Magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower
The magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are the most famous of British treasures. The Jewels are unique, embodying skilled craftsmanship, and is a collection of priceless objects collected since the 1660 Reformation, although some predates this particular period of English history. The collection of Jewels are used in royal ceremonies. Beyond the ceremonies, the Jewels represent religious, cultural and historical significance of the British Monarchy. These precious gems stay protected under the watchful eye of the Yeoman Warders within the walls of the most secure castle in the land, the Tower of London. In this article, you can take a peek at a selection of these famous and magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower and learn of its historical significance.
A little background to the Tower of London
The Tower of London is an internationally famous monument and a landmark in Britain. The thousand year old castle in the center of the City of London is famously known as a ‘fortress, royal palace and a prison’. The Tower was founded in the eleventh century following the conquest of William the Conqueror in 1066, to demonstrate the strength of the Normans. Building a fortress, the White Tower on the banks of River Thames was a strategic decision, both to protect the City of London from attacks and as a gateway to the City.
Collectively, the Tower of London has twenty-one towers, built around the White Tower which is a symbol of royalty. Constructed over the centuries, primarily between the eleventh and sixteenth century, the Tower encompasses layers and layers of defensive structures to protect the City. The Tower of London has also been the setting for key historical events such as the execution of three English queens, missing young princes and notable high-status prisoners.
While gruesome tales surrounds this iconic landmark, the Tower of London is a typical model of a medieval fortress, an eleventh century Norman military architecture still standing complete, earning itself a UNESCO listed building for its Outstanding Universal Value badge.
The grounds of the Tower are home to some outstanding buildings as well. Notable ones are the Fusilier Museum, the Jewel House in the Waterloo block, Queen’s House and the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula.
Learn more about this UNESCO complex from the Best Guide to the Tower of London, that has everything you need to know for your visit.
1. #The Jewel House | Magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
The Jewel House is an extraordinary 14th century vault in the Waterloo block. Also known as the Jewel Tower, it was built between 1365 and 1366 which means it is around 653 years old. Initially built to house King Edward III’s jewels and treasures, the Jewel House carried the passionate tag as the “King’s Privy Wardrobe”. The Waterloo block was also formerly a barracks and underwent extensive renovations, with the most recent refurbishment being in 2012. It was officially opened in 1994 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Today, the Jewel House stands to protect a collection of 23,578 gemstones, representing the symbol of British Monarchy. These magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower are still used in ceremonies such as the State Opening of Parliament. The Crown Jewels signify the royal authority to lead and protect the nation.
If you are passionate about history, a visit to the Jewel House will not disappoint. Your visit will take you through three different rooms of exhibitions where you will see the magnificent Crown Jewels so beautifully laid out within a high-security vault. The highlights of the exhibition are the Coronation Spoon which is said to originate during the second half of the 11th century, the Sword of Spiritual Justice that is identified as being from the early 17th century, the Plymouth Fountain from c. 1640 and many, many more. My favourite, without a doubt was the Koh-i-Noor (see below).
2 | Some of the magnificent Crown Jewels exhibited when I visited the Tower of London
Koh-i-Noor is a Persian word and means “mountain of light” – it is the most famous diamond in the world and in human history.
The Koh-i-Noor is beautifully placed in the centre of the Queen Mother’s Crown: Image © smithsonianmag
The diamond has a long history, going way back to the colonial conquest of India. It also carries with it a curse when passed down from men to men, but the most popular drama attached to this infamous stone is the controversy of its origin and the ownership of the Koh-i-Noor. India would like to have it back. For a full historical background to this controversy, you may wish to read and/or purchase Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond
“This exquisite spoon is an 11th century Coronation spoon used in the anointing of the monarch with holy oil. It was returned to Charles II by the man who bought it in the sell-off, who wished to get back into the new king’s good books. Thanks to him, this medieval spoon survives, alone among the sacred regalia.”
Image: The ‘new’ (1661) eagle-shaped Ampulla , which contains the fragrant holy oil used to anoint the new monarch, and the ancient Coronation Spoon. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
“The Coronation Regalia is a powerful symbol. It is a group of precious and highly symbolic objects used since 1661 to crown sovereigns of England.
These objects shown in this image were made after the restoration of the monarchy, for the coronation of Charles II in 1661. Many were used for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953″
Image: Charles II Coronation Regalia, Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2017
The Sword of Spiritual Justice
“Sword with a gilt-iron hilt with a wooden, wire-bound grip, the escutcheons of the guard triangular and rather sharply pointed, with a steel blade, struck with a maker’s mark at the top and incised further down with a “running wolf” mark, and with a velvet-covered scabbard with gold embroidery and silver-gilt mounts. This sword, known as the Sword of Spritual Justice, is one of three swords which are carried unsheathed, pointing upwards, in the coronation procession. This sword is accompanied by the Sword of Temporal Justice and the Sword of Mercy (with a blunted tip).
The practice of carrying three swords, representing kingly virtues, dates back to the coronation of Richard the Lionheart in 1189. The three swords were made for the coronation of Charles I in 1626 and then placed with the regalia in Westminster Abbey.
Together with the coronation spoon, these three works were the only pieces to survive the Civil War and Interregnum untouched. It is not known whether they were used in the coronation procession of Charles II, but they have certainly been used since 1685. A new scabbard was made for the sword in 1821 for the coronation of George IV”.
Image and information unedited from © Royal Collection Trust
The Plymouth Fountain
“A Baroque silver-gilt fountain with four spreading basins, repousse and chased with marine scenes and figures of Neptune, Amphitrite and infant tritons with sea-monsters, surmounted by a square column with figures of Neptune or nymphs in niches on each side, the finial cast as the figure of Venus with serpents about each arm, on a domed base with mermaid feet.”
“In historic inventories this piece was described as the earliest example of an English wine fountain. In fact, it is German, and has been attributed to the Hamburg goldsmith Peter Oehr I. Descriptions of it in use in the seventeenth century noted that it spouted coloured flames and perfumed waters. At that date the figure on the top was a male figure, either Atlas or Hercules, who may have held a dish which acted as a perfume burner. The fountain underwent considerable alteration in the eighteenth century when the figure of Venus was placed in the top, and the mechanism of the fountain fell out of use”.
“The fountain was presented to Charles II by the City of Plymouth in 1661 and is clearly identifiable in a contemporary account as, ‘a fountaine carved with rare art, curious figures, out of the tope perfumed fier did apeare and small pipes att the sides that sweet watters gushed forth.’ The ‘perfumed fier’ may refer to a pastille which was burnt in the pan held by the original Atlas/Hercules figure. The fountain was purchased by the City of Plymouth from Sir Thomas Vyner”.
Information unedited © Royal Collection Trust
Image © royalcollectiontrust
More on the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower
St Edward’s Crown
The most important and sacred Crown
“St Edward’s Crown is the most important and sacred of all the crowns. It is only used at the moment of crowning itself. This solid gold crown was made for the coronation of Charles II to replace the medieval crown melted down in 1649. This original crown was thought to date back to the 11th-century saint-king Edward the Confessor.
From 1661 to the early 20th century, this crown was only ever adorned with hired gems, which were returned after the coronation.
In 1911, St Edward’s Crown was permanently set with semi-precious stones for the coronation of George V.”
Image: St Edward’s Crown, 1661. The magnificent solid gold frame makes it a very heavy and tiring crown to wear, even briefly, as it weighs 2.23kg (nearly 5lbs). © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2001/Prudence Cuming Associates
The Imperial State Crown
“Although this is one of the newer items in the regalia, the Imperial State Crown (1937) contains some of the most historic jewels in the collection, which have attracted many legends.
For example, the ‘Black Prince’s Ruby’, set into the cross at the front of the crown is actually a balas or spinel, a semi-precious stone said to be the same stone owned by Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile, before he gave it to Edward, Prince of Wales (known as the Black Prince) in 1367 as a reward for helping him defeat a rival in battle.
The Imperial State Crown is the crown that the monarch wears as they leave Westminster Abbey after the coronation. It is also used on formal occasions, most notably the State Opening of Parliament.
The Imperial State Crown contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and 4 rubies!”
Image: © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2001/Prudence Cuming Associates
Lovely gems of the show
“The Crown Jewels contain some of the world’s most exceptional diamonds, shown here with the blue Stuart Sapphire.
This sapphire was reputedly smuggled out of the country by James II when he fled in 1688. It now adorns the back of the Imperial State Crown (1937).
The magnificent Cullinan I (top left, 530.2 carats) is the world’s largest top quality white cut diamond. The huge uncut stone was discovered in South Africa in 1905, and was cut to create nine major stones and 96 smaller brilliants in all. Cullinan II (bottom right, 317.4 carats), the second largest stone, is now set into the front band of the Imperial State Crown.
The history of the Koh-i-Nûr (or ‘Mountain of Light’) diamond is steeped in myth and anecdote. Discovered in 15th-century India, it was passed from ill-fated male hand to hand, until it earned a reputation of bringing bad luck to men. It was presented to Queen Victoria in 1849. It now adorns the front of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown (1837)!
Image: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017
Info unedited from: https://hrp.org.uk/
My Timeless Footsteps says: To view the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower, buy the entry ticket to the Tower of London. The entry ticket to the Tower includes entry to the Jewel House. It is reasonably priced at £25.00 (Adult) and £12.50 (Child). It is valid for one day.
Pro tip: Note that the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower is a popular attraction. You may encounter a long queue at most times. I would recommend that you plan your visit to view the Crown Jewels at the Jewel House either for first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon to minimise waiting times. Other attractions within the Tower such as the White Tower, Bloody Tower and the Fusilier Museum are easily visited without a queue.
Practical information to consider when visiting the Crown Jewels at Tower of London
The Exhibition is on ground level, no stairs whatsoever! Possibly wheelchair accessible.
Getting to Tower of London:
Tower of London, London, EC3N 4AB
Tickets & Prices:
Buying online is cheaper and convenient. Entry to Tower of London includes entry to the Crown Jewels Exhibition, the White Tower and the Beauchamp Tower.
Places to Stay in London when visiting the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
Choices on accommodations in London are literally unlimited! From budget hostels, two or three star hotels to high-end hotels and apartments, it seems endless….
I have personally experienced the superb hospitality and quality and would highly recommend a stay at the Millennium Hotels and Resorts in London. Millennium Hotels are centrally located and within easy access of London’s transport network.
You could also take a look at the Radisson Hotels chain for accommodations ranging from upper upscale, mid-market, millennial lifestyle, hotels with a unique personality and story, as well as if you are travelling on business.
As well, you could also run through booking dot com, a site I use and frequent for my searches on accommodations when I travel.
Activities to do in London when visiting the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower
As with accommodations, the activities available to do in London are endless. A city that never sleeps, with transportation that works twenty-four hours a day, there is something you could do at any given time. Navigate to Discover London with Georgina and MyCityMyTown series for ideas and inspirations. If you are planning a visit during the festive season, Christmas in London has articles that will inspire you to move London to the top of your list!
A popular destination within a stone’s throw of London is the historic town of Greenwich, renowned for when Time began. View the full article and related articles on Greenwich which includes Cutty Sark, Queen’s House, National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory and Planetarium. As well as recommended activities you could do when visiting this destination.
A visit to London is never complete without a trip to the countryside or wider UK. A day trip from London is highly recommended as it adds value to your experiences of England and not just limited to London. Popular day trips are a visit to Windsor, home to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, an experience that will blow you away, or go on a little adventure to the Isle of Wight. If you are not restricted in time and wish to explore more of UK, then a visit to Scotland is highly recommended. There are many highlights in this amazing land of the fairies that will leave you speechless and an experience of the Highlands will stay with you forever.
The UK boasts a good train network connecting London to the rest of the United Kingdom directly or indirectly via network exchanges. Experience UK like you have never before by train travel, by visiting the best scenic destinations by train while saving on your journeys. Read all about train travelling and unique experiences here.
My final say on the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower
Having visited the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower, I can confidently say that it was a highlight of my visit to the Tower of London. I would highly recommend that you too, walk in the footsteps of history and make a visit here as a bucket list experience. If you are a history nerd like me, you would not want to miss this historical paradise where so much history is attached to each piece of the remarkable magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower that takes you on a journey of British history. Do not let the queue put you off from visiting the Jewel House – just plan your visit and make the most of your day.
If you have enjoyed reading this article on the magnificent Crown Jewels at the Tower, you may also like to read the following articles on the Tower of London and wider London:
Enjoy your adventure in London xx