The Crown Jewels have been symbols of the monarchy’s power and connection with God for centuries. The Sovereigns that sat on the throne and used these royal items believed wholly that they were anointed by God’s own hand – the Divine Right of Kings – to rule their people.
St. Edward’s Crown
Named for St. Edward the Confessor, this is used to crown the next British monarch during their coronation. It’s actually not the original; this crown was created to replace the one destroyed during the Cromwell Interregnum, when Oliver Cromwell overthrew the Stuart King Charles I and established himself as “Lord Protector” of England.
The monarchy was reestablished and, in 1661, King Charles II was crowned anew. There hasn’t been a republic interregnum since.
Fun fact: Neither Queen Victoria nor her successor, Edward VII, used this four-pound piece for their coronations due to its weight. Queen Elizabeth II did use St. Edward’s crown, but then donned the lighter Imperial State Crown for her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after her coronation.
The Imperial State Crown
Among the 2,000+ diamonds are 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and five rubies. In the front of the brow band sits the magnificent Cullinan II diamond, or the “Lesser Star of Africa”. Its companion rests in the scepter. In the back of the brow band is the famous Stuart Sapphire.
The crown is worn by the Queen each year for the State Opening of Parliament. During the procession by carriage to the Palace of Westminster, Elizabeth wears the King George IV Diadem. Just before entering the Parliamentary session to give her annual “Queen’s Speech”, Her Majesty changes from the diadem to the Imperial State Crown.
The Queen Mother’s Crown
This magnificent piece contains one of the most exquisite gems in the world – the legendary Koh-i-noor diamond. Koh-i-noor, or “Mountain of Light”, is said to be a great source of fortune for its female owner, but brings bad luck to a man. Queen Elizabeth wore this for her coronation alongside her husband, King George VI. As the Queen Mother, she removed the arches of the crown and wore it as a diadem to the coronation of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Ampulla and Anointing Spoon
These are the items used to anoint a new Sovereign at their coronation. The Ampulla is a hollow, eagle-shaped vessel made of pure gold into which the anointing oil is poured. After the king or queen states their oath, the Archbishop of Canterbury then pours the oil from the Ampulla through a hole in the beak into the silver-gilt anointing spoon and consecrates the monarch.
The Ampulla was re-created for the coronation of Charles II to replace the one destroyed during Oliver Cromwell’s English Interregnum period. The anointing spoon, however, is the original medieval piece.
Used during the Coronation, this golden gem- and pearl-studded orb is hollow so that it can be carried easily. On the top is a cross held by an amethyst. The Orb is the symbol for Christianity and represents the Sovereign’s role as Defender of the Faith and as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The Sceptre with the Cross
Also known as the St. Edward’s Sceptre, it was originally made for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661 after the Cromwell Interregnum. After the discovery of the massive Cullinan diamond in 1905, it was redesigned to hold the Cullinan I, or the “Greater Star of Africa”, which weighs a whopping 530 carats.
The Sceptre symbolizes the earthly authority of the Monarch under the Cross, and is held with another scepter, which is topped with a dove, during the placement of St. Edward’s Crown on the new monarch’s head.
Archbishop of Canterbury – Objects of Faith