You can now see a re-creation of Henry VIII’s crown displayed in the Royal Pew at Hampton Court Palace.
Made for either Henry VII or Henry VIII, the original was worn by Henry VIII at Hampton Court, particularly on the feast of Epiphany on 6 January, when he would process to the Chapel Royal in full regalia to offer gold, frankincense and myrrh, celebrating the visit of the three kings to the newborn Jesus. The crown was later used at the coronations of each of Henry VIII’s children.
As a potent symbol of power and religious authority, the original was melted down at the Tower of London in 1649 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, following the abolition of the monarchy.
This new permanent display is in the Royal Pew, allowing visitors to walk in the footsteps of Henry VIII, looking out across the magnificent Tudor ceiling as he did and seeing the spectacular crown displayed where Henry himself would have worn it.
The Royal Pew will be open 10:00-16:00 Monday-Saturday and 12:30-15:00 on Sundays (Chapel Royal opening hours are restricted on Sundays due to services).
Re-creating the crown
We have been able to re-create this object, so powerfully and personally associated with Henry VIII, thanks to very detailed inventories, written by his servants, which documented the construction of the crown and the size and position of each of the 344 rubies, sapphires, emeralds, diamonds and pearls and the five sculptures that decorate it.
We also had this portrait of Charles I painted by Daniel Mytens in 1631 which recorded clearly the shape of the crown and the patterns made by the hundreds of jewels and pearls.
Harry Collins, Crown Jeweller (2007-2012), and his team of skilled goldsmiths were able to take our research and, largely using the same techniques as their Tudor predecessors, have created a very accurate replica of the Tudor Crown Imperial.
The crown has been hand-crafted in silver gilt with fine metalwork detail – the original was made from 84oz of gold. The rubies, sapphires and emeralds, cultured pearls and rock crystal have been selected to reflect the colour and shape differences that we see in existing late medieval jewellery, ensuring that the crown looks as spectacular and authentic as possible. As well as the jewels, the crown is also set with four miniature sculptures of royal saints and one of the virgin and child. The royal saints were added by Henry VIII after the reformation to emphasise the King’s authority over the Church. A specialist sculptor has reproduced St George, St Edmund, St Edward the Confessor, Henry VI (venerated as a saint at this time) and the Virgin and Child in minute detail for our crown.
Image ©National Portrait Gallery