No matter where in the world you live, you’ve probably heard about the Crown Jewels, but to most, this collection of precious metal and rare gemstones, still remains a bit of a mystery. That’s why, in this very short article, we thought we’d answer a few of the common questions people ask about the Crown Jewels, including:
If you enjoy reading the article, especially the short story about Thomas Bloods attempted heist (which you can skip to here), please pass it on, so others can find out the answers to some of the questions they might have about Britain’s most treasured and ‘working’, collection of jewels.
What are the Crown Jewels?
In articles like this, it’s usually best to start with the most obvious question – what exactly are the Crown Jewels?
Firstly, it’s important to state, we’re talking about the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom (formerly the Crown Jewels of England), as plenty of other countries also have Crown Jewels, including some parts of America.
The Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom are a collection of royal sacred and ceremonial objects, used for special occasions, including coronations, and other events, such as The State Opening of Parliament.
Kept in The Tower of London, it’s estimated that The Crown Jewels have been seen by 30 million + people, and are one of the most visited objects in the world!
Why are The Crown Jewels so important?
Apart from their monetary value, which we’ll talk about at the end of the article, the importance of The Crown Jewels comes down to what they represent – a turbulent history of monarchical rule, dating right back to William The Conqueror in 1066.
The Crown Jewels are also a vital part of Coronation and Investiture Ceremonies, used to symbolize, amongst other things, the passing of authority from one monarch to another, the Sovereigns temporal power under the cross, the Sovereigns Godly Power, and their spiritual role within the Kingdom.
What do The Crown Jewels consist of?
The Crown Jewels consist of a range of objects that have belonged to, and been worn by British monarchs throughout the Monarchy’s history, although most of the present collection dates back just 350 years, to when Charles II ascended the throne.
In the list below, we’ve picked out some of the more notable pieces in the Crown Jewels collection, and added a bit of history for context.
St. Edwards Crown
Weighing in at 2.23kg, St. Edwards Crown, with its solid gold frame is the heaviest of the crowns in the collection, and is a 1649 replica of the crown worn by Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century.
FYI – From 1661 to the early part of the 20th Century, all the gems in St. Edwards Crown were hired, and it wasn’t until 1911 that it was set with semi-precious stones.
The Sovereigns Orb
After the crowns, The Sovereigns Orb is perhaps the most memorable piece in The Crown Jewels collection, and with its cross and collection of original gemstones, dates back to around 1661.
FYI – The Sovereigns Orb represents ‘Godly Power’, and along with the Jewelled Sword of Offering, is an important feature in the Investiture part of the Coronation ceremony.
The Sovereign’s Sceptre & Rod
With the addition of the Cullinan I Diamond, the largest top quality cut white diamond in the world at 530.2 carats, and enamel dove symbolizing the Holy Ghost, The Sovereigns Sceptre and Rod are one of the most impressive pieces in the collection.
FYI – At the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, it was said that ‘the Sceptre controls uprising in the Kingdom, and the Rod gathers and confines those men who stray’.
The imperial State Crown
As one of the newest items in the collection, the recognizable Imperial State Crown contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and 4 rubies.
FYI – The Black Prince Ruby, set into the cross at the front of the Imperial State Crown, isn’t a real ruby, and was once owned by the ‘monstrous’ Pedro the Cruel.
Has anyone tried to steal The Crown Jewels?
Yes, and they would’ve got away with it, if it wasn’t for those ‘pesky’ Tower of London guards.
A Bloody Heist
His name was Thomas Blood. Born in County Meath in Ireland in 1618, Thomas came from an influential and wealthy family, which included a grandfather, who was an MP.
Growing up as a bit of a rogue, Blood fought in the English Civil War for Charles I, but then switched sides to the Roundheads when he realised Oliver Cromwell was going to win.
After his stint in the war, Blood somehow acquired the unofficial title of Colonel, a title which opened doors, including being made Justice of the Peace by Oliver Cromwell, and gaining a very large estate.
And… back to Ireland
Sadly for Blood, just seven years after becoming a loyal Cromwellian, Charles II returned to the throne, forcing Blood to make the journey back to Ireland with his wife and son.
Back in his homeland, Blood, true to his roguish ways, twice attempted to kidnap the Governor of Dublin Castle, Lord Ormand, with the help of two other frustrated Cromwellians.
With both attempts failing miserably, he turned his sights to a criminal scheme that would potentially be extremely profitable, but also extremely dangerous – stealing The Crown Jewels.
A plot worthy of a movie
To execute his plan, Blood disguised himself as a clergy member, and as ‘Parson’ Blood, tricked his way into the confidence of Keeper of the Jewels, Talbot Edwards, who lived in the Tower of London, on the floor above where the jewels were kept.
Shortly after ‘befriending’ Edwards, Blood and his wife visited his apartment, where Blood’s wife was ‘suddenly’ struck down with severe stomach cramps, meaning Blood and his wife would stay at the Edwards residence over the coming days.
This ‘unplanned’ stay, gave Blood the chance to further cement his relationship with Edwards, even offering to introduce his wealthy nephew to Edwards’ daughter. The friendship also got Blood a private viewing of the Crown Jewels, where Bloods scheme would take a bloody turn.
Once in the basement where the Crown Jewels were kept, Blood knocked Edwards unconscious, then stabbed him with his sword. With Edwards on the floor in agony, Blood seized the opportunity to steal the jewels.
But, as Blood made his getaway, jewels in hand, Edwards suddenly found the strength to call out for help. ‘Guard! Guards!’. Blood was caught, arrested, and put into custody, where he apparently told the guards, ‘I’ll answer to no one but the king himself.’
An unexpected twist
These were tough times, and punishments were harsh, especially for those attempting to steal from the king. But, in a complete twist of fate, King Charles II was actually amused at Bloods audacity, and instead of punishment, pardoned him, and awarded him land in Ireland worth £500 a year!
How much are the Crown Jewels worth today?
In Thomas Bloods time, the Crown Jewels were thought to be worth around £100,000. Today however, when added together, the estimated value is around £3.1 billion ($4 billion).
And surprisingly, the Crown Jewels aren’t insured…