Last night I watched a truly decorative and stylish BBC documentary called The Crown Jewels. At the outset we were told that the makers had unprecedented access to both the jewels and the very latest technology, the latter permitting such close-ups of the dazzling gems that their true beauty really was revealed.
There were some very interesting stories attached to them too, especially the unfortunate Koh-i-Noor diamond, which was originally almost twice the size of its present-day self. It was meant to be worn on an armband, and when the light shone through the many facets around the base, it seemed to be lit from within, as was shown by the use of a copy of the original. When it was put on display at the Crystal Palace, where the lighting did absolutely nothing for it. The crowds were disappointed, so it was recut to western standards and tastes. A large part of it was lost in the process. Philistines!
But the jewel that was of interest to the part of my soul that’s devoted to all things British medieval was the Black Prince’s Ruby, which we saw in such astonishing detail that I felt I was looking at it under a microscope. We were told that Henry V wore it at the Battle of Agincourt, and that he had a hole drilled in it in which to place a feather! He had a HOLE drilled in the Black Prince’s Ruby? 😲 The sal volatile, please….! And be quick!!!!
It seems the late Queen was especially fond of the ruby (really a spinel), as she revealed in an interview during which she turned the Imperial State Crown around to show the ruby. Her gently humorous comments were charming. She and the ruby made the programme for me.