The Crown Jewels
History of the Crown Jewels
The Crown Jewels are part of the Royal Collection and have been associated with the coronation of English kings and queens for a number of centuries.
- Late 11th century onwards - William the Conqueror stores royal treasure at the Tower
- Mid 14th century - Secret jewel chambers like that under St John's Chapel in the White Tower are used to store the monarchs' treasure
- 1649 - The Crown Jewels were seized by Parliament, following victory in the English Civil War
- 1661 - New regalia made after the Restoration for Charles II's coronation
- 1967 - The Crown Jewels were placed in the new Jewel House in the Waterloo Barracks
On 6 May 1671 Colonel Thomas Blood made a daring attempt to steal the Crown Jewels.
The former Keeper of the Jewels, Mr Talbot Edwards, recounted how Blood first visited the Tower three weeks before the robbery, disguised as a parson with his ‘wife’. Edwards showed his guests the Crown Jewels and invited them into his apartments.
A few days later Blood and his wife returned with a present of gloves for Mrs Edwards and a friendship developed. On the 6 May, Blood and three friends arrived for dinner and Edwards was persuaded to show them the Crown Jewels.
Edwards was brutally attacked, bound and gagged. Blood and his associates made off but the alarm was sounded and the thieves captured.
Audacity saved Blood. He would only confess to Charles II who pardoned him and even granted him Irish estates worth £500 a year.
The Cullinan Diamond
The monarchy continues to acquire jewels and these are housed in the Jewel House.
One of the most significant acquisitions was the Cullinan Diamond presented to Edward VII on his 66th birthday in November 1907. The diamond was a gift from the Prime Minister of the Transvaal in South Africa, General Louis Botha.
The diamond was cut into nine stones. The two largest, Cullinan I and II, were exhibited at the Tower of London as ‘The Star of Africa’ and the ‘Second Star of Africa’. Cullinan II was set in the front band of the Imperial State Crown. Cullinan I was inserted in the head of the Sovereign’s Sceptre.
The remainder of the stones (Cullinan III-IX) are part of the Queen’s personal collection.
*Images © courtesy of The Board of the Trustees of the Armouries
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