St Edward’s crown is one of the most important symbols of the British monarchy and represents the continuity of the royal tradition dating back over a thousand years. The crown was made in 1661 for the coronation of Charles II, and was used for only two more coronations before becoming obsolete for over two centuries.
In 1902, King Edward VII decided to use it for his coronation, but had to change his mind due to a sudden illness and chose a lighter crown. It was not until George V that St Edward’s crown was again used as the official crown for the sovereign’s coronation.
The crown is made of 22-carat gold and is more than 30 centimetres high. It is decorated with 444 gems set on gold and enamel mounts, including sapphires, rubies, amethysts, topazes and aquamarines. It is set on a band of ermine fur and contains a dark red velvet biretta inside.
St Edward’s crown is very heavy, weighing a whopping 2.28 kg, which is why the sovereign only wears it for less than an hour during the coronation ceremony, after which it is stored in the Tower of London to await the next coronation.
Besides being a powerful symbol of the British monarchy, St Edward’s crown is also considered a precious relic. In fact, the crown of the king canonised as a saint had been used for centuries, until it was melted down during the revolution led by Oliver Cromwell, when King Charles II was beheaded.
Despite its historical importance, St. Edward’s crown has also been the subject of jokes among British monarchs. For example, Queen Elizabeth II had ironically asked whether the crown was still so heavy when she had picked it up for a documentary in 2018: “Yes, it does still weigh a tonne!” the sovereign agreed. Furthermore, the queen’s father, George VI, had joked that it was not easy to tell which was the front and back of the crown because of the arrangement of the gems.