Jul 072014

Come along with me and my daughter to the Tower of London where heads rolled and Crown Jewels glitter.
Tower of London
Photographs are not allowed as we entered the vaulted, huge, two ton doorway. The phrase “all that glitters is not gold” came to mind, as my eyes took in this array of diamonds and gold displayed on velvet.

Tower of London Crown Jewel Door
What is on display? Basically all the glitz and sparkle that is used in coronations as British symbols of the ruling royalty.  Most of the collection is from the coronation of Charles II , when royalty was restored to England in 1661.

The long glass encasements are low enough to peer in from the top and then crouch to see from all sides. Since there are no queues to stagger the crowd, you can stand or walk at your pace. With no photography allowed, no one is jostling to get a better picture.



What happened to the earlier monarchy’s wealth?  Charles I  believed in the divine right of kings and triggered an English Civil War that lasted six years. Defeat also meant that the divine right to keep his head was permanently severed and Oliver Cromwell became the Lord Protector of England.

The monarchy was abolished, but the newly created English republic found itself in a desperate financial situation. In order to raise funds, the personal estate of the monarchy was sold to the highest bidder. Much of the gold was melted down and used for coins.

For Charles II coronation, many items were replicated. The oldest piece made by the royal goldsmiths that survived and was returned was a 12th century Coronation Spoon. Also the Coronation Chair was used for Cromwell’s installation as Lord Protector and never sold.

St. Edwards Crown, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootbearwdc/

St. Edwards Crown, http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootbearwdc/

St. Edward’s Crown is placed on the head of the new monarch by the archbishop on coronation day. This 1661 remake with 443 gems weighs five pounds and worn for only 20 minutes. The original was known to cause headaches for the newly crowned royalty, if worn too long.

England is steeped in superstitions, and the most famous diamond in the world is the Koh-i-Nur or “Mountain of Light”. It has only been set in crowns made for female members of the monarchy. “It is said to bring bad luck to any man who wears it, but is believed to bring long life and happiness to any woman who wears it.” Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was 101 when she died, so this legend would seem to hold true.”

British Imperial Crown of India Photo by Wikipedia, CSvBibra

British Imperial Crown of India Photo by Wikipedia, CSvBibra

The only crown allowed to leave the country is the Imperial Crown of India. Set with more than 6000 diamonds, it was made especially for the Delhi Durbar in 1911 when George V was crowned Emperor of India.

It was overwhelming and difficult to comprehend all this glittering collection grouped in one room. There is very little description of each item, which keeps the crowds moving along quicker. One of the sceptres has the biggest cut diamond in the world, the 530-carat Star of Africa.

Queen Victoria and small diamond crown  Photo by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Queen Victoria and small diamond crown Photo by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Queen Victoria’s tiny silver and diamond encrusted crown measures only 3.7 inches tall. It was designed to be worn over her mourning veil, following the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert. Colored stones wouldn’t have seemed appropriate for wearing while in mourning. The 1,187 diamonds came from a necklace owned by Queen Victoria. After viewing such grand crowns, this coronet seemed so tiny and out of place in comparison.

The Crown Jewels were just a small part of our visit to the Tower of London. I could easily have spent another day absorbing this ongoing tradition of regalia, which aren’t just old, unused museum pieces. Should this collection of glitz and gold be replaced by fake gems or allowed to be photographed by tourists?

  52 Responses to “Crown Jewels and Heads Rolled in the Tower”

  1. Aren’t those crown jewels amazing. Would not want one of those on my head!

    • There is so much ceremony involved with these crowns that are used for only a few minutes. They certainly won’t wear out, since it’s been so long since a coronation has happened.

  2. I think its good that you can’t take photos –
    Its been proven you take far more of the experience in when not viewing it through a camera lens so I’m sure the impressions you got of those jewels will be far more long lasting due, as a consequence of their security requirements! 🙂

    • You have made a very good point about seeing more when you aren’t involved in taking photos. I was really blown away by seeing the actual crowns that we only see on television and the history of this tower.

  3. Thanks for this great peek inside the history of the monarchy.

    • There’s so much history in the Tower of London and I loved every minute of it. The time went too fast to absorb it all.

  4. I too wished for more time and info when looking at the crown jewels. Thanks for posting the photos – it brought back great memories.

    • I would also want to go back and absorb more of what I was seeing. Having too much to read would have slowed people down, but glad to share our memories now.

  5. Neva, It would be nice to be able to photograph the crown jewels, but would it would the same if they were fake? Maybe we just need to accept that we view and enjoy some things of beauty without capturing them on film.

    • I wouldn’t want them to be fake either. Fortunately there are options for seeing some of the photos online to appreciate what was hard to see in a crowd.

  6. It is such a fun place to visit. Living here in So Cal in the land of television and movies, The Tower seemed almost like an amusement park. We are so accustomed to “fake” that it was so hard for me to believe the magnificent jewels were actually real! It has been years since we have visited The Tower of London, we need to go back! Thank you for the reminder and excellent details!

    • It is so true that living in a “young” country, we perceive history like a Disneyland amusement park. It was hard for my brain to absorb these huge gems as being real. I would love to go back again as London is a beautiful city to enjoy more than just once.

  7. This was a great post for someone like me, who has never visited the Tower. I could see in my mind how it must look and how glitzy and gaudy and steeped in tradition all of this is. It is very well preserved and thankfully, we can see some of the jewels from the photos you posted and others like it. I think that it’s smart to not allow photos because there will be a constant stream of tourists who want to view it personally for themselves. Maybe the revenue helps support the royal family! Just a guess…

    • Your correct that the revenue makes the upkeep of the Tower self sufficient. This is one of the most popular sites and well worth seeing.

  8. I visited London 28 years ago, a lifetime! I’d love to go back one day and include the Tower of London as I love history and I’m sure I’d enjoy the exhibits.

    • The Tower of London has so much to see and enjoy in all the many buildings. I could go back every year and see something new. Considering I forget details easily, it would be like a new adventure each time (chuckle).

  9. My family originated in England. Some of my ancestors were actually very close to the royalty of England. Some were even living in Castles. I’ll have to share that with you one day.

    • How fantastic that you have a legacy of having family that was close to royalty. I’d love to read the stories of their interesting lives.

  10. Absolutely love these pictures – what a NEAT place to be able to go and see!! I want to go now!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story and pictures. The Tower of London is an amazing place so full of history.

  11. Those crown really are something, I’m sure there are a lot of history with it, and those important persons who used it.

    • There is so much history about each of the royalty that I couldn’t do them all justice in one blog story.

  12. Oh, we’d want to see the real thing! Fake jewels just wouldn’t do. But it’s been too long since we visited the Tower of London. We seem to remember some torture instruments in the dungeons – or is that just our imagination?

    • Oh yes, the torture items are still there. That’s another story about the Tower of London. There’s so much to tell that I couldn’t do it in one story.

  13. It is mind boggling to see the array of gold items isn’t it? Love the photo of the Queen Victoria painting 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the painting as this shows how tiny her coronet really was. Seeing it next to the huge crowns made it look out of place.

  14. Beautiful! What a fun trip, and I love all the fact tidbits, too! I hope to see things like this one day. I’m afraid I’ve never seen anything like it in person. Just in very pretty pictures!

  15. Great story 🙂

  16. How timely for me- I literally just was in the middle of watching a show on Netflix about the tower and how they used to have wild animals that people could come pay to see.. or bring a pet to feed them.. UGH! You should check out that video.. lol.

    • They loved to see exotic animals, now we have television to see strange sights. I will have to find that show and watch it too.

  17. Great pics! I thought the Tower of London was truly amazing. It was actually the first place I visited after arriving in London. It really set the tone of the rest of my stay — everything so wonderfully historic, everywhere you look. I have to go back through my old photo albums. I don’t think I got any pics of the crown jewels.

    • No Cathy, you probably were barred from taking pictures too. If you did get photos, I’d loved to see them.

  18. So much fascinating wealth and history! Until you mentioned it, I’d never given any thought as to how heavy some of the crowns might be. Interesting point!

    • We don’t think about what it’s like to have something that weighs five pounds on our head. Adding all that gold and glitter can weigh more than we would imagine I guess.

  19. I loved the Tower of London! Our Yeoman Warder/ tour guide was so informative and funny. It is a truly amazing place and the jewels are so beautiful. This is a must see for anyone visiting London. Thanks for sharing your visit and I love your blog name! Hope to be retired soon! 🙂

    • A tour guide really makes a tour cause no matter how much I read, they can give it an interesting twist. We love being retired and finding fun ways to enjoy this new empty nest life.

  20. Oh FUN! I needed to be following your blog years ago! My grandma needs to follow it, too! They have been retired for a while and still won’t live it up!!

    • I hope you will enjoy the stories that I’m sharing with you. Your grandma is welcome to send any questions she may have on how to “live it up” too.

  21. Wow! What an awesome experience! I would love to visit London sometime.

    • London is really worth visiting to see all the history and traveling is very easy on their train system. We loved it there and would love to return someday.

  22. How wonderful to travel with your daughter and see those majestic crowns! Looks like you had an incredible trip. I would love to visit there and learn all the history I’m guessing you did!

    • It was the first time that just me and my daughter had the chance to travel together. We had a wonderful experience seeing the things that we were both interested in visiting and learning about.

  23. Those huge jewels seem almost unreal. It’s hard to believe that gems of that size and beauty actually exist and aren’t just costume jewelry. I wonder if the current royal family likes to go in every now and then to just try things on. Wouldn’t you if you could? A few of the places that I visited in Italy recently didn’t allow photography either. I admit that it was nice to put away the camera and not feel compelled to photograph everything that caught my interest.

    • The idea of not feeling compelled to take pics of everything is a good point. It’s frustrating when people are walking in front of that great shot. Yet they have the right to walk where they want as well. It’s a good subject, now that everyone is also carrying around their IPad and taking videos of a entire room. The jewels really sparkled and I wish that I would have read my story before I went in. It was too much to absorb in one visit.

  24. Very interesting and informative post, thank you for sharing.

  25. Fantastic photos and was fascinated about the story of the post English Civil War! Sending this to a girlfriend of mine who is all things London and she will love it! 🙂

    • The Crown Jewels were amazingly sparkly and glittered in the lighting. I wish I had studied more about them before I went, instead of after the fact.

  26. Thanks for sharing your trip to the Tower of London, Neva. I was there in 1969 and enjoyed the experience as well. The jewels were spectacular but I couldn’t help thinking how much better that wealth could have been distributed.

    • The Tower of London was an amazing place to visit and get a feel of this history. It’s interesting that some crowns are redone as needed.

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