The Crown Jewels attract millions of visitors to the Tower of London every year. But did you know this...
The only item of coronation regalia to survive the destruction at the end of the Civil War was the Coronation Spoon. Clement Kynnersley, who had bought it at the 1649 sale, returned the unique 12th-century gold spoon back to King Charles II.
Until the reign of Queen Victoria, it was common practice for the gems in the Crown Jewels to be hired from the crown jeweller for the coronation for 4% of their value.
The Crown Jewels were stolen from the Jewel House in 1672. The thieves were disturbed during the crime and were wrestled to the ground with the crown, orb and sceptre hidden under their cloaks. After being repaired the jewels were returned to the Tower and kept safely behind bars.
At the end of the English Civil War the Council of State ordered the Crown Jewels be destroyed. Nearly all the pieces used for the coronation of King Charles I were taken to the Mint and melted down. They re-emerged as coinage and were used to pay the army that had defeated the king.
After her beloved Albert died, Queen Victoria went into mourning, and never wore the Imperial State Crown again. In 1871 the tiny Small Diamond Crown measuring less than 10cm across and set only with clear stones, was made for her instead. It was placed on her coffin at her death.
King James I’s wife, Anne of Denmark, enjoyed acting in Shakespeare’s plays performed at court, and borrowed items of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London to use as props. Sometimes pieces were returned broken.
Although the British Empire once extended over dozens of dominions, only one – India – had a new crown made for it, which King George V wore at the inaugural ceremony known as the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Set with over 6,000 gems, it has only ever been worn on that day.
Queen Caroline was not invited to her husband’s King George IV coronation in 1821; in fact, he went to considerable lengths to keep her away. But, the hapless queen still turned up on the day of the coronation and was turned away at the doors of Westminster Abbey by officials.
King Edward VIII abdicated from the throne in 1937 to marry Wallis Simpson, leaving Britain he took with him the Prince of Wales Crown, which he had worn at the coronation of his father in 1911. It was only returned to the Jewel House upon his death.