The Crown BC - Present Day
Originally Crowns were not known as headwear, but as jewellery, and started
to be worn during the Roman Empire. Four Roman Emperors wore the Imperial
Crown, which was very simple-a leaf of Laurel or Bay leaves made in Gold.
Empress Valeria Messalina favoured a wreath of gold laurel. This type of
crown was used by Nero (A.D.54-68) but from then onwards, the Laurel
leaf crown would only be seen on the head of the Emperor on coins.
The Empress Sabina, wife of Hadrian (A.D.117) had a Crown (or Diadem) of
beautiful workmanship. Heliogabalus was the first to wear a crown with
pearls and one priceless gem. A Crown worn by Diocletian, was a broad
band of gold set with pearls, and is thought to be the foundation on
which all Royal and Imperial Crowns are now based upon.
The crowns worn by men and women during Byzantium times followed
Diocletian´s style, but Emperor Justinian brought out his new line.
It consisted of band of gold 3 or 4 inches deep, sloping outward
towards the top and was decorated with jewels and rows of pearls on the
top and bottom edge.
Only Anglo-Saxons of the C.11th re-modified it to have tall leaf-like
motifs or points standing straight up from the band of gold. These styles
of crowns were still used by William I, Harold, Edward the Confessor and
By C.12th crowns were plain gold and still very simple, for example Henry
II´s crown. Eleanor of Aquitaine´s crown is the first to have
eight points, four of which had jewels. At this time French Crowns were
much more ornate in design, for example The Crown of Clovis at St. Denis,
but the jewellery of Limoges was sought by the wealthy men and women of
Crowns in use during the C.13th continued to be simple and set with few
jewels. Queens and noble ladies wore these crowns as well as "chaplets"
and "guirlands"(metallic floral wreaths) brought into fashion by Queen
Eleanor of Provence who was noted for her jewellery. These guirlands
became popular among ladies of rank and wealth.
By C.14th and C.15th crowns were becoming what we know them as today and
were much more ornate. Gold, silver and enamel were used and set with all
manner of precious and semi precious stones with points, quatre foils,
cinq foils and arches. They were not only worn by royalty and nobility but
by middle classes as well in forms of crowns such as "coronets" and
"circlets." A beautiful example of coronet can be seen on the effigy
of the Countess of Clarence in Canterbury Cathedral.
Goldsmiths in France, Northern Italy and Northern Spain were the best
craftsmen and jewellers during this period, though Limoges still retained
its reputation as the best.
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