Royal Headdress of the British Monarchy
We often associate royalty with sensational, custom-designed jewelry. The crown is the ultimate jewel, of course; an intricate work of art in itself. If it takes centuries to erect a cathedral, it takes hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hours of meticulous work to fashion a crown. Its shape, colors and components have great significance not merely because of the inherent value of materials and gems, but also because of their historical value.
For instance, when a crown is re-designed, elements from the existing crown are incorporated in the new design. History written in gold and jewels. Indeed, there can be an entire chapter of history, or even an entire journey, in the components of a single crown.
A historian could tell the story of each monarch, highlighting the prominent events of a region or country based on key features of a crown. These features are not positioned randomly within the design; like the king or queen, they have a place of prominence. In the case of the Imperial State Crown, a sapphire set at it top had previously belonged to Edward the Confessor, named King of England in 1042 and known for his deep religious conviction.
Likewise, crowns depicted on insignia, typically worn by the military, undergo transformations over time. Significant features may remain while others, no longer as meaningful, are omitted or replaced. Monarchy, the institution, has a long and complex past, with deep historical and traditional root. Traditions tend to endure, but eventually even institutions must be brushed up and refreshed to remain in keeping with the times. This is reflected in ornaments, royal jewelry, coins and insignia. For instance, after 50 years of using the same crown design on military insignia, it was felt that it needed a modern look. Thus the design was modified just prior to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.
As for actual crowns, one does not belong to one specific monarch. The crown used before Queen Victoria and since is known as the St. Edward Crown. This is used once for each monarch and strictly for coronation. The St. Edward Crown is made of gold and includes precious and semi-precious stones. It was fashioned for the coronation of King Charles II, in 1661. This is the crown to which we referred above, containing components of the one used for the coronation of Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. Thus, as of this writing, it is nearly 1000 years old and heavy with history and tradition.
Incidentally, it is said that Queen Victoria was not very fond of this crown, finding it too heavy. It weighs 5 pounds.
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