Crown Jewels’ origins to be explored in depth in new Tower of London exhibition

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The Tower of London is to delve deeper than ever before into the history of the Crown Jewels with a new exhibition in the coronation year.

The display in the Jewel House, where the priceless collection is kept under armed guard, will explore the origins of some of the precious objects for the first time, including the controversial Koh-i-noor diamond.

A warden at the Tower of London (
A warden at the Tower of London (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)

Andrew Jackson, resident governor of the Tower of London and keeper of the Jewel House, said he hopes the transformation will offer visitors “a richer understanding of this magnificent collection” as the Tower plays its part during the coronation year.

The display, leading towards the Treasury where most of the royal regalia is kept, also aims to evoke the spectacle and pageantry of the coronation procession and service.

Royal reception – The Reading Room anniversary
The King and the Queen Consort will be crowned in Westminster Abbey on May 6 (Chris Jackson/PA)

“From their fascinating origins to their use during the coronation ceremony, the new Jewel House transformation will present the rich history of this magnificent collection with more depth and detail than ever before.

“With 2023 bringing the first coronation in 70 years, there has never been a better time for people to come and learn about the jewels and to appreciate these awe-inspiring objects in person.”

The monarchy room which will include the State Crown frames worn by George I, George IV and Queen Victoria
The Monarchy Room will include the State Crown frames worn by George I, George IV and Queen Victoria (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)

The Koh-i-noor was seized by the East India Company after its victory in the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849.

It was given to Queen Victoria and has remained in the Crown Jewels ever since, but the governing party of India’s prime minister has warned it brings back painful memories of the British Empire.

Queen Mother death procession
The coronation crown of the Queen Mother features the Koh-i-noor diamond (PA)

The re-presentation in the Jewel House is the culmination of a major four-year project for Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity which cares for the historic tower, where the treasures have been kept for nearly 400 years.

The display will begin with the state crown frames worn by past monarchs George I, George IV and Queen Victoria in a celebration of the “timelessness” of the monarchy.

It will show how many of the most historic jewels have passed from crown to crown, including the famous Black Prince’s Ruby, which was one of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite jewels and sits in the Imperial State Crown.

It will go on to tell the story of how the original medieval Crown Jewels were destroyed on the orders of Oliver Cromwell in 1649 during the English Civil War.

Queen attends multi-faith reception
The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon (PA)

The story of the Cullinan diamond will also feature, with the hammer and knife used to make the first cuts to the stone going on show in the Jewel House for the first time.

The Cullinan diamond was discovered in South Africa in 1905 and – at 3,106 carats – is the largest gem-quality uncut diamond ever found.

Royalty – British Crown Jewels and Regalia – Tower of London
The Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross (PA)

The Cullinan I – 530.2 carats and the largest colourless cut diamond in the world – is not without controversy amid calls for the gem to be returned to South Africa.

The new display will also feature a room dedicated to the pageantry of the coronation procession, including a court suit worn at the coronation of George IV.

The Procession room which includes the court suit worn at the Coronation of George IV
The Procession Room will include the court suit worn at the Coronation of George IV (Historic Royal Palaces/PA)

– The new Jewel House exhibition opens to visitors on May 26 2023 and is included in the general admission price.

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