by Scott Mehl
© Unofficial Royalty 2023
The Imperial State Crown is worn by the Sovereign to depart Westminster Abbey after the Coronation service. It is also traditionally worn for the State Opening of Parliament, and placed atop a late Sovereign’s coffin at their lying-in-state and funeral (along with the Orb and Sceptre).
Following the Restoration, a new Imperial State Crown had to be made for King Charles II. Since then, there have been numerous versions of the crown. Queen Victoria’s Crown, made for her coronation in 1838, was also used for the coronations of King Edward VII (1902) and King George V (1911). The photo above shows the frame of Queen Victoria’s Crown, with the jewels removed, as well as the monde and cross which would have sat atop the arches. The current Imperial State Crown was made for the 1937 coronation of King George VI, and was modified slightly for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953), with the arches lowered to give a more feminine appearance. It was modified once again for the coronation of King Charles III (2023).
Designed by Garrard & Co., the Imperial State Crown contains over 3,100 jewels and precious stones, including 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. Some of the notable jewels in the crown are:
Cullinan II and Black Prince’s Ruby
The Cullinan II – often called the Second Star of Africa – is mounted on the front of the crown’s band, beneath the Black Prince’s Ruby. At 317.4 carats, it is one of the largest clear-cut diamonds in the world. It is cut from the famed Cullinan Diamond, which originally weighed 3,105 carats and was given to King Edward VII in 1907. (Read more about the Cullinan Diamond and it’s various stones HERE)
The 170 carat Black Prince’s Ruby (actually a spinel) is mounted on a cross patté on the front of the crown, just above the Cullinan II. According to legend, the stone was given to Edward, Prince of Wales (known as the Black Prince) in 1367 by King Pedro of Castile. It was later worn by King Henry V in his helmet at the Battle of Agincourt. A hole was drilled into the stone at some point, probably to allow the stone to be worn as a pendant. It was later filled with a small ruby. The stone was set in Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown (1838) and then in the same place on the current Imperial State Crown.
The Stuart Sapphire
The 104 carat Stuart Sapphire is mounted on the back of the crown’s band. It most likely belonged to King Charles II, and left England with James II fled to France after the Glorious Revolution. James II passed the stone to his son, James Stuart, who in turn bequeathed it to his own son, Henry Benedict – later Cardinal York. The sapphire, along with other Stuart relics, were sold, and later purchased by King George III in 1807, and returned to Britain.
It was set in the front of Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown (1838), just beneath the Black Prince’s Ruby. However, it was later moved to the back of the crown, to make way for the newly acquired Cullinan II in 1909. It maintains the same position in the current Imperial State Crown.
St. Edward’s Sapphire
St. Edward’s Sapphire, an octagonal rose-cut sapphire, is mounted in the center of the cross patté at the top of the crown. It is alleged to have originally been in the coronation ring of Edward the Confessor (later St. Edward), and taken from the ring when Edward’s remains were reinterred in Westminster Abbey in 1163. Since at least 1838, the Sapphire has been set in the Imperial State Crown – first in Queen Victoria’s 1838 crown, and then in the current crown.
Queen Elizabeth I’s Pearls
The four large pearls, suspended just beneath the monde, are often referred to as Queen Elizabeth’s earrings. Catherine de Medici received several pearls from Pope Clement VII upon her marriage to King Henri II of France in 1553. They were left to her daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, and then sold to, or acquired, by Queen Elizabeth I. Despite the legend, it is most likely that the pearls are from a later period, as at least two of them did not enter the Royal Collection until the 19th century.
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