On Tuesday, 14 February 2023, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Mary’s Crown had been removed from display at the Tower of London.
This is the first time since a Queen Consort’s crown has been re-used since Caroline of Ansbach, wife of King George II, wore Mary of Modena’s crown on 11 October 1727.
Buckingham Palace said the choice of using an existing crown, rather than a new commission, was made ‘in the interests of sustainability and efficiency.’
Queen Mary commissioned the royal jeweller Garrard & Co to create a new crown for her coronation on 22 June 1911, inspired by the design of her mother-in-law Queen Alexandra’s in 1902.
Unlike most queen consort’s crowns, this one had eight elegant arches instead of four and it contained three large diamonds – the Koh-i-Noor, the pear-shaped Cullinan III and a large-cushion-shaped stone.
The crown has a purple velvet cap with an ermine band.
Queen Mary wore the crown without the arches and the velvet cap during King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation in 1937.
The controversial Koh-i-Noor was also removed and placed in Queen Elizabeth’s crown.
However, for alterations for Queen Camilla ahead of the Coronation on 6 May, the Crown Jeweller will remove four of the arches and the crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds, which were part of Queen Elizabeth’s personal jewellery collection.
The Cullinan Diamonds
The Cullinan diamonds are part of the famous Cullinan diamond, the largest one ever found.
The diamond, named in honour of Thomas Cullinan the mining company’s chairman, was discovered at the Premier Mine near Pretoria, in South Africa, in 1905.
The original stone weighed 3,106 carats!
The government of the Transvaal presented the diamond to King Edward VII for his 66th birthday in 1907, as a symbolic gesture to heal the rift between South Africa and Britain after the Boer War.
A year later, King Edward commissioned Joseph Asscher & Co of Amsterdam to cut the Cullinan diamond into nine numbered stones, known as the Stars of Africa.
Cullinan I – known as the Great Star of Africa, is set at the head of the Sovereign’s sceptre which was redesigned in 1910 and has been used at Coronations ever since.
Cullinan II – the Second Star of Africa – a cushion-shaped diamond is set in at the front of the Imperial State Crown.
Cullinan V – a heart-shaped diamond that can be set in a crown or worn either as a brooch or pendant.
Other Cullinan stones have been worn at brooches, as pendants, as part of necklaces or the Delhi Durbar parure.
Cullinan IX was set in a platinum ring.