Often seen as some of the most precious jewels and artefacts the UK holds, the Crown Jewels are closely-guarded coronation staples – and even though you might want to get your hands on them, there’s absolutely no chance you’ll succeed! The Crown Jewels are world-famous, and while they might have been the subject of many a movie and TV plot centering around a heist or two, there’s actually more to the jewels than their incredible monetary value. Take a look below for 15 fascinating and interesting facts about the Crown Jewels.
1. The State Crown, the centrepiece of the Jewels, is said to hold one of the biggest diamonds on the planet. It’s said to weigh around 314 carats! It’s called the Second Star of Africa. Where’s the First Star of Africa? In the sceptre, of course!
2. Both Stars of Africa were cut from the same diamond, the Cullinan Diamond – which is thought to have been the biggest rough diamond ever discovered, weighing in at 3,906 carats.
3. The display of the Crown Jewels only really came into effect after the reign of Oliver Cromwell. The infamous Lord Protector, who of course helped to temporarily abolish the monarchy, had the original jewels and regalia melted down. Therefore, the current Jewels are in fact the second staple, and they’ve been given a full exhibition ever since.
4. In fact, there is one item in the original collection thought to have survived Cromwell’s wrath – and believe it or not, the sole survivor is a spoon! That’s because a private buyer – Clement Kynnersley – gave the artefact back to King Charles II when he regained the throne for the monarchy.
5. Believe it or not, it’s not the reigning monarchy who has ownership of the Crown Jewels. They technically belong to the State itself, which means that they are rented out to the Queen!
6. The Crown Jewels not only boasts headwear and sceptres, but also sapphires and cuffs – as well as the famous orb, which is a look that’s been borrowed and aped many, many times.
7. The Crown Jewels rarely stay on exhibition for long, as they are commonly moved out for special events and ceremonies. Such is the life of ceremonial jewels – they are carried to and fro through intensive guarding and patrol.
8. In fact, the Crown Jewels are largely held in the Tower of London and are looked after by beefeaters and yeomen who patrol the Tower.
9. Rental of the Crown Jewels, at least during the time of Queen Victoria, used to cost around four per cent of the assumed value.
10. King Edward VIII, who of course abdicated the throne in the late 1930s, actually took his crown with him when he decided to marry Wallis Simpson. The Prince of Wales Crown eventually made its way back to the main collection, though only after the King had died.
11. There is a crown in the collection which has only been worn once, and it was made for a very special occasion. The crown in question is the Delhi Durbar Crown, worn by King George V in honour of India’s inception into the realm in 1911.
12. In typical British fashion, the Crown Jewels were snuck away in biscuit tins to hide them from the Nazis during the Second World War! However, these weren’t on display in the kitchen – they were held in a secret chamber beneath Windsor Castle.
13. Queen Elizabeth II actually wore two different crowns at her own coronation – the St Edward’s Crown and the Imperial State Crown. While the former hasn’t been worn since coronation day, the Queen regularly wears the Imperial State Crown for Parliamentary openings.
14. There are only three people who are ever allowed to handle the Crown Jewels. One, of course, is the reigning monarch – and, of course, so is the Crown Jeweller. However, did you know that the Archbishop of Canterbury is also allowed to hold the Jewels?
15. Many have tried to make away with the Jewels and have failed. The closest call, it seems, occurred in 1672, when thieves trying to steal the collection were brought to justice before the Jewels could leave the Tower Wharf.