The Imperial State Crown features several notable jewels, including the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Cullinan II Diamond, and St. Edward’s Sapphire. The Stuart Sapphire also has a prominent place in the Imperial State Crown but has a somewhat murkier past than the other jewels.
This large, oval-shaped sapphire is roughly 104 carats and 3.8 cm by 2.5 cm. It is believed that it most likely came from Asia.
Historians are unsure as to when the sapphire came into British royal possession. It is possible that Charles II acquired the stone at some point during his reign. However, James II did take the jewel with him when he fled to the Continent after he was deposed during the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
James passed the sapphire down to his son, James Stuart – known as the Old Pretender. Although he attempted multiple times to retake the throne with the help of Jacobite and French supporters, he was unsuccessful.
James’s son, Henry Stuart, inherited the Stuart sapphire from his father. Henry was a Roman Catholic Cardinal known as “Cardinal York”. (This was a nod to the title of Duke of York that he could have held as the King’s second son.) He wore the Stuart Sapphire in his mitre.
Henry put the sapphire for sale, as he had no children to inherit his possessions. George III purchased the Stuart Sapphire in 1807.
Queen Victoria placed the Stuart Sapphire at the front of the Imperial State Crown and would wear it in that place for her reign. However, her son and successor, Edward VII, moved the Stuart Sapphire to the back of the crown to make a place for the Cullinan II.
George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II all chose to leave the Stuart Sapphire at the back of the Imperial State Crown.
We will see King Charles III wearing it on 6 May.