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Legends of the Crown

Articles

Legends of the Crown

Ben Maloney

The Crown Jewels are 142 historic ceremonial objects made up of crowns, orbs, swords, sceptres and robes. Wikimedia

The British monarchy has reigned over England for more than a thousand years. During this time, the crown has amassed a treasure chest full of legends. Like all good legends, some may be as tangible as Othello’s ghost, but at their core, these stories serve to teach, inspire, or make us smile. If there’s one thing I learned from my time in London, it’s that the British love their legends.

The holy beggar

A thousand years after Christ, Edward the Confessor, then the King of England, was riding his horse in front a church in Essex when he came across an old man begging for alms. Having no money in his possession, the king removed a large ring from his finger and handed it to the beggar. Years later, two English pilgrims travelling to the Holy Land became stranded, only to be helped by the same old beggar, who introduced himself as St. John the Evangelist and asked them to return the ring to the king, telling them that in six months he would join him in heaven. The king indeed died a short time later and is buried in the church he helped to construct, Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey has been the traditional place of coronation since 1066. It is also the burial site for many of Britain’s most notable monarchs. Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.co

Westminster Abbey has been the traditional place of coronation since 1066. It is also the burial site for many of Britain’s most notable monarchs. Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.co

Westminster Abbey has been the traditional place of coronation since 1066. It is also the burial site for many of Britain’s most notable monarchs. Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.co

A stone statue of Edward the Confessor as found on Lichfield Cathedral. A.C.Jones / Shutterstock.com

A stone statue of Edward the Confessor as found on Lichfield Cathedral. A.C.Jones / Shutterstock.com

 

A most profitable heist

In the summer of 1671, one of the most daring robberies in the history of England took place at the Tower of London. An Irishman named Colonel Blood disguised himself as a priest, convinced the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols, then forced his way into the Jewel House to steal the Crown Jewels of England. Blood flattened St. Edward’s Crown with a mallet to better conceal it, though he was stopped at the gate and arrested. King Charles II was so impressed with the audacity of Blood’s robbery that instead of executing him, he restored his estates in Ireland and even made him a member of the court, complete with a royal pension. I’ve personally always wanted to be a royal court member, though I doubt if the queen would feel the same way as Charles II if I were to borrow her crown for the day.

The Tower of London; Justin Black / Shutterstock.com

Two guards stand alert at the Tower of London. With their bright red uniforms and tall black hats, the Queen’s Guard are some of the most recognisable guards in the world. Joseph M. Arseneau / Shutterstock.com

Colonel Thomas Blood was an Anglo-Irish officer infamous for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671; Wikimedia

St Edward’s Crown was named after Edward the Confessor; Wikimedia

St Edward’s Crown was named after Edward the Confessor; Wikimedia

 

The talking tree

King George III, who ruled England from 1760 until 1801, was one of the country’s longest reigning monarchs. He was also rumored to have been a bit insane, earning the nickname “Mad King George.” In one legend, King George was seen speaking to a tree for hours, thinking it was the King of Prussia. Towards the end of his life, the king was deemed unfit to rule and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle. It’s not clear if the King-of-Prussia tree was on the grounds of Windsor Castle, and it’s a shame I couldn’t find it on my visit because it deserves heartfelt thanks for possibly being responsible for giving the poor tactical advice that eventually led to my American heritage.

Windsor Castle has been an official royal residence for over 900 years. It’s located about an hour outside of London in the town of Windsor. photography by Mark Fiennes

Windsor Castle has been an official royal residence for over 900 years. It’s located about an hour outside of London in the town of Windsor.  Wikimedia

Windsor Castle has been an official royal residence for over 900 years. It’s located about an hour outside of London in the town of Windsor.  Wikimedia

The 1762 Coronation portrait of King George III by Allan Ramsay. Wikimedia

 

Exploring London

Henrietta Ferguson is a bespoke luxury tour guide based in London. A blue-badge guide with 16 years experience, she’s a great choice no matter what your London ambitions. Perfect for all agendas, including royal sights, luxury shopping, and more.

Text by Ben Maloney  Translated by Zhao Wen