The Jewels Of The British Monarchs
by Ms Nandita Ray
One of the vastly admired and appreciated collections of jewelry belongs to the British Royals. Infatuation and involvement with jewelry by the British Monarchs can be traced way back to the beginning of the Empire. However erotic excitement of beautifying oneself and establishing their exalted status led two consorts Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra create fantastic pieces of jewelry, which still remain to delight the wearer and the beholder.
Fascination with jewelry will never end. From the Pasha to the Lazarus the love for the beautiful baubles knows no boundary. Mortals leave behind their imperishable baubles for posterity to rejoice in. One of the vastly admired and appreciated collections of jewelry belongs to the British Royals. Infatuation and involvement with jewelry by the British Monarchs can be traced way back to the beginning of the Empire. However erotic excitement of beautifying oneself and establishing their exalted status led two consorts Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra create fantastic pieces of jewelry, which still remain to delight the wearer and the beholder.
The British Royal Jewelry consists of famed crowns, tiaras, necklaces, earrings, rings, bracelets, swords and peerless diamonds and rubies and emeralds, spoon, maces, spurs plate and medals. They are considered property of the Government and cannot be taken out of the country without permission. Some of them are stored in the Tower Of London for public display. This is because the Crown Jewels have had an exciting and riotous history of attempted thefts!
It is believed that King John lost the Crown Jewels in quick sand in 1216. While Edward the III pawned most of his jewels in order to pay his angry troops while fighting abroad. James wife pawned the Crown jewels at the beginning of a civil war in Holland. The attempted theft of the Crown Jewels by Col. Thomas Blood was bold and reckless. He was however apprehended at the East Gate of the Tower with the Crown and the Orb and one scepter. This attempt was in 1671. They were hidden underground during World War Two but the exact location was never disclosed.
Crown Jewels include the famous crowns, banqueting plates, insignia, robes, coronation spoon, Royal maces, the spurs and famous gems. All these jewels have a unique history behind them and most of them are still used in the coronation of the monarch. Britain is the only European country that has retained this ancient tradition. The racy and thrilling history that surrounds the jewels make them very interesting and appealing. Thus, a little information is imperative since it will go a long way to explain why they are held in such awe. After the execution of Charles the I, the crown jewels were “totally broken”. This was done in order to signify the removable and cessation of the “detestable rule of Kings”. Who else but the traitor Oliver Cromwell had this done! He was after all behind the king’s beheading. Some pieces were sold intact like the Coronation spoon and chain which were later returned to Charles the II. The gold that was smelted was made into coins and the precious stones sold separately.
When Charles the II ascended the throne he had the entire lost regalia remade at the cost of 12,185 pounds. They were used for his coronation in 1661. This was possible because a detailed record existed. The regalia consist of 2 of the Royal maces, 3 swords each representing Mercy, Spirituality and Justice, the St. Edwards Staff (1661) and the Sword Of State, symbolizing the Sovereign’s Royal authority. The Ampulla, made from solid gold with 600 precious stones and pearls embedded in it dating from 1661 is a golden flask which holds the holy oil. The anointing the spoon which is considered the oldest surviving item was probably made by Henry II or Richard I .The spurs also ancient, perhaps 1661, represent Knighthood, the gold bracelets representing sincerity and wisdom and the Sovereign’s Orb, which is set with precious stones and pearls for made for Charles I and cost him 1,150 pounds. The coronation ring is also considered very famous. It represents kingly dignity and was made in 1831 for William IV’s coronation. Scepter with the crown atop symbolizes the King’s ephemeral power while the one with the Dove atop symbolizes the king’s spiritual role. The bracelets in the Regalia are 11/2″wide and 21/2′ broad. They are made of solid gold and are lined with deep red velvet. The emblems of the three kingdoms and the symbol of France, Fleur de Lys are enameled on it.
Apart from these jewels used for ceremonies there are famous jewels of the Crown. These are seldom used and are generally stored away.
Edward the Confessor’s Sapphire
This sapphire which is set on the Maltese cross resting atop the Imperial State Crown was worn as a ring by Edward. He was buried with it in 1066. When his tomb was opened in 1101, the sapphire was taken and reset in a crown worn by Henry I.
The Timur Ruby
The Timur Ruby is a magnificent spinel and weighs 325.50 carats. It is inscribed with the names of the several (previous) owners who were all Mughal emperors.
The Agra Diamond
Original owner was the Maharaja of Gwalior a fancy pink (natural) color, cushion cut stone weighing 28.15 carats and 21.10 by 19.94 by 11.59mm. It was given to Humayun after the battle of Panipat. Babur wore it on his turban. When the English came to rule it was smuggled out by them and has been in their possession ever since.
The Imperial crown of India
The Imperial crown of India was first made for queen Victoria weighing 34.5 ounces and studded with 6000 diamonds was last worn by King George who wrote in his diary ‘ wearing it for 31/2 hours caused him great discomfort ‘. So he had a new Imperial crown made for his visit to Delhi, India which has 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. Famous stones in this crown are the Black Prince’s ruby, weighing 150 carats and 5cmlong and the Cullinan diamond also known as the Lesser Star of Africa.
The world’s largest cut diamond is now a part of the Royal scepter. While the famous Kohinoor diamond sits perkily on the Queen’s coronation crown which was once ‘valued at half the expense of the whole world’. It was also believed that Kohinoor ‘mountain of Light’ weighing 108.93 carats, was cursed. Male owners would suffer but female owners would rule the world.
St. Edwards Crown
St. Edwards Crown was made in 1661. It is made from pure gold and has four crosses pattee and four fleur-de-tris with two arches on top. It has 444 precious stones and the gold is supposed to have come from Edward the Confessor’s original crown and therefore carries his name. It weighs about 5 pounds.
The State Diadem
The State Diadem made in 1820 for the consort of King George the IV and was used for the coronation of Queen Victoria and Elizabeth the II.
Crown of Mary of Modena
Crown of Mary of Modena was the queen of James the II and her crown was worn by wives of the following Kings. By the twentieth century it needed renovation and Queen Alexandra the consort of Edward the VII added a new crown with more arches was added to it. However a new crown was made for queen Mary, consort of George the V in 1911.In 1937 the last new crown was made for Queen Elizabeth, the queen mother where the famous Kohinoor diamond was set.Queen Victoria wore a small diamond crown whenever she could as she preferred this to the Imperial crown.
The Cambridge and Delhi durbar Parure
The Cambridge and Delhi durbar Parure is a marvelous set of emerald jewelry that consists of necklace, rings, earrings, bracelet and an emerald diadem.
The Prince Albert Brooch
The Prince Albert Brooch is an enormous sapphire gifted to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert. This is a special gift since it was given to her a day before their wedding.
Queen Mary’s – largeruby earrings
Queen Mary’s – largeruby earrings with its deep red glow astounds the beholder.
The V shaped ruby and diamond bandeau collar
The present queen Elizabeth wore for her photograph on the front cover of the book The Jewels of Queen Elizabeth by Leslie Fields.
The Cullinan Diamonds
The famous diamond cut into smaller gems and gifted by the South African Government to the British Monarchy. It was cut into: –
Cullinan I which is also the second largest cut diamond in the world. It is also the largest of the nine stones cut from the original diamond. It weighs 530.20 carats. It is pear shaped and is 58.9 by 45 by 27.7 millimeters. It has 76 facets. It is set on the Royal Scepter and ii can be removed and used as a pendant. It is lionized as the “Star of Africa”.Cullinan II weighs 317.40 carats and is cushioned shaped and is set in the center front band of the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain.
Cullinan III weighs 94.40 carats and is pear shaped. As the norm goes it can be used as a pin and hangs from Cullinan IV.
Cullinan IV is cushion shaped and set in the crown and can be used as a pendant also. It weighs 60.60 carat.
Cullinan III and IV are known as the “Lesser Stars of Africa”.
Cullinan V weighs 18.80 carats and is triangular pear shaped diamond that is anchored in platinum and this brooch was a part of a very large stomacher that also carries the Cambridge emeralds. Each part of this stomacher can come apart and worn as an individual brooch. It is often worn by Queen Elizabeth II as a brooch.
Cullinan VI marquise cut stone weighing 11.50 carats. It was a gift from Edward to his wife to be Queen Alexandra a day before the wedding. Today Queen Elizabeth uses it as a drop pendant from her diamond and emerald necklace.
Cullinan VII is also marquise cut weighing 8.80 carats and is a piece of jewelry that can alternate as pin or pendant. Queen Mary added it as a pendant to the oval cushion Cullinan diamond VIII.
Cullinan VIII is cushion cut weighing 6.80 carats. It carries the Cullinan VII as a drop.
Cullinan IX is 4.39 carats pear shaped ring in prong setting and once belonged to Queen Mary wife of King Edward. It now belongs to Elizabeth the II.
Queen Mary’s photograph taken in 1919 shows her wearing a platinum and diamond pendant and chain have most of the 96 smaller pieces of the original Cullinan diamond. Queen Elizabeth who inherited this piece rarely wears this since it “gets into the soup”. The Cullinan diamond was presented to King Edward VII in 1908. He had Mr. Asscher to cut it into 9 major gemstones. After the 9 major pieces, 96 carats of unpolished gems were taken by Asscher as payment. They were eventually bought by the King himself. And thus Queen Mary started the process of consolidating them into jewelry for the Royal family.
Other Royal Jewelry
Caroline of Ansbach, consort of George I was a keen collector of jewelry especially cameos and intaglio pieces.
Queen Mary the consort of George V collected jade, lacquer, silver, enamels, rings and Faberge’ items which are part of the famous jewelry of the British Monarchy.
From the rule of Anne till the 20th century it was common to use hired jewels for the use in the crown and other pieces of jewelry during coronation only. Afterwards the gems were returned and the regalia was once again reset with plastic or false stones and set out for public display.
Britain is the only European monarchy that still uses its inherited Regalia. It has been in use since 1660.
When the Imperial State Crown is used, it is removed from its display case and a note is left behind saying “in use”.
The first endeavor to consolidate the jewels and safe keeping them was executed by Edward the Confessor in 1042-66. He stored it in the Westminster Abbey.
The Crown jewels have been locked in the Tower of London since the robbery in 1303.
After the restoration of Charles I, the regalia was kept locked up in the Tower and shown to visitors after payment of a “viewing fee”. This system is still continuing.
After the second attempted robbery an armed guard was appointed.
The visitors were locked in a windowless room as they saw the Regalia.
In 1994 a new block called the “Jewel House” was inaugurated by the present queen where the Crown Jewels are displayed.
The crown Jewels form one of the most famous and the most viewed collection in the world.
The Crown Jewels form a part of the National heritage and is held by the Sovereign.