A visit to the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London is a must on every tourist itinerary, and from 26 May 2023, the experience is set to become even more fascinating. Garrard, the London jeweller, has sponsored five new rooms, through which visitors will pass before entering the Treasury vault to view the Crown Jewels. This section, with its famous moving walkway, has new lighting to bring even more brilliance to the dazzling collection.
Historic Royal Palaces has worked for four years on the new area designed to enhance the visitor experience by bringing to life the history, context and significance of the Crown Jewels.
The first room named ‘Monarch’ (above), displays the empty frames of crowns used in previous coronations; a reminder that there have been many different crowns throughout Britain’s history of monarchy. You can spot the vacant bezel in the frame of the 1714 King George I State Crown that was made to hold the famous Black Prince’s ruby that is now set in a newer version of the Imperial State Crown.
The ‘Origins’ room (above) tells the stories behind two of the most famous diamonds in the world: the Cullinan found in 1905 and the historic Koh-i-Noor, both rich in intrigue and controversy. Models of the rough of the Cullinan show how the 3106-carat diamond was cleaved along with the hammer and blade used by Joseph Asscher to make the first cuts. Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate era is recalled via a small crucible used to melt down the medieval crown regalia. The crucible is on display alongside a coin of the same epoch that likely contains remnants of gold from the crown. When King Charles II was restored to the throne, new regalia was made for his 1661 coronation, and since then, the Crown Jewels have remained under guard in the Tower of London.
‘Guardians’ relates to the men and women who look after this working collection of precious objects and leads into the ‘Procession’ room (above). Footage of the coronations of Edward VII in 1902, George V in 1911, George VI in 1937, Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and soon to be joined by that of King Charles III’s Coronation in 2023, are shown on the walls. The Royal Maces, uniforms, costumes, uniforms, swords, and trumpets are some of the items related to coronations on display. The curators have selected the pieces and the layout to add a human element to the symbolism of the regalia.
Garrard, that has deep links to the Crown Jewels, has sponsored the project. Joanne Milner, CEO of Garrard, says of the partnership: “As the longest-serving Crown Jeweller in history, working with the Tower of London on this major new exhibition in the Jewel House is the perfect fit for Garrard.”
Founded in London in 1735, Garrard became the first official Crown Jeweller in 1843, appointed by Queen Victoria to maintain and repair the Crown Jewels. Since then, Garrard has created some of the most famous royal jewels among them the 1937 Imperial State Crown for George VI that was adjusted for Queen Elizabeth II and most recently used for the Coronation of King Charles III. Garrard set the largest of the Cullinan diamonds in the Sovereign’s Sceptre in 1910. Garrard also made the Imperial Crown of India in 1911, Queen Victoria’s Small Diamond Crown (1871), and The Queen Mother’s Crown that she wore to the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
The Crown Jewels have been kept in the Tower of London for the last 400 years, and continue to draw crowds. In 2022, they were visited by over two million people, and it is anticipated that millions more will visit the Jewel House to experience the new exhibition.
The new Jewel House exhibition opens to visitors on 26 May 2023 and is included in general admission.
The Tower of London, officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, situated on the north bank of the River Thames is home to The Crown Jewels.
Room 4 – Procession (c) Historic Royal Palaces. Costumes from former coronations as well as the gold Royal Maces and the Sword of State, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, the Sword of Temporal Justice, and the Sword of Mercy are on display.
Room 2 Origins (c) Historic Royal Palaces. The short films and displays explore the history behind the Cullinan and Koh-i-Noor diamonds, two of the most famous diamonds in the world.
Room 3 Guardians (c) Historic Royal Palaces. This room shows the uniforms and other objects belonging to the men and women who work to keep the Crown Jewels safe.
Room 1 Monarch (c) Historic Royal Palaces. The empty frames of three crowns illustrate how different crowns have been used through the centuries. The gemstones, which were often borrowed, have been removed to be used in other crowns or jewels.
Room 4 Procession 1 (c) Historic Royal Palaces. This room is wrapped in footage of former coronations.
Room 4 Procession Herald’s tabard conservation (c) Historic Royal Palaces. The new Jewel House exhibits were created by Historic Royal Palaces and sponsored by Garrard, the London jeweller and first holder of the first Official Crown Jeweller.