A bis­cuit tin saved the crown jew­els

Pro­gramme re­veals where gem­stones were buried and why you never look down wear­ing the crown

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - Tony Jones

Gem­stones from the crown jew­els were kept safe dur­ing the Sec­ond World War in a bis­cuit tin hid­den at Windsor Cas­tle, a BBC doc­u­men­tary will con­firm.

It was known the pre­cious stones had been taken to the Berk­shire fortress in the early years of the war in case they fell into Nazi hands fol­low­ing an in­va­sion, but there were few facts to the story.

Now a BBC1 pro­gramme about the crown jew­els and the Queen’s coro­na­tion will re­veal for the first time how the his­toric arte­facts were se­creted in a deep hole fol­low­ing or­ders from King Ge­orge VI.

The gems were placed in the bis­cuit tin and buried un­der a sally port – a se­cret exit from the cas­tle used in times of emer­gency.

The Queen, who spent her war years at Windsor Cas­tle for safety, was aware of the gen­eral story but did not know the de­tails un­til told by royal com­men­ta­tor Alas­tair Bruce, who presents the doc­u­men­tary due to be screened to­mor­row.

The re­mark­able story was un­earthed for the doc­u­men­tary by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the li­brar­ian and as­sis­tant keeper of the Queen’s Ar­chives.

The royal com­men­ta­tor told the pa­per how “an elec­tric set of let­ters” from Sir Owen Mor­shead, the royal li­brar­ian, to Queen Mary, the mother of Ge­orge VI, shed light on the mys­tery.

Sir Owen’s doc­u­ments de­scribe how a hole was dug in chalk earth, which had to be cov­ered to hide it from en­emy bombers and two cham­bers with steel doors cre­ated.

A trap door used to ac­cess the se­cret area where the tin box was kept still ex­ists to­day.

In the doc­u­men­tary, the Queen also talks about the amus­ing tri­als and tribu­la­tions of be­ing head of state.

She jok­ingly states you can­not look down when wear­ing the Im­pe­rial State Crown, which weighs 2lb 13oz (1.28kg), as your neck would “break”.

She also re­counts how she was brought to a stand­still when her robes ran against the car­pet pile in West­min­ster Abbey dur­ing her coro­na­tion.

The Im­pe­rial State Crown is worn by the Queen when de­liv­er­ing her speech dur­ing the state open­ing of par­lia­ment and, with the price­less arte­fact in front of her, she points out it has been re­duced in height since her fa­ther King Ge­orge VI wore it.

Mr Bruce said the head has to be kept still when wear­ing it and the Queen agreed: “Yes. And you can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Be­cause if you did your neck would break, it would fall off.”

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