and invited their visitor to come for dinner a few days later. During his following visit, Blood piously said grace over the meal and expressed his admiration for a case of pistols, which he persuaded Edwards to sell to him. He arranged to return with the prospective husband on the morning of 9th May. He duly arrived on the appointed day, accompanied by his 'nephew' (in reality his son.) and two others, whom he introduced as friends. His wife would be arriving soon, he explained and in the meantime, to while away the time, he suggested that Edwards showed them the jewels. As Edwards reached the bottom of the stairs, he was overwhelmed and gagged. The old man struggled to free himself and made as much noise as he could. He was knocked about the head with a mallet, bravely, he continued to vigourously resist until one of the villains stabbed him in the stomach.
They then set to work removing the regalia from the cupboard and concealing them under their clothing. Blood himself crushed the crown to make it less conspicuous under his parsons cloak. Just as it looked likely that their audacious plan was likely to succeed, Edwards' son returned unexpectedly and raised the alarm. The gang was captured as they tried to get away and all the jewels recovered. Edwards was promised a reward of two hundred pounds but never received it, the unfortunate man died of his wounds shortly after. Blood himself fared much better, King Charles II, intrigued by accounts of his exploits, wished to see the famous rogue. Disarmingly, he was never punished and was restored to his confiscated estates in Ireland, which lead to whispers that the merry monarch himself was involved in the plot in some underhand way. John Evelyn gathered that Colonel Blood had been taken into the Kings service as a spy. King Charles II
The Scottish Crown Jewels are referred to as the Honours of Scotland. They are the oldest surviving regalia in Britain and consist of a crown, a sword and a sceptre.
The crown dates from 1540 and was made from Scottish gold melted down from a previous crown. It was first used when James V wore it for the coronation of his second Queen, Marie of Guise. It is encrusted with 20 precious stones and 22 and gemstones, along with Scottish freshwater pearls.James V The silver-gilt sceptre is the oldest item in the Scottish regalia, made in 1494, it was presented to James V by Pope Alexander VI, it was remodelled and lengthened in 1556. The sword of state was presented to James IV by Pope Julius II in 1507 and is of superb Italian craftsmanship. Its handle is silver gilt, richly decorated with oak leaves and acorns. The break in the blade of the sword occurred when it was snapped in two in 1652, while being hidden from Cromwell's troops. The scabbard is covered in red velvet, richly decorated with filigree work of silver. the belt is of silk and gold thread. James IV
The regalia were first used together at the coronation of the infant Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. The last occasion on which they were used was the coronation of Charles II as King of Scots, at Scone on 1st January, 1651. Mary Queen of Scots During Oliver Cromwell's occupation of Scotland, the jewels were hid at Dunnotar Castle, Cromwell had already notoriously melted down the English Crown Jewels. When Cromwell's troops pursued them there, the regalia were smuggled out in a bag and taken to the church at Kinneff. There they were entrusted into the care of a clergyman named Grainger, who buried them under the pulpit. Under the terms of the Treaty of Union in 1707 the Crown Jewels were retained at Edinburgh Castle, where they were locked up in an oak chest. Forgotten for over 100 years, they were rediscovered in 1818, one of those present at the opening of the chest was the author Sir Walter Scott. They were put on display to the public at Edinburgh castle along with the Stewart and Lorne jewels. They were joined, on St. Andrew's day, 30th October, 1996, by the ancient Stone of Destiny, returned to Scotland after 700 years. Generations of Scotland's sovereigns, from the 9th century, had been crowned upon the stone. In 1296 it had been taken and carried to England by Edward I, who had a coronation chair made for it in Westminster Abbey. All subsequent Kings of England were then crowned seated over it. Agreement was finally reached to return the stone to it's country of origin.Stone of Destiny
Other jewels on display at Edinburgh Castle include the Stewart and Lorne Jewels. The Lorne Jewel is a necklace with a pendant and locket. The Stewart Jewels, the jewels associated with the Stewart dynasty, consist of a ruby ring, a collar of the Order of the Garter and the St. Andrew Jewel. The St. Andrew Jewel was made for James VII and II in 1687- 88. It has a cameo of St. Andrew with a saltire and a thistle and is surrounded by twelve diamonds. James VII and II They were taken to France in James' possession when he fled the throne before the armies of William of Orange in 1688. They continued to be passed down in the Stuart family, their last owner being James younger grandson, Henry, Cardinal York the last of the luckless Stuart dynasty. On his death in 1807, he bequeathed the jewels to George III, to ensure their return to Britain. On 8th December, 1830, William IV had the jewels housed at Edinburgh Castle. William of OrangeHenry, Cardinal York
The honours of the principality of Wales are the Crown Jewels used at the investiture of the Princes of Wales. They include a coronet, a rod, a ring, a sword and a mantle. Amongst them is the crown made in 1728, for Frederick Lewis, the son of George II, who predeceased his father. A new set of insignia was made for the 1911 investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII. Made from Welsh gold with the Welsh dragon pictured on the ring, the rod and the sword
These were re-used at the investiture of Prince Charles in 1969, although a new crown was made for the occasion. Made by a technique of applying gold to a resin base, it has four crosses and four fleur de lis, in keeping with the design issued by a warrant of Charles II in 1672. ROYAL ORDERS The Order of the Garter is the world's most ancient order of chivalry and was founded by King Edward III.
The origins of the Garter as the order's emblem and for its motto, Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense, will probably never be ascertained with certainty, but legend relates that it began at a ball, when Edward III's dancing partner, perhaps Joan, Countess of Salisbury, dropped her garter to her great embarrassment. The King is said to have chivalrously retrieved it and tied it round his own leg, uttering in French "Evil to him who thinks evil of it". The patron saint of the Order is St. George and its home St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The sovereign alone can grant membership. For ceremonial occasions, members wear the full vestments of the Order. A dark blue mantle or cloak, lined with white taffeta, with a red hood. The mantle bears the shield of St. George's Cross. The Garter Star is pinned to the left side of the chest, it is an enamelled heraldic shield of St. George's Cross encircled by a garter, whic is encircled by an eight point silver badge. A black velvet hat decorated with white ostrich and black heron feathers is also worn. The gold collar bears knots and enamelled medallions showing a rose encircled by the garter. The George, an enamelled figure of St. George and the dragon is worn suspended from the collar. The ribbon, a wide blue sash, is worn over the left shoulder to the right hip. On its base is a badge showing St. George and the dragon. The garter itself, a buckled dark blue velvet strap with the motto of the Order is worn on the left calf by knights and the left arm by ladies. The Order of the Bath is the fourth most senior order of chivalry in Britain. It was founded by King George I on 18th May, 1725. The name derives from the ancient ceremony whereby applicants for knighthood took part in a ceremonial vigil of fasting, prayer and bathing prior to being ordained.
The motto of the order, Tria iuncta in uno (Three joined in to one) is perhaps a reference to the trinity or alternatively the union of England, Scotland and Ireland. The chapel of the Order is the Henry VII Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey. The mantle is of crimson satin, lined with white taffeta, on its left side the star of the Order. A hat of black velvet is worn bearing a plume of feathers. The collar is made of gold with nine imperial crowns and sets of flowers, English roses, Scottish thistles and Irish shamrocks. The badge is of varied design, the Star given to Military Knights and Dames Grand Cross is a maltese cross on top of an eight pointed star. For Military Knights and Dames Commander it is an eight pointed silver cross pattee. Both bear three crowns at the centre surrounded by a red ring on which is written the motto of the Order. The outside of the circle is adorned with leaves of laurel, below it is a scroll on which is written the words Ich Dien ( I serve). Civil Knights and Dames Grand Cross wear an eight pointed star from which the maltese cross is absent. The star for Civil Knights and Dames Commander is an eight pointed silver cross pattee, with the laurel leaves and the motto omitted.
The Order of the Thistle consists of the sovereign and sixteen knights and ladies, as well as extra knights. The patron saint of the order is St. Andrew and its motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (No one provokes me with impunity) It is the second most senior order of chivalry in Britain. The foundation date of the Order lies obscured by the mists of time. Some accounts credit it as being founded on the battlefield of Bannockburn by the great Robert the Bruce. Others claim it was established by James V in 1540. James II issued letters patent "reviving and restoring the Order of the Thistle to its full glory, lustre and magnificency" in 1687. The Chapel of the Order was the Abbey Church at the Palace of Holyrood House, After the destruction of this chapel, for many years the Order possessed none, until one was added to St. Giles High Kirk, Edinburgh in 1911.
The order's cloak is green lined with white taffeta, with green and gold tassels. The star is worn on the left shoulder, the hat is black with white osprey feathers. The badge of the Order of the Thistle, the St. Andrew is hung from a gold collar, it bears a gold enamelled picture of St. Andrew, wearing a green gown and purple cloak and holding a white saltire. The star of the Order of the Thistle is silver, with St. Andrew's saltire and clusters of rays. In the centre is a green circle bearing the motto in gold, inside the circle is a thistle on a gold background. The star is worn pinned to the left side of the chest. A dark green sash is worn across the body from the left shoulder to the right hip. The badge of the order is attached to a ribbon on the right hip. On its adverse side St. Andrew is depicted, on the reverse, a thistle on a green ground surrounded with the motto.