Diamonds Are a Royal’s Best Friend

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LONDON — On Saturday, King Charles III will be crowned Britain’s 40th monarch since 1066 and with his coronation comes a haul of jewelry, and royal regalia.

There will be crowns, a scepter, cross, sword, chair, and gold dish. There will also be a special edition of the Bible, a gold coach, spoon, armills (a type of medieval bracelet), spurs and holy oil.

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The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 19, 2022 saw a few of those items adorning the queen’s coffin.

Her casket was covered with the Royal Standard flag, which features the three gold lions for England, a red lion for Scotland and a harp for Ireland.

Sitting atop the flag was the Imperial State Crown, which is worn by monarchs at the end of coronation, on formal occasions, such as the State Opening of Parliament.

“The Queen’s Coronation 1953”
“The Queen’s Coronation 1953”

The crown features jewels from around the world, including the Cullinan II diamond, cut from the largest diamond in the world, which was discovered in 1905 in Cullinan, South Africa; and the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is actually a spinel. Until 1783, all red stones went by the name of rubies. The stone was given to King Edward III in 1376 by King Peter of Castile.

It also includes the Stuart Sapphire, which sits at the back of the crown, and St. Edward’s Sapphire, which is located in the middle of the cross on top of the crown. The latter is the oldest gemstone in the Royal Collection.

The Sovereign’s Scepter has been used at every coronation since 1661. However, in 1910 King George V added the Cullinan I diamond, the largest, colorless cut diamond in the world. The scepter is a symbol of the monarch’s power.

The orb and cross represent the power of God. It was first used by King Henry VIII in 1509 for his own coronation. The orb is adorned with 375 pearls, 365 diamonds, 18 rubies, nine emeralds, nine sapphires, one amethyst and a piece of glass.

During the coronation ceremony, the monarch wears the St. Edward’s Crown, which is only used to crown a new king or queen. Once the ceremony is over the monarch trades the St. Edward’s Crown for the Imperial State Crown.

“The St. Edward’s Crown is the crown without which the sovereign doesn’t become the sovereign,” said Carol Woolton, author and host of the podcast “If Jewels Could Talk.” The placing of the St. Edward’s Crown on the monarch’s head becomes the transformative moment.

“It was obviously made for King Charles II because all the royal regalia had been melted down by Oliver Cromwell [during the Interregnum]. This was made in roughly the same design as the medieval crown and they got back some of the stones that had been sold off to people,” Woolton added.

Cromwell had sold the crown during the English Civil War as a symbol of overruling monarchy; however, the monarchy was restored in 1660, with Charles II coming out of exile to rule.

In 1911, George V used the crown once again, for the first time in 200 years. He had it set with permanent stones rather than rented jewels.

Vintage illustration of the State Crown of Queen Mary, Consort of George V, part of the Crown Jewels of England (chromolithograph), 1919. The crown contains 2,200 diamonds, including the famous Koh-i-Noor, Cullinan III and Cullinan IV gems. (Photo by GraphicaArtis/Getty Images)
Queen Mary’s crown, containing 2,200 diamonds, including the famous Koh-i-Noor, Cullinan III and Cullinan IV gems.

Camilla, Queen Consort, will join her husband at the coronation wearing Queen Mary’s crown made by Garrard for the 1911 coronation, but it will not feature the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond from India, which is seen by many as a symbol of oppressive rule by the British Empire.

Camilla’s crown will instead be set with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds as a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who often wore them as brooches.

“The choice of Queen Mary’s crown by her majesty is the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the coronation of a consort instead of a new commission being made, in the interests of sustainability and efficiency,” according to Buckingham Palace.

Woolton said the decision to use an existing crown “is of vital importance, and true to King Charles’ sustainable, ‘make do and mend,’ mentality. She is using a crown from the past that will have been refitted for her head,” said Woolton.

Queen Mary’s crown is inspired by Queen Alexandra’s crown from 1902. Mary wore the crown to the coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937.

On Saturday, the king will also be touched by the sword that his late mother, Queen Elizabeth, used during his investiture as the Prince of Wales in 1969. The Sword of State will be present as the king takes to the High Altar and swears on the Bible.

A coronation is always a glittering affair, on the altar of Westminster Abbey and on the heads, necks and ceremonial sashes of female members of the royal family.

“If you look back at the history of coronations, the fashion is almost more like eveningwear, with spectacular gowns and huge numbers of really precious jewels,” said Bethan Holt, author of “The Queen: 70 Years of Majestic Style” and “The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade of Modern Royal Style.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22: Catherine, Princess of Wales during the State Banquet at Buckingham Palace on November 22, 2022 in London, England. This is the first state visit hosted by the UK with King Charles III as monarch, and the first state visit here by a South African leader since 2010. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Catherine, Princess of Wales during a state banquet at Buckingham Palace wearing Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara.

But given the cost of living crisis in the U.K., it’s likely that royal family members will dial down the bling, and opt for simpler pieces.

The British press has speculated that Catherine, Princess of Wales, may leave her tiara at home, and opt in for a floral headpiece to reflect the king’s love for nature and sustainability.

However, Woolton believes that the princess will wear one of Queen Elizabeth’s old tiaras — specifically Queen Mary’s Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara from 1893.

“It will align her with the queen. In a way that is what some of these royal jewels do,” is link the generations of royalty, and symbolize continuity, said Woolton.

There is another possibility. Catherine could nod to her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, by wearing Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot tiara, which has become her favorite, and was previously worn on several occasions by Diana.

Launch Gallery: Inside King Charles III Coronation

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