A History of Jewels at the Tower of London

The Crown Jewels at the Tower of London

The Tower of London is the world-famous home of the Crown Jewels. It is visited by millions of people from around the world every year. The Crown Jewels have been displayed to the public here since 1661.

Medieval Treasury

The Tower of London would have protected royal treasure almost from its beginnings. Its thick medieval walls safeguarded jewels, relics, altar and banquet plate, precious fabrics, and royal documents. The Tower's first treasury was almost certainly inside the White Tower itself.

A True and Exact Draught of the Tower Liberties (1742) by George Vertue, after William Hayward and John GascoyneHistoric Royal Palaces

The Tudor Jewel House

In 1532, Henry VIII appointed Thomas Cromwell as 'Master of the Jewels'. Cromwell supervised the rebuilding of a new Jewel House to the south of the White Tower. You can see it labelled on this plan of 1597.

Plan of the Tower Mint (1701) by William AllinghamThe Royal Mint Museum

Crown Jewels Destroyed at the Tower Mint

In 1649, after the execution of King Charles I, parliament ordered the destruction of the medieval coronation regalia. These objects had been used for crowning England’s monarchs. They were broken up and melted down in the Tower Mint.

View of The Tower of London from the Thames (c1690-1710) by Unknown artistHistoric Royal Palaces

Monarchy Restored and Jewels Remade

In 1660, monarchy was restored. King Charles II ordered new regalia made for his coronation in 1661. They were first displayed to the public at the Tower, in the earlier Tudor Jewel House. These jewels are at heart of the Crown Jewels collection today.

Martin Tower

In 1669, the Crown Jewels were moved to the Martin Tower, in the northeast corner of the Tower. The jewels were kept in the basement of the tower, where visitors could see them. The Jewel House's keeper and his family lived above.

P. Blood, Thomas.LIFE Photo Collection

Colonel Blood

In 1671, an infamous soldier, spy, and adventurer called Colonel Thomas Blood tried to steal the Crown Jewels. Fortunately, he and his accomplices were caught as they tried to escape. Miraculously, King Charles II not only pardoned Colonel Blood, but even gave him a reward.

Temporary Jewel House

In 1841, the Crown Jewels had to be rescued from the Martin Tower when a terrible fire destroyed the Grand Storehouse nearby. In 1842, the jewels moved to a new Jewel House to the south of the Martin Tower built by the Royal Engineers.

Wakefield Tower

The new Jewel House was deemed unsuitable and was pulled down. In 1869, a new Jewel House was opened to the public in upper storey of the Wakefield Tower, which had originally been part of Henry III’s medieval palace. The jewels were displayed in an iron cage.

Waterloo Barracks

In 1968, a new Jewel House was opened in the basement of the Waterloo Barracks. In 1994, the Jewels moved to their present home on the ground floor. In 2023, a new exhibition was opened which continues to attract millions of visitors each year. See the Crown Jewels up close.

Visit the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels and discover more of the palace's history.

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