Tower of London announces a new Crown Jewels exhibition

The display will reassess some of the precious pieces after the coronation

Historic Royal Palaces has announced that the Tower of London is set to transform its Jewel House to feature more exhibits and stories about the Crown Jewels than ever before.

The display is set to open on the 26th May, just weeks after The King’s Coronation.

In a unique exhibition, visitors will be able to explore the origins of some of the Crown Jewels and affiliated objects for the first time, including the destruction of the original jewels under Oliver Cromwell. After the execution of Charles I, England became a Commonwealth republic, with no need for the ornate items.

The new, updated exhibition will be a celebration of the Monarchy, and will feature the frames of State Crown of Monarchs past, like those of George I, George IV, and Queen Victoria. This part will explore how these historic jewels have passed from generation to generation.

Visitors will explore the origins of the current Crown Jewels – which include the Imperial State Crown and St Edward’s Crown, plus the orb and sceptre – starting in 1649 with the destruction of the medieval Coronation Regalia.

Replicas of the Crown Jewels including St Edward’s Crown, the orb and sceptre from the Westminster Abbey museum

The new display will follow the evolution of the pieces over time. A Commonwealth coin from the 17th century, on loan from the British Museum, will go on display, showcasing how the melted gold once worn by medieval Monarchs was repurposed, illustrating the power of the new regime.

Another new aspect is the exploration of the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Currently set in the crown of the Queen Mother, its complex and contested history will also be explored through visual projections and explanations.

Alongside this, visitors will be able to learn about the Cullinan diamond, the largest stone ever found thanks to a showing of the the hammer and knife used to make the first cuts to the piece.

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The Cullinan stone cut into its nine main parts (Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

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Discovered in a South African mine in 1900, the diamond was split into nine major stones and 96 smaller brilliants, with the largest two featuring in the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross and the Imperial State Crown. It was gifted to Edward VII in 1907, but its story brings up questions of imperialism, which are not often discussed officially.

There will be an area dedicated to the spectacle and pageantry of the Coronation Procession, which will feature processions throughout history and celebrate the contributions of those who take part in these events.

On display will be objects from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, including a suit worn at the Coronation of George IV in 1821, and a herald’s tabard which would have been worn during royal processions.

Doublet and trunk hose worn by Du Pre Alexander, 2nd Earl of Caledon for the coronation of King George IV in 1821. (© HRP)

Detail of a herald’s tabard of silk satin, decorated with the arms of King George III

The new display will conclude in the Treasury, the vault that protects most of the historic collection.

Among the items on display will include St Edward’s Crown, which will be used in the moment of crowning during the Coronation of Charles III (it has recently been resized), the Sovereign’s Sceptre and Orb. These items were created in 1661 for Charles II, in need of a set following the interregnum.

New lighting will mean visitors to experience the world-famous collection like never before.

Andrew Jackson, Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House, said: ‘We are delighted to unveil our brand-new Jewel House display from 26th May, offering visitors a richer understanding of this magnificent collection.

St Edward’s Crown

‘As the home of the Crown Jewels, we are delighted that the Tower of London will continue to play its part during this historic Coronation year. We look forward to expanding the stories we are telling about the Crown Jewels, and to showcasing this remarkable collection for millions of visitors from around the world to enjoy.’

Charles Farris, Public Historian for the History of the Monarchy at Historic Royal Palaces, commented: ‘The Crown Jewels are the most powerful symbols of the British Monarchy and hold deep religious, historic, and cultural significance.

‘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 exhibition is supported by Garrard, which has a long history of connection to the Crown.

Entrance to the Crown Jewels are included in tickets to the Tower of London. Why not find out more about the Beefeaters, who live and work at the Tower of London, helping to protect the Crown Jewels?

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