With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations over, more than 10,000 diamonds are now on display at London’s Buckingham Palace to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the throne. The dazzling crowns, tiaras, rings, earrings, swords and snuff boxes are some of the most famous and valuable in the world, but the one with the most fascinating back story is the small diamond crown of Queen Victoria.
Born in 1819, Alexandrina Victoria became Queen Victoria at the age of 18 and she reigned for 63 years and 7 months, the longest reign of any British monarch. Her time as the monarch of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Ireland became known as the Victorian Era.
After her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861, the 42-year-old Victoria mourned her loss by stepping out of the public eye and wearing mourning attire, including widow’s weeds (a simple black garment) and a mourning veil. She would wear the veil for the next 40 years, until her own death in 1901.
The mourning Victoria succumbed to government pressure in 1870 and reluctantly returned to public life. She refused to don the official Imperial State Crown because it was heavy, uncomfortable and impossible to wear with her mourning veil. Instead, she requested a petite crown that could be worn on top of her veil.
The result was Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown which, despite its size of 3.5 inches across and 4 inches tall, features more than 1,187 diamonds. The crown was made of silver and all the diamonds came from a necklace owned by the Queen. It was considered acceptable to wear diamonds in mourning because the gemstones were colorless.
The small crown became a symbol of Queen Victoria’s reign. In fact, the bitty crown was placed on her coffin before her funeral in January of 1901.
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