The Black Prince's Ruby and some of the Misfortunes that Befell the British Monarchy since its Acquisition Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Black Prince's Ruby and some of the Misfortunes that Befell the British Monarchy since its Acquisition

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The Crown Jewels.

The British Crown Jewels boasts some spectacular, priceless jewellery, in fact it's the best collection of regalia in the world. In early 2018, HM Queen Elizabeth II took part in a television documentary marking the 65th anniversary of her coronation. She stated that her favourite jewel is the Black Prince's Ruby, which is the centrepiece in the Imperial State Crown. It isn't actually a ruby but a magnificent 170-carat red spinel1, the largest uncut spinel in the world. This particular precious stone, known as 'the Great Imposter', has a traceable history dating back seven centuries and is rumoured to be cursed, as its consecutive royal owners have been dogged by adversity, misfortune, tragedy or just downright bad luck.

Edward the Black Prince

Prince Edward was born in 1330, the eldest son of Edward III. He held the title Prince of Wales and would have succeeded to the throne but he died aged 45 on 8 June, 1376, while his father still reigned. During his life he was known as Edward of Woodstock, but as he never attained his birthright and chose to wear black armour on the battlefield, history remembers him as the Black Prince. He likely chose that colour as his jousting shield had a black background and three white ostrich feathers emblazoned with the motto 'Ich dien', which is German for 'I serve'. His French opponents at the Battle of Crécy in 1346, one of the earliest and most important battles of the Hundred Years' War, called him Le Neoir, which means the Black Prince.

Prince Edward was gifted the 'ruby' by Don Pedro the Cruel, ruler of Castile, in 1367. This was after Prince Edward and his army joined forces with him to eliminate a threat from Don Pedro's half-brother Henry. Don Pedro had looted the red gemstone from the Sultan of Granada in Spain, who had surrendered to Don Pedro and willingly entered Seville - only to be brutally murdered by his captor. Don Pedro searched the Sultan's robes, discovered the gemstone, wiped off its previous owner's blood and pocketed it for himself. Not long after he passed it on to Prince Edward for services rendered, Don Pedro was killed by his half-brother.

Crown Jewel

Prince Edward took the red gemstone back to England and presumably added it to the Crown Jewels. In 1370 his firstborn son, Edward of Angoulême, died of the bubonic plague at just five years old. Upon hearing the dreadful news, his father was described as being 'a broken man'. Prince Edward died in 1376 of dysentery, a year before his own father King Edward III passed away. The throne, and the Black Prince's Ruby, passed to Prince Edward's youngest son Richard of Bordeaux, who was then ten years old. With the aristocracy reluctant to assign a regent, councils were assembled for decision-making. After Richard II attained adulthood and took control he gained a reputation as a tyrannous ruler. His reign included part of the Hundred Years' War with France (1337–1453), Scottish border conflicts, the Black Death and the Peasants' Revolt. When his uncle, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, died in 1399, the king seized his assets and banished his cousin Henry Bolingbroke. A power struggle ensued, leading to Richard II being deposed, and he died in prison aged 33. Henry Bolingbroke took the throne as Henry IV, King of England and France, Lord of Ireland, and took possession of the Black Prince's Ruby. He suffered ill-health since June 1405 - around the same time he had ordered the execution of the Archbishop of York, Richard le Scrope. His reign ended in 1413 when he died aged 45. His eldest son, Henry, Prince of Wales, inherited the throne and the Black Prince's Ruby, which at some time during its tenure within the Crown Jewels had been drilled to allow its wear as a pendant.

Richard Courtenay, Bishop of Norwich and Treasurer of the Royal Household, died of dysentery in France on 15 September, 1415. There's suspicion among historians that he and Henry V were lovers, as the king washed his body and organised his repatriation. Courtenay was buried, on the king's instructions, in Westminster Abbey. Just a month later, the king wore a helmet that included the Black Prince's Ruby during the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October, 1415. This helmet, minus the jewels, is on display at Westminster Abbey in London. It is dented from a blow by an axe, although the king survived the battle. He lived long enough to marry the defeated French king's daughter and father an heir, before succumbing to dysentery himself in 1422. He was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside his friend Richard Courtenay.

Henry VI was only nine months of age when he acceded the throne. His reign was marred by mental illness, possibly schizophrenia. His only son and heir, Edward of Lancaster, died on the battlefield, aged only 17. Henry VI died just 17 days after his son, most likely murdered on the orders of Edward IV, his opponent in the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV died on 9 April, 1483, aged 40. His eldest son, 12-year-old Edward, became King Edward V for just over two months before his untimely death in the Tower of London, along with his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. History remembers this story as the Princes in the Tower. Their uncle and protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was likely responsible for their demise, or, at least, grossly negligent in his duty to protect the young king. Nevertheless, he became Richard III, England's last Plantagenet2 king. Thanks mainly to Shakespeare, we all know how he ended up, slaughtered at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, by Henry Tudor's men. The victor became Henry VII and thus the Black Prince's Ruby passed into the possession of the House of Tudor.

The Tudors

The reign of Henry VII was anything but smooth sailing. He faced a Yorkist rebellion even though he had married Elizabeth of York in January 1486. The king signed peace treaties with Spain, Portugal, Denmark and France, but the French king had previously supported a man who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, and so a challenger for the throne. Unmasked as an imposter named Perkin Warbeck, he was subsequently charged with treason and hanged in 1499. Henry VII was thereafter the undisputed king, but tragedy was to follow with the death of his son and heir Arthur Tudor, in April 1502, who was just 15 years old. Queen Elizabeth died on her 37th birthday, 11 February, 1503, nine days after giving birth to their seventh child. Their baby daughter Katherine lived just eight days. The king was so devastated by these multiple bereavements that he became ill himself and only his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort was allowed to attend him. Henry VII died at Richmond Palace on 21 April, 1509, of tuberculosis, and his second son, Henry, Duke of York, succeeded his father as Henry VIII, possibly the most notorious British king in history.

Henry VIII, desperate for a legitimate male heir, married his late brother Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon. Queen Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter in January 1510, and on 1 January, 1511, Henry, Duke of Cornwall, was born healthy, but fate intervened and the baby prince died on 22 February. Had he survived, he would have become Prince of Wales and his father's heir. As it was, Henry VIII had to be satisfied with a surviving daughter, Mary, by Queen Catherine. After over 20 years of marriage, the king requested permission from Pope Clement VII to have his marriage annulled but was refused. In 1532 he bigamously married Anne Boleyn. The newly-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer granted the king's wish to end his marriage to Queen Catherine and, just days later, he validated the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. The Pope's response was to excommunicate both the Archbishop and the king. This was the beginning of the Reformation, and in 1534 Henry VIII became the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Henry VIII had finally got what he wanted, but you have to be careful what you wish for. Queen Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth Tudor, and a stillborn son. The king had the queen accused of adultery and she lost her head. His next wife, Jane Seymour, gave him a son, the future Edward VI, but she did not survive the birthing process. The grieving king sought another bride to beget more heirs. He married Anne of Cleves in January 1540 but they were incompatible, and that marriage was annulled within months. That same year he married Catherine Howard, who was 30 years his junior. This marriage was also not happy, and she suffered the same fate as Anne Boleyn. His final marriage, to Catherine Parr in 1543, was successful from her point of view as she managed to outlive him. Henry VIII died aged 55 and was succeeded by his nine-year-old son Edward VI. However, Edward was declared terminally ill when he was only 15. He duly appointed his cousin Lady Jane Grey as his heir, completely bypassing his half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Once he had died, Jane, the so-called Nine Days' Queen, who ruled from 10-19 July, 1553, was subsequently deposed by Mary and beheaded in 1554.

Once queen herself, Mary I attempted to restore the Roman Catholic faith but didn't succeed, despite great support. She earned the nickname 'Bloody Mary' for her rate of executions. It was arranged for her to marry Prince Philip of Spain, a devout Catholic, who was ten years her junior. It was a political alliance, and he co-ruled with her. Mary grew to love him, but he felt only mild affection for her. She was desperate for a child, but unfortunately this was denied her. Her five-year reign ended when she died aged 42 in November 1558. Mary was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I 'the Virgin Queen'. Elizabeth received a marriage proposal from her brother-in-law Philip, then king of Spain, but didn't accept. Philip made Elisabeth of Valois his queen instead, and they had two daughters. If Elizabeth had accepted Philip's proposal, almost 20 years of war with Spain could have been avoided and the Spanish Armada might not have sailed. Perhaps she didn't want to share her throne as her half-sister Mary had done. The queen almost certainly had a lover - the married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester - but he was deemed an unsuitable prospective consort after his wife sustained a broken neck while falling downstairs. Elizabeth I reigned for 44 years but as she never married, there were no heirs to continue the Tudor line. One wonders if she ever regretted her choice to remain single and rule alone, after all, she had all of the Crown Jewels to herself. Could all the diamonds, rubies, pearls and a unique spinel substitute for intimacy with a loving partner, and the priceless treasure that is family life? At times it much have felt like so much trumpery. She never nominated an heir and it was left up to the Lord Privy Seal, Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, to conduct secret negotiations with James VI of Scotland regarding the succession. Elizabeth I died in 1603 aged 69.

The Stuarts

King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, became James I of England thanks to the Union of the Scottish and English Crowns. He'd been king of Scotland since he was a year old, albeit in name only until his majority. On attaining the English crown, he relocated his court to the more temperate England. He'd done alright as the king of Scotland but practically as soon as he inherited the Black Prince's Ruby he had to deal with the Gunpowder Plot. The malcontents were angry Catholics who wanted to blow up the Houses of Parliament while the king was in attendance, on 5 November, 1605. The plot was foiled and Guido (Guy) Fawkes was captured first. He was tortured on the rack until he revealed the names of the other grumbletonians. Punishment was swift and brutal in those days, all the conspirators were either killed during arrest or publicly executed. The Gunpowder Plot is commemorated in the UK each year around 5 November by chucking a 'guy' on a bonfire and letting off fireworks and rockets from September onwards. It's never been clarified whether Bonfire Night celebrates or commiserates the plot's failure.

The king had married 14-year-old Princess Anne of Denmark in 1589, and she had provided him with three healthy children, but their older son and heir Henry, Prince of Wales, died of typhoid fever in 1612. His younger brother Charles became Prince of Wales and heir apparent. He became Charles I in 1625, a deeply unpopular monarch who eventually lost his head during the English Civil War. His son Prince Charles ruled as king of Scotland for two years, and, as Charles II, was restored to the British throne in 1660.

Lost and Found Again

The Crown Jewels, apart from the Anointing Spoon, were sold off or destroyed during the English Civil War on the orders of Oliver Cromwell (the period when England did not have a monarchy was known as 'the Interregnum'). Some jewels, including the Black Prince's Ruby, were returned following the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, but unfortunately we are not privy to its whereabouts during this missing time. The recovered relics were used in the creation of new Crown Jewels for Charles II. Since then, except during the World War years, they have been housed in the Tower of London.

Stroke of Luck

Colonel Thomas Blood and his band of scoundrels attempted to steal the Crown Jewels in 1671, but he was caught with incriminating evidence at the East Gate of the Tower. Colonel Blood and his accomplices were arrested and tried before the king. Blood, an Irishman, was well-known for his 'gift of the gab' and Charles II was well-known for his love of scoundrels, so Blood not only got a royal pardon, but he was also generously rewarded with Irish land. So, extraordinary good luck came the way of someone who had tried to steal the infamous spinel but failed.

Last of the Catholic Monarchs

Charles II left no legitimate heirs so the throne passed to his younger brother James, who was a Catholic. His three-year reign as James II culminated in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when his daughter Mary's husband William of Orange led an invasion. James fled to France and Mary, a Protestant, was installed as queen in his place. The couple co-ruled but despite repeated attempts at trying for children, no pregnancies were successful and she fatally contracted smallpox. William outlived his wife, but his solitary rule was not easy as there were Jacobite rebellions to deal with. The Jacobites wanted Catholics back on the throne and tried in vain to oust William, including the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July, 1690. William died in 1702 following a fall from his horse. Apparently the horse unseated his royal rider when it hit a molehill. The 'little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat' had delivered sweet revenge to the Jacobites. With no heirs, the throne passed to Mary's sister Anne.

The Last Stuart Monarch

Queen Anne fared no better in the quest for heirs than her sister had. History records 17 pregnancies, of which only one son, the unfortunate Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, survived infancy. He suffered from hydrocephalus, which physicians3 treated with trepanation4. Taken ill on his 11th birthday, 24 July, 1700, Prince William was variously treated with blood-letting, blistering (vesiculation) and cordial powders, to no avail. His death a few days later threw Parliament into a panic as there were no Protestant possibilities in the line of succession. To prevent a Catholic attaining the throne, the Act of Settlement was passed in 1701. This meant Sophia of Hanover became heir presumptive, but she predeceased Queen Anne. Sophia had Protestant heirs so her son George Louis ascended to the British throne in 1714 upon Queen Anne's death following a stroke.

The Hanovers

King George I was unpopular with anti-German British people; there were Jacobite attempts to remove him and install the late Queen Anne's half-brother James as king, but none succeeded. He had two children, Prince George Augustus and Princess Sophia Dorothea, with his wife Sophia, a granddaughter of King James I, before ousting her in favour of his mistress, with whom he had three more daughters. The king was despised by the British public for how he had treated his wife and the Government was almost toppled by an economic crisis known as the South Sea Bubble during his 12-year reign. George Augustus, now Prince of Wales, was determined not to make the same matrimonial mistake as his father so he chose his own bride, Caroline of Ansbach. They went on to have eight children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. The king's relationship with his son deteriorated so badly that the Prince and Princess of Wales were banned from court and not allowed to see their own children, who resided in the care of the king. Only when baby Prince George William became ill did the king relent and allow his mother unfettered access, but the infant died aged three months. When George I died of a stroke while visiting his homeland, he became the last British monarch to be buried abroad. His only son did not attend his funeral.

George II had only been on the throne for ten years when his wife Queen Caroline suddenly died. The king was inconsolable. He loved her so much that he wept at her deathbed, not minding this unprecedented show of emotion in front of other witnesses; he never remarried. George II was the last British monarch to lead an army in battle, at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. His reign lasted for 33 years, during which Jacobitism was all but crushed, including the defeat and banishment of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, 'the Young Pretender'. In the eyes of many commoners, Charles was romanticised as the king they should have had. As Prince Frederick had died unexpectedly in 1751, the king's second son Prince George William Frederick became heir apparent. King George II died in 1760, aged 76. To date, he is the last monarch to be buried in Westminster Abbey. He had left instructions for his coffin to be placed beside that of his wife, with both adjoining side panels removed so that their mortal remains would be close together for eternity. A true testament to their love and his grievous loss over two decades previously.

King George III was happily married even though his first choice of bride was vetoed by Parliament. After his brother, Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, committed adultery and then married a commoner, the appalled king instructed his ministers to create a new law, later known as the Royal Marriages Act 1772. It forbids members of the Royal Family from legally marrying without the consent of the Sovereign. By 1773 all of the custom taxes on imports in the American colonies had been axed, except for one, which the king stated had to be kept to 'keep up the right (to levy taxes)'. The duty that was kept was the one on tea. The colonists reacted by boarding ships docked in Boston Harbour and chucking the tea crates overboard. This event is known to history as the Boston Tea Party, one of the events that sparked the American War of Independence (1775-83).

In March 1781 the German astronomer William Herschel discovered a new planet which he named Georgium Sidus, (George's Star), to honour his patron King George III. It was later renamed Uranus, after the Greek god of the heavens, by Johann Elert Bode.

By 1783 the king's mental health was deteriorating, no doubt exacerbated by the deaths of two of his young sons in the consecutive years 1782 and 1783. He developed mania, and would become deranged. Treatments provided by royal physicians included caustic poultices to expel 'evil humours'. Amazingly the king recovered, but another war followed, this time with France, following the revolution against their own monarchy. On 1 January, 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formally declared. The king was offered the opportunity to become emperor of the United Kingdom but he turned it down. By 1808 the king was almost blind and his mental state deteriorated further. His much-loved youngest daughter Princess Amelia had contracted measles and was sent to Weymouth in Dorset to recuperate. She didn't recover and died aged 27. Her loss precipitated the king into a downward mental spiral from which there was no rehabilitation. The Regency Act of 1811 was passed by the House of Lords, granting his oldest son George, Prince of Wales, the right to rule as regent until the king died.

The Prince of Wales and his estranged wife Caroline of Brunswick had one daughter, Princess Charlotte, who was the king's only legitimate grandchild and therefore her father's heir. She died unexpectedly in 1817 following a protracted labour when she was both starved and bled by attending physicians, eventually delivering a stillborn son. This tragic turn of events sent the nation into mourning, and the Prince Regent was so distraught that he couldn't bring himself to attend the joint funeral of his daughter and grandson.

Princess Charlotte's bereaved husband Prince Leopold introduced Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, to his widowed sister Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and they married on 29 May, 1818. The new Duchess of Kent produced a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria, a year later. George IV ascended the throne in his own right in 1820. At his coronation the following year, he issued a royal proclamation banning his wife Queen Caroline from attending. She showed up anyway, demanding entry, but was turned away at bayonet point. The public were appalled at this abominable treatment of the queen. George had not been popular as Prince of Wales and Prince Regent, and this petulant behaviour lost him what flimsy support he still retained. When the queen died a few weeks later, many thought the king responsible, especially when he tried to derail the funeral plans. George IV indulged himself to the point of gross obesity. He was lazy and slovenly, seemingly uncaring of what his ministers or the general public thought of him. The Duke of Wellington described his liege thus: 'the worst man I ever fell in with in my whole life, the most selfish, the most false, the most ill-natured, the most entirely without one redeeming quality'. It's said that when the king died in 1830 aged 67, no-one shed a tear. His brother Prince William, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, ascended the throne at the age of 64. William IV earned the nickname the 'sailor King' due to the time he spent in the Royal Navy as a young man. He was a proponent of slavery, and described William Wilberforce, who was campaigning for its abolition, as hypocritical and a fanatic. The king's eldest daughter Sophia, Baroness De L'Isle and Dudley, died in childbirth in April 1837. He was already ailing and his broken heart probably hastened his end just two months later. He'd stated in his last birthday speech that he hoped to live long enough for his niece5 Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent to attain her majority so her mother would not be regent. His wish came true with a month to spare. The new queen's first command was to banish her mother to other sleeping quarters so she could organise her own bedchamber.

The Black Prince's Ruby was in the State Crown which was remade for Queen Victoria's coronation in 1838. She was a small woman, just 5' tall, who refused to wear a heavy crown. Her long reign, known as the Victorian era, saw much positive change thanks to industrial advancement. Not so the medical profession, which hardly improved at all. Although her marriage to her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was happy, she hated being pregnant, but at least she survived her nine confinements. The queen was so devastated by 42-year-old Prince Albert's death in 1861 that she lived in virtual seclusion for many years and wore black clothing for the rest of her life. On 28 March, 1884, the queen's youngest son Leopold, Duke of Albany, died aged 31 years, a victim of haemophilia. Her oldest grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, was second in line of succession when he became ill during the flu pandemic of 1889–90. He developed pneumonia and died aged 28 in January 1892. This unexpected death must have been tremendously grievous to his elderly grandmother who was still mourning her beloved husband and son. When she died at Osborne House in January 1901, Victoria was the last of the Hanover monarchs. Her first son Albert Edward, born on 9 November, 1841, was the longest-serving heir apparent6 in British history thanks to his mother's longevity. His ascension began the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Edward VII enjoyed the popularity of his subjects who had become weary of Queen Victoria's reclusive ways, but his reign was not without problems. The first coronation date of 26 June, 1902, had to be postponed due to him developing appendicitis, which was successfully treated. Two months later the coronation went ahead but the Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, who had performed the ceremony, became ill not long afterwards and was dead before Christmas. The king's second son and heir, Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert, had married Princess Mary of Teck in 1893. She had previously been engaged to the king's oldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, but he died before their wedding. Prince George and Princess Mary were happily married and had six children. The youngest, Prince John, was a sickly child who had epilepsy; he died when he was only 13. Prince George inherited the throne as King George V when heavy smoker Edward VII died following a bout of bronchitis in 1910.

House of Windsor

Between 1914-18 an estimated 16.5 million people died during World War I with another 20 million wounded. It was the bloodiest conflict in human history - 'the war to end all wars' - except it wasn't. At this time George V changed the name of the royal house to the less German-sounding Windsor. Memorials began to be erected to commemorate those who had died for king and country during the Great War. During the Great Slump of the 1930s some 3.5 million people were unemployed and state benefit was meagre at best. People queued at workhouses or were forced to beg for subsistence. The pampered and cosseted lives of the Royal Family must have seemed unimaginable to the hoards of starving people, but they were still respected, even revered.

George V died in 1936. Edward VIII inherited the throne when his father died, but he was never crowned as he abdicated when Parliament refused to accept his choice of bride, an American divorcee. Post-abdication he was created Duke of Windsor7 by his younger brother King George VI, and the Duke and his fiancée Wallis Simpson moved to Paris. Mrs Simpson became Her Grace the Duchess of Windsor when they married in June 1937, but she was never allowed to use the style 'HRH' (Her Royal Highness).

Nazi Germany was rising and war was once again looming in Europe. George VI was not prepared for the monarchy but he did his duty and led his country through World War II. The fatalities were far worse than the 1914-18 Great War, totalling between 60-80 million souls lost. Food, clothing and other essentials of daily life were subject to rationing during the war years and well into the 1950s. The King and his wife Queen Elizabeth had refused to leave London during the Blitz even after Buckingham Palace was bombed, so the popularity of the Royal Family strengthened. During this time the Crown Jewels were removed from the Tower of London and spirited away for safekeeping from the Luftwaffe. The location was top secret, of course, but some speculate they were kept in a biscuit tin in the basement of Windsor Castle, and then there's the intriguing claim that they were sequestered in a storage tunnel in Aberystwyth by the National Library of Wales.

The king's death in 1952 was unexpected as he had been recovering well from an operation to remove a cancerous lung, so he died alone. His older daughter Elizabeth II ascended the throne aged 26; at the time of writing (September 2018) she's still there and she is the longest-reigning British monarch in history. Her reign has not been without its problems though. She refused her sister Princess Margaret permission to marry a divorcé and her subsequent marriage ended in divorce. Three of the Queen's children have divorced. There was a devastating fire at her favourite home Windsor Castle in 1992, her annus horribilis year. It took five years of specialist restoration to reconstruct and cost £40m, mostly paid for by the Queen, who fundraised by allowing Buckingham Palace to be opened to paying members of the public.

Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana divorced in 1996 and her death the following year almost toppled the British monarchy. One day TV newsreaders were describing the bikini Diana was wearing aboard the Fayed yacht, the next they were wearing black to announce her death following injuries sustained in a car crash in Paris. The Royal Family remained in Balmoral, Scotland, where they were on holiday. Newspaper front pages decried the 'uncaring queen' but she was eventually persuaded to return to London early and appear on live television to pay tribute to Diana. This unprecedented move appeased the general population and a pending revolution was averted. The subsequent outpouring of sorrow and sympathy displayed during Diana's funeral, especially towards her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, showed the depth of affection that is still felt for this ancient institution.

Under Guard

The Black Prince's Ruby, which sits at front centre of the Imperial State Crown, is on public display at the Tower of London, guarded by armed Beefeaters (Yeomen Warders). The Beefeaters are quite friendly and will pose for selfies with you, but you're not allowed to take photographs of the Crown Jewels, or attempt to steal them, of course. Since it was originally looted from the Sultan of Granada seven centuries ago, that priceless red gem has outlived many monarchs and several royal dynasties. Its history creates an intriguing and fascinating, if blood-stained story, but we'll leave it up to the reader to decide whether the Black Prince's Ruby has earned its reputation as 'cursed' or not.

1Red spinel, being an eight on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness (created in 1812 by German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs), is softer than ruby, which measures a nine.2The Royal House of Plantagenet was a dynasty founded in 1126 by Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou (1113-51).3In those days patients were lucky to survive medical intervention.4That's drilling a hole in the head, to you and me.5As the child of his older brother, she took priority in the line of succession.6Since superseded by Prince Charles.7The Dukedom of Windsor became extinct when the Duke died in May 1972. It will likely never be revived due to the associated stigma.

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