A biscuit tin saved the crown jewels
Programme reveals where gemstones were buried and why you never look down wearing the crown
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.”