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British Royals Hid Crown Jewels From Nazis in a Cracker Box

January 12, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Restored footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, featured in 'A Queen is Crowned'. (Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

During World War II, the British royal family’s most precious gems were buried underground at Windsor Castle to protect them from discovery by the Nazis, a new documentary reveals.

With Britain under air attack from the mighty German Luftwaffe, King George VI ordered palace staff to remove the most valuable of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London and hide them in case of an invasion. They were stashed in an innocuous tin box that had previously contained biscuits.

According to the Times (U.K.), the removal and hiding of the jewels has long been rumored. The most likely hiding place was believed to be Windsor Castle, the royal residence in England’s Berkshire county, though others suggested the gems might have been spirited out of the country to Canada and kept in a vault, hidden in a cave in Wales or in a secret tunnel under a Devonshire prison.

But the details of the operation were kept so secret, it turns out, that not even Queen Elizabeth II—at the time a teenage princess—knew the whereabouts of the priceless gems. She learned the juicy details during the filming of an upcoming BBC documentary, when royal commentator Alistair Bruce spoke to her about a set of letters recently unearthed by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the royal librarian and assistant keeper of the queen’s archives.

Restored footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, featured in ‘A Queen is Crowned’. (Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

In the letters, Sir Owen Morshead, then the royal librarian, described to Queen Mary (mother of King George VI) how he had removed the most precious jewels from the Imperial State Crown, the royal headgear worn by the sovereign while addressing the state opening of Parliament. Made for George VI’s coronation in 1937, the impressive crown is set with 2,868 diamonds and various colored stones, including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls, according to the Royal Collection Trust.

Morshead pried the Black Prince’s Ruby (believed to have been given to Edward, Prince of Wales, by a Spanish king in 1367 and later worn by Henry V in his helmet during the Battle of Agincourt) and the St. Edward’s Sapphire (which goes back to Edward the Confessor, an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon king) from their clasps, and hid them in a tin box previously containing Bath Oliver biscuits. The hard, dry crackers, still popular among Britons, were created by a Regency-era physician …read more


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