of the monarchy
, the most splendid of which are those of the English and British monarchs, housed under high security in the Jewel House
at the Tower of London
, and some of which are brought out for use at state occasions such as a coronation
Such a collection of regalia is very ancient; one of the crowns is known as St Edward's Crown, meaning it was that of King Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), though the Crown Jewels were broken up during the Commonwealth, on the orders of Oliver Cromwell; and the present St Edward's Crown is a new one made in 1661 by order of the restored King Charles II. Legend has it that the gold from the earlier crown was used.
Also part of Charles II's restoration regalia are the Orb and Sceptre. The Sovereign holds these as a symbol of their dominion during the Coronation. The Sceptre is of gold, 92 cm long, enamelled, and contains 393 precious stones including the 530-carat Cullinan I diamond. The golden Orb contains 600 stones.
There are numerous other objects such as the armils or bracelets, the ampulla from which holy oil is used to anoint the Sovereign at the Coronation, the Sword of State carried before the Sovereign, and so on. There is also the usual gaudy junk of big silver plates, robes, medals, and so on.
Their eventful history
King Edward the Confessor
might have had an assemblage of regalia. King John
(1199-1216) is said to have lost them in the great bay called The Wash
, as part of a baggage train avoiding his enemies. There was a theft from Westminster Abbey
in 1303 and they were moved to the Tower of London
. King Edward III
(1327-1377) pawned them to pay his troops.
1649 Broken up under the Commonwealth. 1660-1 Restored. On 9 May 1671 an Irish adventurer with the splendid title of Colonel Blood broke into the Tower disguised as a clergyman, almost killed the keeper of the jewels, and made off with the crown, while his accomplices were less successful. He was captured and the crown restored.
They had since the Restoration been viewable by visitors for a fee. A serious fire in 1841 led to the building of a new Jewel House with them openly on view in glass cases in 1842. This was replaced with new housing in 1868, 1967, and 1994. They really are worth seeing, breathtakingly huge and bejewelled.
The Honours of Scotland
There is a smaller collection of a similar nature in Edinburgh Castle
, the regalia of the independent Scottish
monarchy, and these had quite as turbulent a history.* The Scottish Crown Jewels are also known as the Honours of Scotland. The crown dates from before 1540, and the present collection together were first used for the coronation
of Mary Queen of Scots
in 1543. When James VI acceded to the English throne in 1603 and moved to London, the English jewels in London became the primary regalia, and the Scottish ones remained in Edinburgh Castle as a symbol.
With the overthrow of Charles I and the declaration of the republic in England, his son Charles II retreated to Scotland to try to hold out there. He was crowned king of Scotland at Scone, the traditional coronation place; but Edinburgh Castle fell and the jewels were besieged at Dunnottar, home of the Earl Marischal, the official in charge of coronations. Here they were eventually smuggled out down a cliff, and buried in a local church. Only with the Restoration in 1660 were they restored to Edinburgh.
When the two parliaments were united in 1707, forming the United Kingdom, the Scottish crown jewels were again neglected, and locked away, and effectively lost. It was not until 1818 that Sir Walter Scott went through Edinburgh Castle looking for them that they were again honoured and put on public display.
The last and by far the most ancient of the Honours of Scotland came home in 1996, after an absence of seven hundred years: the Stone of Destiny, on which Scottish kings had been crowned at Scone for centuries until it was seized by Edward I in 1296. Long before then it had been in Ireland, the Lia Fail, by legend the stone crowned with a pale fire, brought from the legendary city of Falias; and perhaps before that it had been the pillow of the patriarch Jacob. Future coronations in London will require the Stone of Destiny to be brought back to London for the occasion, but for now it's on display in Edinburgh.
* information on these from http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/Scotland-History/ScottishCrownJewels.htm