Queen Mary’s Crown is one of the most iconic pieces of regalia in the British monarchy, known for its intricate design and the precious gems that adorned it. Worn by Queen Mary at her coronation in 1911, interest in the crown has been reinvigorated by the news that Queen Camilla will wear it at her own coronation in May 2023.
Here are 10 interesting facts about this special object that shed light on its rich history and enduring legacy.
1. The crown was created for the coronation of Queen Mary in 1911
The idea for Queen Mary’s Crown was conceived in the early 20th century, during a time of great change and modernization in Britain. In 1910, King Edward VII passed away and his son, George V, ascended to the throne.
As part of the coronation ceremony, a new crown needed to be created for his wife, Queen Mary. The task of designing the crown was given to the Crown Jeweller, Garrard & Co. Ltd, and its design was inspired by the historic British Crown Jewels. It features 2,200 diamonds, including the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond and the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV diamonds.
2. It took over 8,000 hours to create
The crown was designed by Sir Charles Robinson, who was the curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum at the time, and who had extensive knowledge of historic jewellery and regalia. The design was then executed by a team of skilled jewellers and goldsmiths, who worked tirelessly for over 8,000 hours to bring Robinson’s vision to life.
It cost a vast £50,000 to make, equal to around £7.5 million in 2023.
3. The Koh-i-Noor diamond is one of the largest diamonds in the world
Weighing in at 105.6 carats, the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which means “Mountain of Light” in Persian, has a long and complex history, and its ownership has changed hands many times over the centuries.
It was originally owned by various Indian rulers, including the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. In 1849 however, when the British East India Company annexed the Punjab region, the diamond was taken and subsequently presented to Queen Victoria as a spoil of war.
The diamond was then cut and polished to fit into the British Crown Jewels, where it remains to this day. Viewed by some as a symbol of British colonialism, today there are ongoing debates and demands for the return of the Koh-i-Noor diamond to India.
4. The Cullinan III and Cullinan IV diamonds were cut from the largest diamond ever found
Weighing in at an astonishing 3,106 carats, the Cullinan Diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and is the largest rough diamond ever found.
The Cullinan Diamond was purchased by the Transvaal Colony government, who decided to present it to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom as a gift. The diamond was then cut into nine major stones and several smaller stones, two of which, the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV, featured in Queen Mary’s Crown.
5. Queen Mary’s Crown is known for its distinctive arches
Unlike most British crowns that have four half-arches, Queen Mary’s Crown is unique as it features eight half-arches. Set with diamonds and pearls, the arches are said to represent love, peace, and unity, and they were a key part of the crown’s design.
6. Mary continued to wear it throughout her life
After her coronation in 1911, Queen Mary continued to wear her specially-made crown in the years to come, although in slightly modified forms. In 1914, the diamonds were replaced with crystal replicas and the arches made detachable so that it could be worn as an open crown. She wore it like this after the death of her husband George V in 1936, and following her own death in 1953 it was put on display in the Tower of London.
7. The crown is kept in the Jewel House at the Tower of London
Displayed alongside other historic pieces of regalia, it is one of the most popular attractions at the Tower, drawing millions of visitors each year.
8. It was moved to a secret location during World War Two
During World War Two, the Crown Jewels were taken from the Tower of London to a secret location in order to protect them from possible bombing by the Germans. Queen Mary’s Crown was not used during this time and was kept in storage with the other Crown Jewels until the end of the war.
9. The crown is considered to be priceless
The exact value of Queen Mary’s Crown is not publicly disclosed, and it is difficult to estimate its value due to its unique historical and cultural significance. However, it is considered to be priceless, along with other British Crown Jewels, due to their importance and historical significance.
10. It will be worn by Queen Camilla at her coronation alongside King Charles III
In early 2023, it was announced that Queen Mary’s Crown would be worn by Queen Camilla at her joint coronation with King Charles III in later that May. It will be the first time since the 18th century that a queen consort has reused a crown at a coronation, when Queen Caroline, consort of George II, wore Mary of Modena’s crown.
However, Camilla will wear Queen Mary’s Crown without the Koh-i-Noor diamond, in a bid to move away from the colonial implications and controversy that surrounds the gem.