The Crown Jewels

A world-famous, unique collection of sacred and ceremonial objects

Powerful symbols of monarchy

The Crown Jewels are a unique, priceless collection of crowns and other sacred and ceremonial objects, known as Coronation Regalia, displayed at the Tower of London.

A dazzling, historic collection

Kings and queens of England have stored crowns, robes, and other items of their ceremonial regalia at the Tower of London for over 600 years. Since the 17th century, this collection has been commonly known as the ‘Crown Jewels’. At the heart of the collection is the Coronation Regalia itself, a group of precious and highly symbolic objects used since 1661 to crown sovereigns of England.

Among the jewels adorning objects in this dazzling collection are some of the world’s most exceptional diamonds. The biggest are Cullinan I and Cullinan II, the largest top-quality cut diamonds in the world and the extraordinary historic Koh-i-Nûr diamond from India.

‘The most remarkable assemblage of jewellery in the world, still used in royal ceremony in a tradition dating back over a millennium’

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Illustration of King Charles II

Meltdown!

The Tower has always been a secure place to keep the nation’s valuables. But in 1649, after the Civil War and Charles I’s execution, the Coronation Regalia were brought to the Tower to be destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, determined to wipe out these symbols of monarchy. Precious stones were prised out of the crowns and sold, while the golden frames were sent to the Mint to be melted down and turned into coins stamped ‘Commonwealth of England’.

In 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne. A new set of coronation regalia had to be made, and Charles was crowned in splendour in 1661.

The Jewels in Danger

Despite all efforts to keep the Crown Jewels safe since 1649, there have been one or two near calamities

Theft!

In 1671 the mysterious ‘Colonel’ Blood and three accomplices attacked the Jewel House keeper, Talbot Edwards. They attempted to make off with the Orb, a crown and the Sceptre. The thieves were only thwarted when Edward’s son unexpectedly returned. Following the raid, the jewels were put behind bars with an armed guard.

Fire!

On the night of 31 October 1841, the Grand Storehouse directly adjacent to the Jewel Tower went up in flames. The cry went up to evacuate the Crown Jewels, but no one could find the key to the bars! Strong men wrenched apart the bars and the superintendent of police himself pulled the jewels safety in the nick of time.

 

‘… the crown and sceptres and rich plate, which … indeed is noble and I mightily pleased with it.’

Samuel Pepys, diarist, visiting the Crown Jewels for the first time in 1668

The Crown is down!

The Crown Jewels are immense valuable and highly symbolic. But they have not escaped some magnificent mishaps throughout their history.

A fashion plate showing Queen Victoria in 'Royal Robes', 1838

Queen Victoria’s Imperial State Crown fell from a cushion during the State Opening of Parliament in 1845. It hit the ground with a ‘great crash’.

William IV suffered severe toothache at his coronation in 1831. The pain was made worse by over 7lbs of Imperial State Crown pressing on his head.

Image: William IV(1765-1837) By Sir Martin Archer Shee - Royal Collection Trust