The complete regal weight of the Crown Jewels might be on show at the Coronation, nevertheless it’s the jewel-encrusted Imperial State Crown that glitters brightest. It is going to dazzle on the King’s head as he leaves the Abbey, and thereafter for formal moments of his reign together with the State Opening of Parliament.
Greater than every other jewel or image, this crown proclaims to the world that Charles is King. It symbolises monarchy, obligation and a mystical energy derived from its principal stones, the Cullinan II Diamond, the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Stuart Sapphire and, particularly, the St Edward’s Sapphire, the glowing sq. blue stone set into the diamond Maltese Cross on the highest.
For no different gem on the earth has a historical past like The Edward the Confessor Stone. It’s the oldest within the Royal Assortment and has been worn, in a single kind or one other, by nearly each English monarch for greater than 1,000 years. Or so we’ve all the time been led to imagine.
For 20 years I used to be the jewelry editor of Vogue journal and right this moment I host a podcast known as If Jewels May Speak, which is the place I first heard an explosive new principle.
The complete regal weight of the Crown Jewels might be on show on the Coronation, nevertheless it’s the jewel-encrusted Imperial State Crown that glitters brightest
So if the St Edward’s Sapphire is certainly within the coronet within the V&A, what’s the gem within the Imperial State Crown?
After intensive analysis and a painstaking recreation of the jewel’s journey by way of historical past, John Hawkins, an historian and world authority on a number of royal jewels, informed me he believes the gem atop the crown just isn’t the St Edward’s Sapphire. Certainly, he believes it has been absent from the crown for greater than 300 years.
Unravelling a story of royal need, love and greed stretching from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I to George IV and Victoria, Hawkins described how the gem was faraway from a tomb, wrested from royal fingers, smuggled overseas and dug out of different crowns.
If he’s proper and the stone within the Imperial Crown just isn’t the St Edward’s Sapphire, then it raises two questions: the place is the St Edward’s Sapphire? And what’s the stone within the crown?
Actually the Edward stone just isn’t a big gem. Nobody appears to know the precise carat weight, but this stunning rose-cut sapphire, in all probability from both Afghanistan or Sri Lanka, looms so massive in British historical past, consultants say it’s actually past worth.
Its story begins with the loss of life in 1066 of the Anglo-Saxon King Edward the Confessor, who was at first buried in entrance of the excessive altar in Westminster Abbey, however whose coffin was moved a number of instances and at one level opened.
At some stage, the ring on his finger — with a Roman intaglio sapphire (that had a picture carved into it for signing or sealing paperwork) — was eliminated, and for 300 years placed on present within the Abbey, the place guests might view it as a holy relic. ‘You might kiss the ring or contact it and you’d be blessed as a result of it was a saintly object,’ explains Hawkins.
‘However issues modified when Henry VIII’s hassle with ladies started. He made himself head of the Church of England, eliminated the sapphire, had the intaglio carved out and took it for himself. He additionally took a big ruby from Thomas Beckett’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral and made it into a hoop, too. So he was carrying the 2 nice saintly stones on his fingers.’
After Henry’s loss of life, St Edward’s Sapphire was re-worked once more by Queen Elizabeth I, who had it faraway from the ring and wore it like a diadem on her brow.
After intensive analysis and a painstaking recreation of the jewel’s journey by way of historical past, John Hawkins, an historian and world authority on a number of royal jewels, informed me he believes the gem atop the crown just isn’t the St Edward’s Sapphire
After Henry’s loss of life, St Edward’s Sapphire was re-worked once more by Queen Elizabeth I, who had it faraway from the ring and wore it like a diadem on her brow
5 a long time later, the stone vanished and the path briefly goes chilly. Some imagine it survived the Civil Conflict, hidden someplace in England, and was re-cut for Charles II. There’s hypothesis that it was put into the State Crown made for George I in 1714.
But Hawkins believes that, following the execution of King Charles I in 1649, when Cromwell melted down the crowns of England, it was smuggled overseas with the Stuart Sapphire, the massive oval stone behind the Imperial Crown.
Resurfacing greater than 150 years later in Rome, each stones had been acquired on behalf of the Prince Regent, George III’s son, by the English banker Thomas Coutts, and returned to England.
The Prince Regent was a captivating however notoriously dissolute character, working up money owed totalling £69 million in right this moment’s cash and treating the royal jewels as his personal private property. He gave a number of of the perfect gems to his daughter Princess Charlotte, to shore up her place as a future Queen. You’ll be able to see her carrying the St Edward’s Sapphire, set right into a coronet with one other very vital gem, the Black Prince’s Ruby, in an 1816 portrait miniature within the Royal Assortment.
Alas, Charlotte died in childbirth aged 21 and the Black Prince’s Ruby was returned to the Crown — however St Edward’s Sapphire, John Hawkins believes, was not.
The confusion, deliberate or in any other case, continued when the Prince Regent grew to become George IV in 1820 and swiftly eliminated the brass plates labelling the 17 oak packing containers and trunks filled with royal jewels which his mom had fastidiously affixed to make sure nothing misplaced its historic context.
Hawkins speculates that St Edward’s Sapphire, which ‘just isn’t as recognisable as a number of the different well-known gems’, stayed within the possession of Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold — who later gave it to Queen Victoria: ‘Leopold ensured it went to his late spouse’s cousin, Victoria. He was her counsellor and pal within the early days of her reign, after having ensured her marriage into his household by way of Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.’
For no different gem on the earth has a historical past like The Edward the Confessor Stone. It’s the oldest within the Royal Assortment and has been worn, in a single kind or one other, by nearly each English monarch for greater than 1,000 years
In response to standard knowledge surrounding the gem, Victoria had it put into a brand new model of the Imperial Crown — however John Hawkins is satisfied this didn’t occur.
‘I counsel that the St Edward’s Sapphire by no means made it into the Imperial Crown,’ he says. As a substitute, he thinks it was put right into a coronet designed by Victoria’s beloved husband, Prince Albert.
Queen Victoria appreciated to put on tiaras and the Albert-designed diamond and sapphire coronet, made by jewellers Kitching & Abud, was her favorite. Victoria and Albert had been sentimentalists and the blue of the 11 sapphires on the coronet —together with one central sq. stone — was utilized by Albert to indicate their love.
Hawkins is the world authority on this sapphire and diamond coronet. After Victoria’s loss of life, it was designated a private household jewel and handed robotically to her successors. In 1922, King George V gave it as a marriage current to his daughter, the Princess Royal Mary, upon her marriage to Viscount Lascelles, and it was then handed down her household till it was acquired by an abroad personal purchaser. An export bar was placed on it by the Authorities in 2016, nevertheless, giving events the prospect to match the £5 million asking worth, and in 2017 — with Hawkins serving to to barter the deal — it was saved for the nation by the Bollinger household, who had it positioned within the Victoria & Albert Museum.
‘It’s my opinion,’ Hawkins says, ‘that the sapphire within the centre of this coronet is, the truth is, St Edward’s Sapphire. The sapphires both facet of it are completely totally different. They’re far finer in color than the central stone.’ He additionally factors out that ledgers of the time present expenses had been solely made for the making of the coronet; the diamonds and sapphires had been supplied by the Queen herself.
Hawkins believes Victoria effectively knew the significance of that central sapphire. Certainly, she wore it like a crown jewel for an official portrait in 1842 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, making it a recognisable image of her standing.
Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, at Buckingham Palace in Might 1860
She additionally selected it for her first vital public look after the loss of life of Prince Albert, when she got here out of her self-imposed exile for the State Opening of Parliament. In distinction, the Imperial State Crown was relegated to being positioned on a cushion, quite than on her head.
‘If she knew that her coronet contained the oldest stone in Christendom, it could have given her a sense of actual energy,’ says Hawkins, who thinks Victoria took the key together with her to the grave.
So if the St Edward’s Sapphire is certainly within the coronet within the V&A, what’s the gem within the Imperial State Crown?It’s definitely a sapphire, and Hawkins thinks it comes from the Royal Assortment. It’s simply not the St Edward’s one.
The one one who can get shut sufficient to evaluate the Imperial Crown and that gem within the Maltese Cross is the Crown jeweller — and they’re notoriously as silent because the grave.
Attending to the reality about such outdated stones is tough, however that’s a part of their attract. Once I requested trend editor and creator of The Royal Jewels, Suzy Menkes, for her view, she says: ‘Anyone, someplace will need to have a listing of when jewels got here into the household however I don’t know who it’s. I don’t know if this was handed down from era to era and I don’t suppose anyone does. It’s a type of unusual secrets and techniques.’
If solely jewels might discuss, the St Edward’s Sapphire would have a mighty story to inform.
n Carol Woolton is a contributing editor of British Vogue, an creator, broadcaster and host of If Jewels May Speak podcast @carolwoolton