The Meaning Behind Queen Elizabeth II’s Imperial State Crown, Scepter and Orb

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LONDON — When it comes to the British royal family, there are customs and traditions for every occasion — and they all have a meaning.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has seen many of those practices revisited. One in particular has been the decoration of the queen’s coffin.

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

Sitting atop the flag was the Imperial State Crown, worn by monarchs at the end of coronation ceremonies to signal they’ve been crowned, as well at formal occasions such as the State Opening of Parliament.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign's Orb and Sceptre, during the State Funeral of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on September 19, 2022 in London, England.  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born in Bruton Street, Mayfair, London on 21 April 1926. She married Prince Philip in 1947 and ascended the throne of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth on 6 February 1952 after the death of her Father, King George VI. Queen Elizabeth II died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on September 8, 2022, and is succeeded by her eldest son, King Charles III. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.

The crown features jewels from around the world, including the Cullinan Il diamond, cut from the largest diamond in the world that was discovered in 1905 in Cullinan, South Africa; the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is actually a spinel, but until 1783 all red stones went by the name of rubies, and which was given to King Edward III in 1376 by King Peter of Castile; the Stuart Sapphire, which sits at the back of the crown after being moved to make space for the Cullinan Il, and St. Edward’s Sapphire, which is centered in the middle of the cross atop the crown and which 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 to it, which is the largest colorless cut diamond in the world. The scepter is a symbol of a monarch’s power.

The orb and cross represent the power of God and it’s a reminder to the monarch that their authority derives from above. It was first used by King Henry VIII in 1509 for his own coronation. The orb is heavily decorated with 375 pearls, 365 diamonds, 18 rubies, nine emeralds, nine sapphires, one amethyst and a piece of glass.

The Imperial State Crown, scepter and orb were all prevented from falling when atop of the coffin because there’s a mount attached to the casket under the flag. The mount was made by Colin Bowles, who holds a Royal Warrant.

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