The Crown Jewels reside under armed guard in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.
Over 30 million people have seen them in their present setting at the Tower. They are possibly the most visited objects in Britain, perhaps the world.
It’s such a unique working collection of royal regalia with some still being used by The Queen for important national ceremonies, such as the State Opening of Parliament. Others are only used at a monarch’s coronation.
Since 1066, coronation ceremonies have taken place in Westminster Abbey which was founded by Edward the Confessor. The displays examine how the royal regalia are used during the ceremony and explore the symbolism of each object.
The Civil Wars that began in 1642 effectively ended with the execution of Charles I in 1649. After the execution of Charles I many of the Crown Jewels were sold or destroyed in an effectively removing all sacred symbols of monarchy. Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell ordered that the orb and sceptres should be broken as they stood for the ‘detestable rule of kings’. The Coronation Regalia were brought to the Tower to be destroyed by order of Parliament, which ordered that the highly symbolic Coronation Regalia, be ‘totallie Broken and defaced’.
Precious stones were prised out of the crowns and sold, while the gold frames were sent to the Tower Mint to be melted down and turned into coins stamped ‘Commonwealth of England’. These 1649 coins were produced that followed Cromwell’s Puritan beliefs. The wording appeared in English rather than Latin, the monarch’s portraiture was abandoned resulting in a very heraldic coin, bearing the cross of St George on both sides.
Listen to Hazel discuss with London junkie Zoe Merritt some of the unknown details of the Crown Jewels in our London History Podcast Episode 4: The Crown Jewels .