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The Crown Jewels have been redisplayed in a beautiful new exhibition at the Tower of London, just in time for the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen.
I had a sneak preview at the Tower of London yesterday, before the exhibition opens to the public today, and the new treatment really is stunning.
The exhibition focuses on the coronation ceremony as its central theme. New video, music, and lighting displays bring to life the deep religious and cultural significance of these incredible items in our nation’s fascinating history. Most of the crown jewels were destroyed by Cromwell during the interregnum, so almost everything on display here dates from after 1660 – quite moden, when you compare it to the rest of the Tower.
Before you even see the jewels themselves, the exhibition builds a sense of anticipation, giving you tasters of the objects you’re about to see in videos and photographs. There’s a newly restored film of The Queen’s coronation in 1953 – not the whole three-hour show, but a three-minute snapshot of the most important bits. The artefacts are then displayed in the order they appear in a coronation ceremony, accompanied by the stirring sounds of Handel’s coronation anthems.
If you’ve never seen the Crown Jewels before, it might surprise you to hear that it’s not just a selection of gorgeous, bejewelled crowns. The crowns are important, of course, and pretty breathtaking with the sheer volume of diamonds and other precious stones on each of them, but as well as these, I saw the incredible Coronation Spoon, dating from the 12th century (one of the few remaining pieces of medieval regalia in the collection); Queen Victoria’s tiny coronation ring; 10 different maces; swords, spurs, robes; and magnificent banqueting plates, bowls and other items. It’s an incredible collection.
Rebecca Richards, the Interpreter Manager at the Tower of London was keen to emphasise that the Crown Jewels aren’t museum pieces or relics, but working pieces of a useful, operational collection. Most of all, she hoped people would stop doubting they’ve seen the real things, thinking these must be replicas! These are the genuine Crown Jewels, on display for everyone to enjoy.
You can book a trip to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels here. I really recommend it!