Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Dream Crown

The Imperial State Crown is one of the British Crown Jewels.
The Crown is of a design similar to St Edward's Crown: it includes a base of four crosses pattée alternating with four fleurs-de-lis, above which are four half-arches surmounted by a cross. Inside is a velvet cap with an ermine border. The Imperial State Crown includes several precious gems, including: 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies.
The Crown includes several famous jewels. The Cross atop the Crown is set with a stone known as St. Edward's Sapphire, a sapphire taken from the ring (or possibly coronet) of Edward the Confessor. The Black Prince's Ruby (actually a spinel) is set on the front cross pattée. Furthermore, the famous Cullinan II, or Lesser Star of Africa, is set on the front of the Crown. The back of the crown is set with the 104 carat (20.8 g) Stuart Sapphire in its band.
It is generally worn at the end of a coronation when the new monarch departs from Westminster Abbey and is not normally the actual crown used at the moment of coronation. However it was actually worn during the ceremony by Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, both of whom complained about the weight of the normally used crown, St Edward's Crown.
The Imperial State Crown is worn annually by the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament. Traditionally, the Crown and other jewels leave in their own carriage and arrive at the Palace of Westminster prior to the Queen's departure from Buckingham Palace. They are then transported to the Robing Room, where the Queen dons her robes and wears the Crown.
The current Imperial State Crown was manufactured for the coronation of King George VI in 1937 by the Crown Jewellers Garrard & Co. It is an exact replica of the earlier Imperial State Crown manufactured for Queen Victoria, but is of a more lightweight design and less uncomfortable to wear. Because of its weight (910 g), monarchs often choose to wear the Imperial State Crown in their private apartments on and off for a couple of hours on the morning of the State Opening of Parliament so they can get used to the weight and feel comfortable with it on. (One courtier reported on the morning of a State Opening witnessing Queen Elizabeth eating her breakfast and reading newspapers while wearing it.)
The frames of the old Imperial State Crowns of, among others, Kings George I, George IV and Queen Victoria are kept in the Tower of London. As the most frequently worn royal crown, the Imperial State Crown has constantly been replaced, due to age, weight, the personal taste of the monarch, or the unavoidable damage that comes with use. Due to its constant usage, it is also the crown that requires most outside repairs and recasting.
The Imperial State Crown, except when in use at State Openings, together with the other Crown Jewels, may be found on display at Jewel House in the Tower of London.