The Crown of Mary of Modena
The Crown Jewels have been kept at the Tower of London for more than 600 years. Over 23,000 jewels adorn 140 different objects that make up the collection. These pieces of living history are impossible to put a value on and when they are not being worn by the monarch on important occasions, they are kept under armed guard around the clock.
The collection includes robes, cloaks, orbs and swords but it’s the crowns themselves that pique the public’s interest. The St Edward’s Crown is the most important of all, reserved solely for the climax of the coronation – the moment of crowning. The Imperial State Crown is recognisable to anyone who has watched the state opening of parliament. The crown travels to the Palace of Westminster in its own carriage before being placed in the Robing Room ready to be worn.
Tradition dictates that when a king is married, his queen consort is crowned alongside him at the coronation. Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentarians melted down the original medieval crown jewels. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II demanded a glittering coronation by way of a statement and no expense was spared in creating a set of replacements. However, as Charles wasn’t married there was no need for a crown for his consort. When he died in 1685 without any legitimate children, the throne passed to his brother The Duke of York who was crowned James VII of Scotland and II of England.
The crown featured on the Crown Jewels coin is that of James’s wife, Mary of Modena. Three crowns were made for her by the goldsmith Richard De Beauvoir in 1685: a coronation crown, state crown and a diadem (jewelled headband). Both the diadem and state crown reside today within the main collection of the Crown Jewels at the the Tower of London. The state crown, although not originally intended for coronations, was used by all subsequent queen consorts until 1831, when it was replaced by the crown of Queen Adelaide. Although it’s no longer used in royal ceremonies, during 1938–9 the mock pearls adorning it were replaced by cultured ones.
Together the signature pieces and less well-known items form an incredible collection. The Crown Jewels never lose their capacity to delight and amaze. There’s always something new to learn about these priceless artefacts, steeped in centuries of royal history.