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Tower of London

Page 6
Continued from page 5

ABOVE: Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown measures 3.7 inches (9.9 cm) high and 3.4 inches (9 cm) in diameter. It was worn atop a widow's cap. The crown was made in 1870, using some 1,300 diamonds from a large necklace and other jewelry in the Queen's personal collection.

INSET BELOW: The Jewel House has been located in Waterloo Block since 1994.

Crown Jewels

Keith Hanson is Chief Exhibitor of the Crown Jewels, having been appointed to that post in 2000 after serving as a Yeoman Warder.

Hanson, who lives at the Tower with his wife Angela, is the latest in a long line of Englishman who have watched over the royal Regalia since the Crown Jewels were first displayed to the public at the Tower of London in 1661 (and possibly earlier).

photoThe Jewel House is located in Waterloo Block. (See inset photo.) When you enter, you'll walk past displays of Royal maces, swords, and other ceremonial items until you reach the chamber where the Coronation Regalia are on display. There, you'll step onto a moving walkway that slowly takes you past well-lit display cases that hold the Imperial State Crown, Queen Victoria's Small Diamond Crown (see photo above), the Imperial Crown of India, and other precious items. The jewels are dazzling (literally as well as figuratively) in the otherwise darkened room.

Once you've stepped off the moving walkway, you can return to the head of the display cases and repeat the process on the other side, or you can climb a few steps to a viewing platform that offers a different perspective on the collection.

Next, continue to the next room where you can see Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Robe and other gear. (Film footage of the Queen's coronation ceremony on June 2, 1953 is shown continuously on high-definition TV screens.)

Some of the items to look for during your visit include:

  • The Cullinan I diamond, also known as the First Star of Africa, is the largest top-quality cut diamond in the world. It weighs slightly more than 530 carats and is mounted on the Sceptre. (The Cullinan I was one of nine large diamonds and 96 small brilliants cut over a period of eight months from the Cullinan diamond, which weighed 3,106 carats uncut.)

  • The Cullinan II, the world's second-largest top-quality cut diamond, weighs 317 carats and is on the front of the Imperial State Crown.

  • The Koh-I-Noor ("Mountain of Light")  diamond, weighs 105.6 carats and is mounted on the Queen Mother's Crown. Many legends are associated with the diamond, which was surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England when the British Empire annexed the Punjab in 1849.

Here are more facts about the Crown Jewels, compliments of the Tower's press office and the Chief Exhibitor:

  • The silver gilt spoon is the oldest piece in the collection. It was probably made for Henry II or Richard I and is the only piece of royal goldsmith's work to survive from the 12th Century.

  • William IV's coronation crown was so heavy, at 7 pounds, that the new king developed a tootache and needed to have the offending tooth removed.

  • So far, there has been only one attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, by Colonel Blood in 1671. He failed, and--if you're lucky--you'll see a re-enactment of his attempt, or a story by costumed interpreters, during your visit to the Tower.

  • The Crown Jewels are cleaned regularly by a master jeweler who works in a special room on the premises after visiting hours.

  • The Imperial State Crown, which was created in 1937 for the coronation of George VI, is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 5 rubies, and 273 pearls.

  • When the Imperial State Crown is removed from its display case for a coronation or the yearly opening of Parliament, it is replaced by a small sign that simply reads "IN USE."

Next page: The Tower Ravens

Top photo  © Crown copyright.
Inset photo copyright © HRP.

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