Crown jew­els hid­den from Nazis in buried tin at Wind­sor Cas­tle


Price­less gems from the crown jew­els were hid­den un­der­ground in a bis­cuit tin at Wind­sor Cas­tle dur­ing World War II to en­sure that they did not fall into Nazi hands.

The op­er­a­tion to hide the jew­els was or­dered by Ge­orge VI and was such a closely guarded se­cret that the Queen has only just found out pre­cisely what hap­pened, dur­ing the film­ing of a BBC doc­u­men­tary.

There has long been spec­u­la­tion the jew­els were taken from the Tower of Lon­don to Wind­sor in the war. Other the­o­ries have in­cluded them be­ing kept in a vault in Canada, a se­cret tun­nel at a prison in Devon and a cave in Wales.

The story of how they were buried at Wind­sor in a Bath Oliver bis­cuit tin, with the grass left to re­grow to con­ceal their hid­ing place, has come to light from con­fi­den­tial cor­re­spon­dence in the Royal Col­lec­tion. It was dis­cov­ered by royal com­men­ta­tor Alas­tair Bruce, who spoke to the Queen for the BBC doc­u­men­tary Coro­na­tion to be broad­cast to­mor­row.

De­scribed by Mr Bruce as “an elec­tric set of let­ters”, they were from Sir Owen Mor­shead, the royal li­brar­ian, to Queen Mary, the mother of Ge­orge VI.

They tell how a deep hole was dug in the grounds be­neath a sally port, one of the se­cure en­tries to the cas­tle, and two cham­bers con- structed with steel doors. Dur­ing the works the ex­ca­va­tions had to be cov­ered at night.

Mr Bruce said: “They dug out this fresh, very vir­gin white chalk and they had to hide it with tar­pau­lins so when the air­craft flew over at night no clue was given to the Ger­man Luft­waffe that any­thing was go­ing on.”

The crown jew­els were then locked in­side but ac­cess was pos­si­ble through a trap­door, which ex­ists to­day.

In his let­ter Sir Owen de­scribed how the most pre­cious jew­els were re­moved from the Im­pe­rial State Crown — worn at the state open­ing of par­lia­ment — so that they could be kept separately in case of emer­gency.

Sir Owen lev­ered the Black Prince’s Ruby and St Edward’s Sap­phire from their clasps and stored them in the bis­cuit tin, Mr Bruce said. The Queen was no older than 14. Mr Bruce told her what had hap­pened. “What was so lovely was that the Queen had no knowl­edge of it,” he said. “Telling her seemed strangely odd.

“There had been in a book in our re­search that the Queen had been shown them dur­ing the war when they ap­peared at Wind­sor.”

The 2016 book Op­er­a­tion Big: The Race To Stop Hitler’s A-Bomb said the jew­els were known to be hid­den at Wind­sor by the time in 1940 the gov­ern­ment was try­ing to hide stocks of heavy wa­ter, vi­tal for nu­clear en­ergy. No clue was given as to where the gems were buried — or the fact that the most im­por­tant were in a bis­cuit tin.


One of the replica sets of the crown jew­els made in hon­our of the Coro­na­tion in 1953 at Sotheby's in Lon­don yes­ter­day

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