Published: Fri, January 12, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Gemstones from crown jewels were hidden in buried biscuit tin during war

Gemstones from crown jewels were hidden in buried biscuit tin during war

The operation was so secret that even the Queen didn't know what had happened until the filming of a new BBC documentary about the Coronation, which is set to be aired on BBC1 at 8 p.m. on Sunday, January 14.

It was known the precious stones had been taken to the Berkshire fortress in the early years of the war in case they fell into Nazi hands following an invasion, but there were few facts to the story.

The details were unearthed by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the assistant keeper of the Royal Archives. "Telling her seemed strangely odd", Bruce told the Times newspaper.

"It's the sort of I suppose the beginning of one's life really as a sovereign", she said. "When you put it on it stays, it just remains itself".

She jokingly states you can not look down when wearing the Imperial State Crown, which weighs 2lbs 13oz (1.28kgs), as your neck would "break".

In the very rare and personal account of her coronation, the Queen speaks candidly about the grand occasion, revealing information about the Crown Jewels, wardrobe mishaps, and a "horrible" journey in a golden carriage.

PA The Queen was determined for her coronation to go without a hitch Related articles Princess Elizabeth was just 27 on her Coronation Day You could see her being taken back to the 27-year-old. Because if you did your neck would break, it would fall off.

"There are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they're quite important things".

"She is the longest-serving monarch and I think she realised that should shed some light on what the Coronation and Crown Jewels mean".

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The documentary shows her peering inquisitively and then grinning as she taps at pearls hanging on the 1kg crown, two of which are said to have been bought by her Tudor namesake, Queen Elizabeth I.

The crown was made for George VI's coronation in 1937 and is set with 2,868 diamonds including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and hundreds of pearls, including four known as Queen Elizabeth I's earrings.

The gems, including the Black Prince's Ruby from the Imperial State Crown, were placed in the biscuit tin and buried under a sally port - a secret exit from the castle used in times of emergency.

Despite the country being in the grip of post-war austerity, a glittering coronation was staged on June 2 the following year at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen may look regal in her gold state coach, but in reality her ride is an altogether more uncomfortable one.

"They dug out this fresh, very virgin white chalk and they had to hide it with tarpaulins so when the aircraft flew over at night no clue was given to the German Luftwaffe that anything was going on", Bruce wrote.

The Coronation is screened on BBC One at 8pm on Sunday.

Bruce, who spoke to the Queen for a BBC documentary about the Coronation, discovered the jewels had been buried in a Bath Oliver biscuit tin with the grass left to regrow to hide their hiding place.

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