If you’re a fan of the Netflix show The Crown, you’ll know that Queen Elizabeth wears an actual crown fairly regularly. For example, she wears one every year at the State Opening of Parliament. But there are other crowns that you haven’t seen very often unless you are old enough to remember her coronation in 1953.
Yes, that’s right. The queen has more than one crown. Actually, she has quite a few. But they only make up a small proportion of the priceless collection of gems, gold, and silver that makes up the crown jewels. Each one comes with a fascinating, impressive, and sometimes very amusing history.
10. St. Edward’s Crown
The most important piece in the crown jewels is St. Edward’s Crown. It is made of solid gold and was created especially for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661. A new crown was required because the previous crown, which had been used since Edward the Confessor’s time, had been melted down in 1649 when the monarchy was abolished and England briefly became a republic.
With the Restoration came a new crown. Although the crown is inlaid with precious gems now, it wasn’t back then. Until 1911, precious stones had to be rented for every coronation. Then they were removed from the crown and returned to the owners after the ceremony.
St. Edward’s Crown is only used during the coronation ceremony, where it is placed on the monarch’s head at the moment of coronation. So Queen Elizabeth II has only worn it once. No doubt she is quite relieved at its sparing use since it’s so heavy.
Only three people are permitted to handle St. Edward’s Crown—the monarch, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Crown Jeweller. During Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, the archbishop tied a piece of gold thread to the gold frame of the crown so that he could tell the front of the crown from the back. Unfortunately, prior to the ceremony, the thread was removed, leaving the archbishop to simply hope he’d gotten it right.