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Charles III and the British crowns

by Julie MIALET 05 May 2023

Secrets and history of the Tower of London Jewels


Charles the IIIrd will be the oldest monarch to be crowned this Saturday, May 6, 2023 at noon (French time). He inherited this role on September the 8th, 2022, the day Queen Elizabeth the IInd, his mother, died. She had been crowned on June the 2nd, 1953. It's been 70 years since British people attended a coronation. Camilla, his wife, will be crowned queen consort. The ceremony will take place at Westminster Abbey and will follow the Anglican rite, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This will be followed by two days of festivities including a royal concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday. May the 8th has been made a public holiday and will be dedicated to volunteer work.

Following a very strict protocol, the coronation regalia are: the St. Edward's Crown, the Imperial State Crown or Crown of State, The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and the Sovereign’s Orb. They are part of the crown jewels that are kept in the Tower of London.


The St. Edward's Crown was made by the silversmith Robert Vyner for King Charles the IInd in 1661 and was last worn by Elizabeth the IInd at her coronation. It’s only worn by the monarch during their coronation. It weighs 2.07 kilos. It is made of solid gold and is set with colored stones (rubies, amethysts, sapphires, yellow and colorless topazes, tourmalines, zircons, aquamarines and one peridot, one garnet and one spinel) and diamonds. It is also composed of a purple velvet toque with an ermine band. It has several symbols: four crosses pattées, four fleur-de-lys and two arches but also a small orb that represents the world topped by a cross.



Charles the IIIrd will also wear the Imperial State Crown to leave the abbey. It is usually worn during the opening ceremonies of parliament and is also placed on the coffin of the sovereigns.


It was created in 1937 for the coronation of King George the VIth (the father of Elizabeth the IInd) by the crown jeweler Garrard & Co. It weighs over a kilo and is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and four rubies. This crown also features a purple velvet toque with an ermine band. The St. Edward's sapphire is set at the top (it may have been worn as a ring by Edward the Confessor). The Cullinan II is also set on the crown, it’s the second largest colorless diamond cut from the largest rough diamond -of 3 106 carats- found to date -the Cullinan-. It was offered to the British crown by South Africa in 1905. Another extraordinary stone is present: the Stuart sapphire, it weighs 104 carats and its color is of a majestic blue. In the center of the crown sits the so-called Black Prince ruby, which turned out to be a spinel. It’s uncut, weighs 170 carats and is of an exceptionally bright red. Richard the IIIrd would have worn it during the battle of Azincourt in 1415. This gem also escaped the theft of the jewels by Colonel Blood in 1671 and the Tower of London fire of 1841.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross was made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles the IInd. In 1911 the sceptre was redesigned to allow the addition of the Cullinan I, a pear-shaped diamond that is the largest colorless diamond in the world -530.2 carats-. This modification was also made by the royal jeweler Garrard & Co. 


The Sovereign’s Orb is a representation of the royal power and the Christian world (via a cross on top of the globe). This object made of gold weighs 1.32 kilos and is set with emeralds, rubies, sapphires, pearls and diamonds.


Elizabeth the IInd wore many crowns during her reign and particularly the following: the Burmese ruby tiara (she wore it at meetings with political figures), the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara (she wore it for her wedding to Prince Philip), The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara made by the jeweler Garrard & Co (she received it as a wedding gift and it was the one she wore the most), the Vladimir (Circle) Tiara (which she adorned with pearls or emeralds), the Coronation Crown of Georges IV (it has been worn by all queens and consort queens since 1820). Elizabeth the IInd wore it on the day of her coronation but also at some ceremonies of opening of the Parliament.


The queen Consort Camilla will wear the Queen Mary’s crown but without the Koh-i-Noor (a famous but controversial diamond), it’s one of the only times that a Queen Consort will wear a previously used crown and not a new one made for the crowning.



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