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The Long and Controversial History of the Coronation Crowns

With preparations underway for King Charles III’s May 6 coronation, the royal regalia, an ancient and priceless collection of jewel-encrusted swords and crowns stored safely and on display at the Tower of London, is being readied for use at the ceremony. That includes the hefty crown placed on the monarch’s head at the moment of coronation.

King Charles will wear the St. Edward’s Crown for the first and only time in May, in line with royal traditions that reserve the crown exclusively for the occasion. It was originally made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661 and later worn by Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation in 1953; it has since been refitted for the new King.

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Below, what to know about the King and Queen Consort Camilla’s crown.

Read More: Here’s the Full Schedule for King Charles III’s Coronation—and What to Expect

Which crown will King Charles wear?

King Charles will wear the St. Edward’s Crown, which was last used for crowning Elizabeth II in 1953. The crown is made of a solid gold frame that weighs nearly five pounds along with a purple velvet cap and an ermine band. It is also adorned with 444 gemstones, including rubies, sapphires, garnets, topazes, and tourmalines. The crown was commissioned in 1661 by the Royal Goldsmith, Robert Vyner, for the coronation of Charles II. It replaced a medieval crown that was first discovered in 1163 in the tomb of the 11th-century royal saint, King Edward the Confessor. The crown was later melted down by parliamentarians in 1649 following the execution of King Charles I.

After the ceremony, King Charles will switch to the lighter Imperial State Crown for the procession back to the palace. This crown is made of gold and set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies. It also features some of the most famous jewels in the Royal collection, including the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Stuart Sapphire, and the Cullinan II diamond, the largest diamond ever mined. Originally made for the coronation of King George VI in 1937, the crown replaced Queen Victoria’s crown in 1838 and was also worn by the late Queen Elizabeth II during her coronation. Most recently, it was placed on the Queen’s coffin during her state funeral. Jewellery experts at U.K. retailer Steven Stone estimate the crown’s value to be worth £2.5 million.

Read more: Everything to Know About King Charles III’s Coronation

Which crown will the Queen Consort Camilla wear?

Camilla will wear a modified version of Queen Mary’s Crown, which was originally made by Garrard for the 1911 coronation of King George V, the father of Queen Elizabeth II and grandfather of Charles, and commissioned by Queen Mary, the consort of King George V.

This will be the first time a queen consort crown has been re-used since the 18th century, when Queen Caroline, consort of George II, wore Mary of Modena’s crown.

However, the crown will not feature the Koh-i-Noor diamond used in the late Queen Mother’s crowning in 1937. The diamond, first seized by the East India Company in 1849 and presented to Queen Victoria, has long been the subject of a controversial spat between Britain and its former colony India. While the Indian government previously said the diamond was a gift from Maharaja Duleep Singh—an 11-year-old emperor of the Sikhs—the child’s mother had reportedly been imprisoned by the British and coerced into signing away rights to the jewel. After the passing of Queen Elizabeth, members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India stated that using the crown jewel in Camilla’s coronation would bring back “painful memories of the colonial past.”

Instead, Camilla’s crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds, part of the late Queen’s personal jewellery collection and often worn by her as brooches. Camilla will also hold a scepter made of ivory, a controversial move after Britain imposed a near-total ban on dealing elephant ivory products and considering that Prince William, heir to the throne, has campaigned against the illegal trafficking of animal parts.

What is the historical significance behind the Crown?

Although the May 6 ceremony is reportedly more low-key than previous coronations, it will still feature ancient traditions and royal regalia used for centuries. Aside from the crowns worn by King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla, the regalia also includes five symbolic swords, two scepters, and the Sovereign’s Ring of sapphire with a ruby cross set in diamonds.

Despite their repeated use and historical significance, royal experts have admitted that the purpose of some of the objects remains unclear. Most of them are no older than 350 years because much of the original medieval collection was destroyed in the mid-17th century on the orders of the political leader Oliver Cromwell. The destruction followed the English Civil War, which took place between the supporters of King Charlers I and those who supported the rights and privileges of parliament, and which led to the execution of Charles I in 1649.

Read more: Why There’s No Crown on King Charles III’s New Stamps

Their replicas were later recreated by the royal goldsmith on the orders of Charles II in 1660-1 after the Stuart Restoration in 1660, when King Charles II returned from exile to the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

One rare survivor from the original collection that will feature in the coronation is the silver-gilt coronation spoon that dates from the 12 century. The oldest object in the regalia, the spoon was used to pour the chrism oil, consecrated at the Holy Sepulchre church in Jerusalem, before the anointing of the new King and Queen.

What is the Crown emoji?

To mark the weekend of coronation festivities and the first crowning to take place in the social media era, Buckingham Palace has also revealed the first official emoji created for the coronation. The colorful emoji features the motif of the 17th-century St. Edward’s crown with the gold band and a purple cap. Along with the emoji, the palace began using the official Twitter hashtags #Coronation, #CoronationConcert, #CoronationWeekend and #CoronationBigLunch from April 10.

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