Crown Jewel Intrigue: Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Diana, Camilla and the Epic Tale of Royal Tiaras

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Royal Tiaras, Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth IIGetty Images/E! Illustration

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Quite literally.

“You can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break and it would fall off,” Queen Elizabeth II said in the BBC One documentary The Coronation, in which the monarch summed up the 2 1/2-pound Imperial State Crown, which is bedazzled with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and hundreds of pearls. 

“There are some disadvantages to crowns but otherwise they are quite important things,” the queen added. Conveniently, she only wears it occasionally, when she presides over the annual opening of Parliament or, as the film chronicled, at the 65th anniversary of her own coronation. (For her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, Queen Victoria purposely declined wearing a crown in favor of a bonnet, much to her children’s horror. To Victoria, it represented how she saw herself, as mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as opposed to just a ruler, after 60 years on the throne.)

And despite its bulkiness, the Imperial State Crown is only half as heavy as the even more unwieldy St. Edward’s Crown, or the Coronation Crown, which the queen has only worn once—when she was invested by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1953. That golden heirloom stays locked up tight in the Tower of London’s Jewel House.

“Is it still as heavy?” the queen quipped. She also astutely observed, “It is impossible to tell what is front and back.”

But the Imperial State Crown is no slouch—it boasts the Black Prince’s Ruby that was part of Henry V’s helmet when fought in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415,

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