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Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Crown Jewels are the regalia used in the coronationss of Monarchs and at various other state occasions. They are held by the Sovereign and housed in the Tower of London.

The Crown Jewels include Crowns, Sceptres, Swords, Spurs, and various other elements. Upon the Restoration of Charles II, most of the regalia were remade in the same fashion as they formerly existed-most of which were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell when a Protectorate was established. However, the Crown Jewels predate this set; another group of Crown Jewels, for instance, was destroyed by King John near the inlet known as 'The Wash'.


There exist various Crowns in the collection of Crown Jewels, some of which are used by every Sovereign, others being made personally for Sovereigns or for Queens Consort.

St Edward's Crown was made in 1661. Made of gold, its design consists of four crosses pattee and four fleurs-de-lis, with two arches on top. Surmounting the arches is a jewelled cross pattee. The Crown includes 444 semi-precious stones. It is used through most of the coronation ceremony.

The Imperial State Crown was made in 1937 for King George VI, and was similar to another made in 1838 for Queen Victoria. The present Crown is made of gold and includes four crosses pattee and four fleurs-de-lis, with two arches on top, surmounted by a cross pattee. The Crown includes several jewels: 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies. Among the stones are several famous ones, including the Black Prince's Ruby (actually a spinel) and the Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Lesser Star of Africa. It is worn after the conclusion of the Coronation ceremony when the monarch leaves Westminster Abbey, and also at the annual State Opening of Parliament.

The Imperial Crown of India was created when King George V visited Delhi as Emperor of India. In order to prevent the pawning of the Crown Jewels, British law prohibited the removal of a Crown Jewel from the country. Thus, a new crown was made. Set with more than 6,000 diamonds, it was one of the heaviest crowns in the collection. It has since not been used.

Queens consort, that is, wives of Kings, received a new Crown during the coronations of their husbands. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother's crown, which she wore at the coronation of King George VI, included the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond. The Crown was also worn during Elizabeth II's coronation and rested on top of the Queen's casket during her funeral.

Almost by definition, every Monarch of England or Britain wore a crown.

The Orb and Sceptres

Queen Elizabeth wearing the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross and the Orb

Two Sceptres used by the Sovereign form a part of the regalia:

The Sceptre with the Cross, was made in 1661, and is so called because it is surmounted by a cross. In 1905, it was redesigned to incorporate the Cullinan I, also known as the Great Star of Africa, which at over 530 carats, is the largest cut diamond in the world. During the coronation, the monarch bears the Sceptre with the Cross in the right hand.

The Sceptre with the Dove, was also made in 1661, and atop it is a dove symbolising the Holy Ghost. While the Sceptre with the Cross is borne in the right hand, the Sceptre with the Dove is borne in the left one. At the same time as the Sovereign holds both Sceptres, he or she is crowned with St Edward's Crown.

The Sovereign's Orb is a hollow golden sphere made in 1661. There is a band of jewels running along the centre, and a half-band on the top hemisphere. Surmounting the orb is a jewelled Cross representing the Sovereign's role as Defender of the Faith. For a part of the coronation, it is borne in the Sovereign's right hand.


Five Swords are used during the coronation.

The Jewelled Sword of Offering was made for the Coronation of King George IV. Its jewels occur in the shapes of the floral symbols of the United Kingdom: the rose for England, the thistle for Scotland, and the shamrock for Ireland. It is the only sword actually presented to the Sovereign during the Coronation; the others are merely borne in front of the Sovereign.

The Sword of State is the largest sword in the collection, and is borne in front of the Monarch by the Lord Great Chamberlain both at the coronation and at the State Opening of Parliament.

There also exist the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice, and the Sword of Mercy, which has a blunt point.

It is certainly likely that most of the early Kings had swords, but probably doubtful if they saw it as part of their 'Crown Jewels'. It could be argued that King Arthur treated his swords-one of which was Excalibur as if it was a Crown Jewel, so Monarchs which post-date the telling of these legends probably did as well.

Other Elements

The Ring was made for William IV's coronation in 1831. Previously, each Sovereign received a new ring to symbolise their "marriage" to the nation, though no new rings have been used since 1831.

When the Sovereign is annoited by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the annoiting oil is poured from the Ampulla into the Annoiting Spoon. The Ampulla is a hollow gold vessel shaped like an Eagle, and the Spoon is a silver-gilt spoon set with pearls. Both were spared when Oliver Cromwell ordered the destruction of the new regalia; the Spoon, probably dating from the twelfth century, is thus the oldest element of the Regalia.

The Armills are gold bracelets said to symbolise sincerety and wisdom. Upon Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, a new set of gold armills was produced and presented on the behalf of various Commonwealth governments, namely: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Southern Rhodesia.

The Tower of London

The Crown Jewels have been kept at the Tower of London since 1303 after they were stolen from Westminster Abbey1. After the coronation of Charles II, they were locked away and shown for a viewing fee paid to a custodian. However, this arrangement ended when Colonel Thomas Blood stole the Crown Jewels after having bound and gagged the custodian. Thereafter, the Crown Jewels were kept in a part of the Tower known as Jewel House, where armed guards defend them.

1 These probably bear scant relation to the ones that Cromwell destroyed.

See Also