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The history of the Imperial State Crown, the glittering symbol of Monarchy worn by King Charles at the Coronation

It was the second crown that King Charles wore on the day of his Coronation but the one that will be seen in history books for centuries to come. As he left Westminster Abbey on May 6th 2023 after the Coronation, The King wore the Imperial State Crown. It was also used for the formal portraits after the Coronation while King Charles later wore the Crown for the State Opening of Parliament. It is a sparkling part of the image of the Monarchy and one with a fascinating history of its own.

BBC still/ fair use

This stunning crown is a symbol of the sovereignty of the monarch, and has been used in coronations since the 15th century, though in various forms. The most current version was created in 1937 for the Coronation of King George VI, and was also worn by Queen Elizabeth II. On May 6th 2023, King Charles III wore it to depart Westminster Abbey.

UK Parliament via Flickr

After the Coronation, it is typically worn at State Openings of Parliament, and, when not in use, is on display at the Tower of London.

BBC still/ fair use

But the history of this grand heirloom is matched only by the sheer size and spectacle of the jewels that form it. Here is the Imperial State Crown by the numbers:

The Imperial State Crown features 2,868 diamonds mounted in silver.

BBC still/ fair use

There are 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 269 pearls set in gold mounts.

The Cullinan II, a cushion-cut diamond with 66 facets sits on the front of the Crown band. It weighs 317.4 carats.

MOD Crown Copyright

The Black Prince’s Ruby—named after Edward, the Black Prince, heir of Edward III who died before he could reign—sits above the Cullinan II on a cross pattée. It weighs 170 carats and its English possession dates back to 1367.

St Edward’s Sapphire sits at the top-most cross and came from the tomb of Edward the Confessor, who reigned between 1042 and 1066. The sapphire is said to have been part of Edward’s coronation ring and was taken from his tomb in 1163.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Stuart Sapphire, which dates back to the House of Stuart’s reign in the 1600s, sits at the back of the Crown and weighs 104 carats.

Four pearls hang from the monde, and they are said to have once belonged to Queen Elizabeth I, however the provenance has never been proven.

The Imperial State Crown is 31.5 cm tall and weighs 2.6 pounds.

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About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.