The Crowns of England, Christ & His Saints

This summer I arranged to see the Crown Jewels, both English and Scottish. The former, held at the Tower of London, and the latter at Edinburgh Castle, are the gem-encrusted symbols of royal authority. These collections contain a number of crowns, some barely worn, yet no monetary value can be placed upon them. They are kept under very tight security; visitors may not photograph or touch them.

The British monarchs have usually had three crowns: St Edward’s, with which they are formally crowned at the start of their reigns; the State crown which they wore for formal occasions thereafter, and some kind of lighter-weight circlet or diadem for ‘every day’ use.

The Imperial State Crown is Britain’s most visible, worn each year by HM as she opens Parliament. The current form was made in 1937; successive generations have remodelled it and it has sustained damage from its regular use. In 1845, the Duke of Argyle dropped it in Parliament, Victoria commenting "it was all crushed and squashed like a pudding that had sat down”. It contains 2,901 precious stones, including some of the world’s most famous, such as the Cullinan II diamond, St Edward's Sapphire, the Stuart Sapphire, and the Black Prince's Ruby. Two of the pearls dangling from the arches were Elizabeth I’s earrings. Its frame is made of gold, silver and platinum, but so great is its covering of gems that barely any metal can be seen.

Christ, too, wears a crown, as one might expect of the King of kings. Little detail of it is given, for here the Wearer is more far more splendid than the crown:

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. Rev 14:1 

Furthermore, some believers are described as wearing crowns. In Revelation 4, we read:

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne…

Whether this is a poetic description of giving Christ all the glory, or whether members of the royal priesthood will actually don crowns in order to cast them at His feet is unclear. Elsewhere scripture talks of five crowns that believers wear, but all, I think, have a symbolic sense:

The Crown of Life;

the Incorruptible Crown;

the Crown of Righteousness;

the Crown of Glory:

the Crown of Exultation.

Anyone who has seen footage of the coronation will have spotted that many hundreds of crowns seem to be worn at the ceremony by people in the Abbey. These are members of the nobility and their formal headdresses are correctly called coronets- lesser crowns. Princes, dukes, marquises, earls, viscounts and barons are all allowed to wear their lesser regalia. The wedding feast of the Lamb may well see the different orders of angel and variously rewarded believers wearing coronets and diadems:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 1 Peter 5:4

However, they wear them not for their own display or appearance. They that receive such honours by grace, cannot but affirm:

‘The Lamb is all the glory’.

Photo: G. Younghusband; C. Davenport (1919). The Crown Jewels of England. London: Cassell & Co. p. 6. (published in the US by Funk & Wagnalls, NY.) See also The Jewel House (1921) frontispiece. In the public domain.