This week I visited the Tower of London to see both the World War I poppy installation and also to go on a tour of the Tower itself. My favourite part of the day (other than seeing the extraordinary and poignant poppy display) was an exhibition called Crowns through the Ages. These spanned the Georgian and Victorian eras and it was fascinating to see them.
The earliest crown on display had been worn by George I at his coronation in 1714. George decided
George III recycled the crown but his son George IV had a new diamond crown made for his coronation. It was the most lavish in the collection (why does that not surprise me?!) but again the diamonds were borrowed and although George was determined that the government should buy them he failed to convince parliament that it was worth the expense. Because of the frugal tradition of hiring rather than buying the gems, most of the crowns in the exhibition were therefore set with false stones or were just empty frames, which was interesting to see but rather sad.
My favourite crown was that of a Queen Consort, Adelaide, wife of William IV. This had been made especially for he coronation in 1831 because the previous crown, that of Mary of Modena, second wife of James II, was considered too “theatrical.” Adelaide’s crown was a gorgeous, rich scarlet velvet that looked beautiful with the silver. The other thing that struck me from looking at Adelaide’s crown and that of Queen Victoria was what small heads they must have had!