Home » Crown Jewels were hidden from Nazis in biscuit tin – and even Queen didn’t know
Crown Jewels were hidden from Nazis in biscuit tin – and even Queen didn’t know
May 7, 2021
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You might think the Crown Jewels are just the famous crown, orb and sceptre, as worn by Queen Elizabeth for her coronation in 1953. But there are 142 objects including trumpets, maces, robes and swords.
They contain over 23,500 precious stones.
The regalia boasts the largest clear-cut diamond in the world. The 530-carat Cullinan I is estimated to be worth at least £400million and sits as the centrepiece of the Sovereign’s Sceptre.
Britain's Crown Jewels were originally kept in Westminster Abbey but moved to the Tower of London after a spate of attempted thefts.
More than 30million visitors have seen them.
Oliver Cromwell had the original medieval and Tudor items sold or melted down and turned into coins after the abolition of the monarchy in 1649. Many of today’s treasures were added during or after the reign of Charles II.
The oldest item is a spoon that survived Cromwell’s clear out. The Coronation Spoon is used to anoint the monarch as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England and dates from the 12th century.
King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936, took his crown with him when he decided to marry Wallis Simpson. The Prince of Wales Crown eventually made its way back to the main collection after he died.
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During World War Two, gemstones from the Crown Jewels were hidden in a biscuit tin to keep them safe from the Nazis.
It was stashed away in a secret chamber beneath Windsor Castle. The secret was so well kept, even the Queen didn’t know about it until a few years ago.
The Queen actually wore two different crowns at her own coronation — the St Edward’s Crown and the Imperial State Crown. While the former has not been worn since the Queen regularly wears the Imperial State Crown for Parliamentary openings.
Before the big day, the Queen is said to have practised wearing the solid gold St Edward’s Crown, right, around Buckingham Palace – it weighs in at a hefty 2.23kgs (almost 5lbs).
Meanwhile, the stunning Imperial State Crown contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls and four rubies.
The Crown Jeweller cleans the precious objects at the Tower of London every January after visiting hours are over but some of the older, more fragile items, such as the Coronation Spoon, are cleaned by experts at the British Museum.
While estimates value the Crown Jewels at up to £5billion, they are not insured against loss and are unlikely to ever be sold. They are officially priceless.
Many films have featured attempted heists of the Crown Jewels – from Muppets Most Wanted, where Ricky Gervais’ villain plots to pinch them, to Johnny English, where Rowan Atkinson’s hapless spy investigates their theft and accidentally becomes king.