When you think of medieval history or high fantasy, the picture just isn’t complete without a crown-wearing King or Queen. It’s very telling of our human nature that many cultures, some with very little connection to the others, adopted crowns or similar styles of headgear to denote royalty.
The crown as a word has come to symbolize the ruling body and the top of social hierarchies. It represents Leadership, Divinity, Legitimacy, Honour and Glory.
Many people think of the ring-like crown or of tiaras, but there are many different styles of crowns from all over the world and throughout the historic periods.
The ring-like crowns that you often see in medieval-era and fantasy movies (think Aragorn’s crown from Lord of the Rings, or King Edward the Longshanks’ crown from Braveheart) is actually a type of metal diadem, and it’s style was popular all throughout Europe, particularly among English kings and during the Anglo-Saxon period of history. Many of these types of crowns were simple gold bands with very little design, and often without jewels of any kind.
Mythical ancient Crown, Greece 3rd century BC
Later European monarchies started wearing crowns that more closely resembled elaborate hats. These are the more well-known historical crowns, often adorned with jewels and exceptionally ornate and detailed.
Queen Elizabeth II wears one of these crowns. In fact, that crown is the famous Imperial State Crown, which has existed since the 15th century, and contains many famous jewels, along with almost 3000 diamonds and 300 pearls, as well as 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies. It has the famously misnamed Black Prince’s Ruby, which is actually a spiner, the Stuart Sapphire and the Queen Elizabeth Pearls.
The Imperial State Crown, United Kingdom 1937
Tiaras look very similar to diadems, though many tiaras are not complete circles. Tiaras generally have a simple band with a very intricate and ornate front piece. Stylistically, the idea is that the part of the crown that sits above the face is the most important, therefore it should be the most detailed. Many tiaras were worn by Mesopotamian kings. Tiaras have also been found among the Assyrians and many other cultures.
This gold tiara of Queen Yaba, Mesopotamia 744 to 727 BC
The Iranian people have their own version of a tiara called the Tarok, which has more jewels than its Assyrian counterparts.
The roman emperors wore diadems as well, many of them designed to look like laurel wreathes, while others shared similarities with the diadems and crowns worn by the Greek kings.
It is quite clear that crowns have become much more common over the years and not just limited to a symbol of royalty. For example, tiaras can be awarded to women who are recognised for their achievements. The most notable of this is the Miss Universe competition. Some may simply wear novelty tiaras for their birthday. Nevertheless, the crown will always be used as the perfect symbol for those who are at the top.
Pica LéLa's new jewellery collection, Dynasty, will be featuring a lot of crowns and pearls as the alternative everyday accessories. Described as a subtle yet contemporary range, Dynasty incorporates irregular shapes with playful designs. An all-season collection, the designs include clear crystal, mother of pearl and rose gold.
Below you’ll find the top 100 crowns used by monarchs who have ruled throughout human history, from the crowns of the Kings and Queens of Medieval England to the famous Papal Tiara.
Below is a list of eight of the world’s more famous crowns, by their country of origin. They are considered the property of the reigning monarch and are usually adorned with all kinds of jewels.
The Raven Crown is still worn today by the King of Bhutan. This crown, true to its name, features the raven, the national bird of the country, at the top of the crown.
The crown was originally modelled after the infamous Black Regent, Jigme Namgyel’s battle helmet which also featured a raven. Namgyel’s son, Sir Ugyen Wangchuck, was the first monarch of the Wangchuck dynasty and the first to wear the completed Raven Crown.
Finland declared independence from the former Russian empire in 1917 and Prince Frederik Charles of Hesse was elected for the new throne.
Unfortunately for Frederik, the politics surrounding the end of World War I forced the Finnish prime minister to ask Frederik to give up the crown just a month after he was elected.
Finland then became a republic and the actual crown was name made (a replica was made in the 1980s based on the original drawings).
This 6 pound work of artistic genius was made for the Danish King Christian IV, who is famous for being the longest reigning King of Denmark-Norway, ruling for about 60 years.
The crown itself was given to him at his coronation in 1596. This crown is known for being very ornate and well crafted, with intricate designs.
Also known as the Crown of Charlemagne, named after an ancient royal crown that was destroyed during the French Revolution, this crown was made for THE Napoleon. That’s right, this was the coronation crown of the guy from your high school history class.
The French military prodigy, who’s earned legendary status in history for his impressive battle records and tactical genius, had this crown made and named after the medieval King Charlemagne so that he could compare himself to the famous monarch.
Fun fact: During his coronation, Napoleon famously used two crowns; one was a Laurel Wreath styled crown like the Roman Emperors wore, and the other was the Crown of Napoleon.
One of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, this famous crown was supposedly made from the melted gold of King Edward’s Crowns. It was made in 1661 and is adorned with 444 jewels.
The crown itself has had quite an exciting life; it was stolen by Thomas Blood in 1671 along with many other pieces of royal jewellery. Blood flattened the crown with a mallet to conceal it while other members of his gang attempted to hide the other Crown Jewels by other means. His associate even stuffed the Sovereign’s Orb down his pants. Gross.
Many monarchs have complained that St. Edward’s Crown is heavy and uncomfortable.
Though this crown isn’t a shiny gold with hundreds of jewels embedded in it, its simple design practically radiates power and authority. It is a strong crown with a long history.
The exact origins of the crown are the topic of legends and folklore, so naturally the truth is hard to come by. It is said that the crown was forged from nails from the True Cross, the cross biblical scholars believe Jesus was crucified on.
The reality is that the crown was likely made for the daughter of Emperor Louis the Pious, Gisela at some point in the 9th century, and passed on to her son. It was definitely used in the coronation of Italian Kings since at least the 11th century.
This beautiful and colourful crown is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels. This explosion of colour was first used in 1926. It was made for the Pahlavi Dynasty which had become the ruling house of Iran in 1925. The crown was made to replace the Kiani Crown which was worn by the Qajar dynasty.
The designs have some distinct Persian influences. It is made with gold, silver, red velvet and 3380 diamonds.
The crown was first used for the coronation of Reza Shah in 1926 and was last used for the coronation of his son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1967. These days, the famous crown sits on display in Tehran, Iran.
The Kingdom of Hungary had used this crown for most of its existence. In fact, this crown was held in such high regard that Kings would not be recognized as the legitimate rulers if they had not been crowned with it.
The crown is relatively simple in comparison with others on this list, but it is adorned with detailed artwork all around its band and arcs. A cross sits atop the crown.
It has another name, the Crown of Saint Stephen, named after Stephen I, the first King of Hungary. The actual origin of the crown is debated, with some people believing it dates all the way back to King Stephen I’s time, while others believe it was made around the 12th century. These days, it sits within the Hungarian Parliament Building.