It’s the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign this year, an excellent occasion to take a closer look at the British royalty of course. Today we’ll be admiring the jewellery that is typical for British monarchs, we’re talking about the crown jewels of course.
'Crown jewels' is actually a term that refers to more than just plain jewellery. Of course there are many crowns, but the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom also contain such prizes as jewelled swords used during coronations, orbs, sceptres and the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond.
St Edward’s Crown: the senior and most famous crown of the British royalty
When discussing the crowns of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom there is one that takes precedence over all others: St Edward’s Crown. This historical piece is the official coronation crown and was used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles II, George V and several other British monarchs. Due to its weight a majority of former monarchs have actually chosen not to be crowned with this piece of history, but it was often kept as part of the ceremony.
The history of St Edward’s Crown
The history of St Edward’s Crown is quite fascinating. It was worn at Christmas in 1065 by the famous St Edward the Confessor to whom this crown owes its name. It is rumoured the origins of this crown go even further back in British history as some say St Edward’s Crown incorporates parts of the crown of Alfred the Great who reigned in the 9th century.
Apart from its use as the coronation crown a two-dimensional form is also used as a symbol on many a coat of arms, military emblems, police badges and various logos indicating a relation to the British royalty.
The characteristics of St Edward’s Crown
The crown has undergone many transformations during its history. It has even been destroyed during the English Civil War and then recreated in 1661 for the coronation of King Charles II. Another interesting fact about the crown are the precious stones that are embedded within.
St Edward's Crown can hold 444 precious stones, but in the past they were actually hired rather than an actual part of the crown. The historical piece is thus the frame and not the diamonds, emeralds, … within. However in 1911 the jewels were set permanently, completing the crown for future generations.
The sceptres of the crown jewels
Another important part of the coronation of a British monarch are two sceptres: the Sceptre of the Dove and the Sceptre with the Cross. The former is a golden rod with bands of gemstones on it and an orb embedded on top. The Sceptre of the Dove represent the spiritual authority of the British monarch.
The Sceptre with the Cross is special for containing the Great Star of Africa, world’s largest diamond which weighs 530 carats. The Great Star of Africa was the largest part of the Cullinan I, the largest diamond ever found (3106.75 carats).
When both the Sceptre with the Cross and the Sceptre of the Dove are held by a British monarch, the St Edward’s crown will be placed and he or she will be crowned King or Queen of England.