Queen Consort Camilla will wear a history-making crown for her coronation in May.
Buckingham Palace announced on Tuesday that the royal has chosen to wear Queen Mary’s crown for the ceremony held at Westminster Abbey. The headpiece has been removed from display at the Tower of London in order to undergo modification ahead of the coronation. This choice marks the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used instead of a new one being commissioned “in the interests of sustainability and efficiency,” per the palace. The last time a Queen Consort’s crown was re-used for a coronation was in the 18th century when Queen Caroline, consort of George II, wore Mary of Modena’s crown. Queen Mary’s crown was originally commissioned by her from Garrard’s, the favored royal jeweler, for her husband King George V’s 1911 coronation. The design was inspired by Queen Alexandra’s Crown from 1902 and can similarly be worn with or without the arches in the form of a regal circlet. Queen Mary wore the crown once again without the arches for the coronation of her son, King George VI, in 1937.
Queen Mary’s crown is currently undergoing a few alterations, done by the Crown Jeweler, in keeping with the longstanding tradition that the addition of jewels be unique to the occasion and a reflection of the royal consort’s individual style. One of these modifications will pay tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, as the crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV, and V diamonds. These diamonds were part of the monarch’s personal jewelry collection for many years and were often worn by her as brooches. The Cullinan diamonds have also been set into Queen Mary’s crown on previous occasions. The Cullinan III and IV diamonds were temporarily added to the crown for the 1911 coronation, and the Cullinan V was added when the crown was worn as a regal circlet at King George VI’s coronation. For Camilla’s coronation, four of the crown’s eight detachable arches will be removed so as to create a different silhouette than when it was worn in 1911. King Charles has chosen to wear St. Edward’s crown for the ceremony and it has just been returned to public display at the Tower of London after being removed late last year following the completion of modification work.
Queen Mary’s crown originally contained the Koh-i-Nûr diamond, but according to the Royal Collection, it was removed and placed in the crown used by Queen Elizabeth’s mother. Over the years, the diamond has also been at the center of controversy as many believe it should be returned to India where it originated from. A spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party in India told The Telegraph in October, “The coronation of Camilla and the use of the crown jewel Koh-i-Nûr brings back painful memories of the colonial past. Most Indians have very little memory of the oppressive past. Five to six generations of Indians suffered under multiple foreign rules for over five centuries. The coronation of the new Queen Camilla and the use of the Koh-i-Nûr do transport a few Indians back to the days of the British Empire in India.”
Listen to Vanity Fair’s DYNASTY podcast now.