Once inside the front gates, resist the temptation to go on the first yeoman warder’s tour. Instead, go directly to the Crown Jewels exhibit. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 just go directly – go, go, go! – to the Crown Jewels. You’ll enter the Jewel House just under the clock in the Waterloo Barracks.
The lines inside the Jewel House have a bit of a Disneyland feel. Large electronic screens on either side of the anti-chamber play scenes from the last coronation to date, that of Elizabeth II, to entertain the waiting hordes. But because you were very smart and came early, you will not be one of them! You can breeze through at the speed of light to the Crown Jewels exhibit.
In this room are displayed the regalia, scepters, orbs and swords used for coronations and other ceremonies of state. The value of the objects in this room is inestimable. They have been used through the centuries and are still in use today; in fact, it is not unusual to find one of the swords missing because it is in use that day for a knighting.
As to the age of the jewels, when Oliver Cromwell acceded to power as Lord Protector in 1653, he ordered the jewel collection of his predecessors – those powerful symbols and reminders of the monarchy – be destroyed, melted down and dismantled. Therefore, most of the regalia on display today date from 1661 and the reign of Charles II, whose first order of business was to replenish the royal jewel collection.
The Crown Jewels are displayed in five glass cases. Visitors pass them on a sort of moving sidewalk. No photos are allowed. When you’re done, hop off and have another go at the moving sidewalk, congratulating yourself once again on beating the crowds.
Be sure to notice:
- St. Edward’s Crown. This is the crown that the Archbishop of Canterbury places on the monarch’s head at the moment of coronation. It weighs nearly five pounds and contains 443 precious and semiprecious stones.
- The Sovereign’s Scepter. The largest cut diamond in the world, Cullinan I (a.k.a. the First Star of Africa) is set in this scepter. The diamond weighs 530 carats.
- The Imperial State Crown. Used annually by Queen Elizabeth II for the State Opening of Parliament, this spectacular crown contains the legendary “Stuart Sapphire,” the “Black Prince’s Ruby” and “Queen Elizabeth’s Pearls.” It includes 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires and 11 emeralds.
- The Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. This crown contains the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond from India, which weighs 106 carats. It belonged to the Queen Mother, who died in 2002.
- Queen Victoria’s Diamond Crown. A tiny crown, it weighs only 4 ounces and was commissioned in 1870 by special request of Queen Victoria. It cost £50,000 to make.
- The Anointing Spoon. The oldest surviving piece of regalia on display in the Jewel Room, the anointing spoon is from the 12th century and is used to pour holy oil.
Point to Ponder. Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne! As you gaze at these emblems and symbols of the Kings and Queens of England, consider the glorious upcoming ceremony of the Coronation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Consider the words of Revelation 19:12, “… and on His head were many crowns.”