The Imperial State Crown

The Imperial State Crown. It was made in 1838 by Messrs. Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the then Crown Jewellers.

The Imperial State Crown. It was made in 1838 by Messrs. Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the then Crown Jewellers.

The Sovereign wears the Imperial State Crown on leaving Westminster Abbey after the coronation ceremony and also on all subsequent State occasions. As mentioned previously, it was made in 1838 for the coronation of Queen Victoria and is set with gems of striking magnificence and romantic interest.

Most conspicuous in the centre of the cross pвtйe is the balas-ruby known as the Black Prince’s ruby and traditionally given to him by Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile, as a tribute after the prince’s victory in 1367 at the battle of Najera. Pedro is said to have obtained it from the King of Granada, whom he murdered for the sake of his jewels. The Black Prince brought it back to England and probably wore it on the front of his helmet in battle. Later this ruby adorned the coronet surrounding the helmet of Henry V at the battle of Agincourt in 1415. It was added to the Crown Jewels by Henry VIII. The “rock ruby” sold during the Commonwealth to a “Mr. Cooke” for £15 is believed to have been this very jewel. Apparently it soon returned to the royal possession, for it is known to have been set in Charles IPs State Crown and later in that of his niece, Queen Mary II, who ruled as joint Sovereign with her husband, William III. Their coronation was unique as each was crowned as sovereign regnant in his and her own right. While King William used the State Crown worn by Charles II and James II, Queen Mary adopted as her own State Crown the one made for her stepmother, Mary Beatrice of Modena, second wife of James II, to which the Black Prince’s ruby was at this point transferred. (See also the Crown of Mary of Modena.)

Queen Mary II’s State Crown was later worn by her sister, Queen Anne, last of the House of Stuart, and also by George I, first of the House of Hanover, in preference to the old State Crown of Charles II. The latter came back into favour at the accession of George II, when the Black Prince’s ruby was evidently restored to it, and it was also worn by George III, after which it was broken up and the gems transferred to George IV’s new State Crown and later to the present State Crown. The ancient ruby has thus almost certainly taken pride of place in the State Crown of twenty generations of British sovereigns.

St. Edward’s sapphire in the diamond-encrusted cross patee surmounting the monde is of still older distinction. It is said to have been worn by Edward the Confessor in a ring about which there is a charming legend. The king was on his way to the consecration of a chapel dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, to whom he accorded a special devotion, when a beggar stopped him and in the saint’s name asked for alms. Having already given away all his money, the king took a precious ring from his finger and bestowed it on the supplicant. Towards the end of his reign two pilgrims came to him at his palace at Havering in Essex and handed him this same ring, saying that in the East they had met an old man, “white and hoary”, who told them he was St. John and that it was he who had received the ring in the guise of a beggar. He had handed it to them, bidding them return it to the donor with the message that soon the king should meet him in Paradise. The ring is said to have been on King Edward’s finger when he was buried a few months later and it is this holy relic that is represented by the ring received by the Sovereign during the coronation service.

There is a further story that when the Confessor’s tomb at Westminster was opened in the 12th century Abbot Lawrence removed the ring and presented it either to the king or to Westminster Abbey. The sapphire is believed to have been included in the Crown Jewels by Henry VIII and is generally accepted as having belonged to Edward the Confessor. It may have been the sapphire which was bought for £60 by a Mr. James Guinon during the Commonwealth.

Immediately below the Black Prince’s ruby is the second Star of Africa, a square stone of 317 carats, cut from the great Cullinan diamond. (See the Royal Sceptre with the Cross and Queen Mary’s Crown.) The very large sapphire set in the corresponding position at the back of the band (it can be seen reflected in the mirror behind the crown) is the Stuart sapphire, which has a long and obscure history. It is perhaps the jewel which was worn in the mitre of George Neville, Archbishop of York, and later confiscated by Edward IV, who mounted it in his State Crown. Like the Black Prince’s ruby and St. Edward’s sapphire, it was evidently preserved after being sold during the Commonwealth and was mounted in Charles II’s State Crown. When James II was deposed he took it with him to France, where he is supposed to have carried it about in his pocket. He bequeathed the gem to his son, Prince James Francis Edward, the “Old Pretender”, from whom it descended to the prince’s younger son, Henry Benedict, Cardinal York, the last of the Stuarts. The cardinal, who wore it in his mitre, sold it shortly before his death in 1807 to a Venetian merchant from whom it was bought for George Prince of Wales, later George IV. It was set in Queen Victoria’s new Imperial State Crown below the Black Prince’s ruby, from which position it was moved to the back and replaced by the Second Star of Africa about 1908.

Above the rim of the crown are four crosses patee alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, all heavily jewelled and set with emeralds and rubies. From each cross patee rises an arch set with diamonds and outlined with pearl acorns. From the intersection of the arches of the crown depend four large drop-shaped pearls known as Queen Elizabeth’s ear-rings. They are traditionally said to have been worn by Elizabeth I, but there is no evidence that she used any of her pearls in this manner. The royal lady who wore these pearls as ear-rings was possibly James I’s daughter, Elizabeth, Princess Palatine and Queen of Bohemia. A portrait of her in the National Portrait Gallery shows her so adorned, the. pearls being very similar to those in the Imperial State Crown. She returned to England after the Restoration and died there, and the four pearls may thus have again become part of the Crown Jewels, or she may have given them to her daughter Sophia, Electress of Hanover, mother of George I. There is a strong tradition that the pearls originally belonged to Mary Queen of Scots who, while she was a prisoner in Lochleven Castle, was dispossessed of her jewels by the Regent Moray. Some of the finest, including pearls of unsurpassed beauty, were sold to Elizabeth I for 12,000 crowns.

The Imperial State Crown contains, apart from the stones already men¬tioned, four rubies, eleven emeralds, seventeen sapphires, 277 pearls and over 3000 diamonds.

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