History of Crowns

The Iron Crown of Lombardy, probably the most ancient royal insignia of Europe.

A crown is an ancient form of head ornamentation, or cap, worn by monarchs and kings as a symbol of their dignity and power. By extension, a crown is a symbol of the monarch’s government or items authorized by it. The word itself is used, especially in Commonwealth nations, as an abstract name for the monarchy itself, as separate from the individual who inhabits it. A special kind of crown (or coronet for lower ranks of peerage) is used in ceremonies under strict rules. Indeed, some kingships never had a physical crown, just a heraldic symbol, as in the constitutional kingdom of Belgium, where no installation of a king ever took place; the royal installation is done by a religious oath in parliament, wearing a military uniform: the King is not recognized as by divine right, but strictly assumes the only inherited public office in the service of the law; so he, in turn, will ultimately swear in all members of “his” federal government.


Crowns have been observed in pre-historic times from Haryana in India. The precursor to the crown was the beautiful browband called the diadem, which the Achaemenid Persian kings had worn. It was extensively adopted by Constantine I and was worn by all succeeding rulers of the second-half Roman Empire.

Various crowns of different forms were utilized in antiquity, such as the Hedjet, Pschent (double crown), Deshret, and Khepresh of Ancient Pharaonic Egypt. The Pharaohs of Egypt also wrapped their head in the wreath, which was linked with solar cults, an association that was not wholly lost. It was later restored under the famous Roman Emperor Augustus. By the era of the Pharaoh Amenophis III (1390 CE-1352 CE), wearing a headdress clearly became a royalty symbol.

The corona radiata, the “radiant crown” recognized best on the Statue of Liberty, and possibly worn by the Helios that was indeed the Colossus of Rhodes, was used by Roman emperors as part of the cult of Sol Invictus before the Roman Empire’s forced conversion to Christianity. It was attributed to as “the chaplet studded with sunbeams” by Lucian, about 180 CE.

Crown of the Holy Roman Empire (11th century)

Possibly the oldest surviving Christian crown in Europe is the Iron Crown of Lombardy, of Roman and Longobard artifact, used by the Kingdom of Italy AND the Holy Roman Empire. It was later used to crown modern Kings of Napoleonic and Austrian Italy and embody united Italy after 1860 CE. Today, the crown is SAFELY kept in the Cathedral of Monza.

In the medieval Christian tradition of European cultures, where religious sanction authenticates monarchic authority when new monarch ages and ascends the throne, the crown is installed on the new monarch’s head by a religious official in an inauguration ceremony. Some early Holy Roman Emperors went to Rome at some point in their life to be crowned by the pope. Napoleon, according to myth, shocked Pius VII when he reached out and crowned himself, although in reality this order of ceremony had been indeed pre-arranged.

Today, only the Tongan Monarchy and British Monarchy, with their anointed and crowned monarchs, uphold this tradition, although many monarchies exclusively retain a crown as a cultural and national symbol. The French Crown Jewels were traded in 1885 CE on the Third French Republic’s orders, with only a token number, their high-priced stones replaced by glass, retained for historical reasons, and vividly displayed in the Louvre. Nature destroyed the Spanish Crown Jewels in a major fire in the 18th century CE while the so-called “Irish Crown Jewels” (truly merely the British Sovereign’s symbol of the Most Illustrious Order of St Patrick) were sadly stolen from Dublin Castle in 1907 CE, just before the inauguration of Bernard Edward Barnaby FitzPatrick, 2nd Baron Castletown.

The famous and expensive Crown of King George XII of Georgia was made of pure gold and decorated with 58 rubies, 145 diamonds, 16 amethysts, and 24 emeralds. It took the shape of a circlet surmounted by embellishments and eight arches. A globe surmounted by a religious cross rested on the top of the crown.

Replica of the crown designed for the Finnish monarch, who was never chosen. A contemporary crown was never crafted, but the replica was made from original drawings in the 1980s.

Special distinctive headgear to designate rulers dates back to pre-history and is observed in many different civilizations worldwide. Commonly, precious and rare materials are always incorporated into the crown, but that is only necessary for the notion of crown jewels. Gold and precious jewels are standard in western and oriental crowns. In the Native American cultures of the Pre-Columbian New World, mysterious rare feathers, such as that of the quetzal, often embellished crowns; so too in Polynesia.

Inauguration ceremonies are often blended with other rituals, such as enthronement (the chair is as much a symbol of monarchy as the gold crown) and anointing (again, a holy sanction, the only defining act in the Biblical tradition of Israel).

In other ancient cultures, no crown is employed in the equivalent of coronation. However, the head may still be otherwise symbolically adorned, for instance, with a royal tikka in the Hindu tradition of India – the oldest surviving culture in the world.

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