What is the history and meaning of the Imperial State Crown that sat on the Queen's coffin?

The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign's orb and sceptre. Credit: PA

The Imperial State Crown, set with thousands of precious gems, sat upon the Queen’s Royal Standard-draped coffin on a velvet cushion during the monarch's Lying in State.

The crown, which has existed in various forms since the 15th century, remained on top of the coffin until Monday afternoon when it was placed onto the altar of St George’s Chapel by the Dean of Windsor.

What is the history and symbolism of this crown and the orb and sceptre that lay beside it during the Queen's Lying in State?

How many jewels make up the crown?

The crown is made of gold and set with an incredible 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and four rubies.

The Imperial State Crown contains some of the most famous jewels in the collection, including the blue Stuart Sapphire, the Black Prince's Ruby and the Cullinan II diamond.

It weighs 1.06 kg (2.3 lb) and is 31.5 cm (12.4 in) tall.

The purple velvet cap is trimmed with ermine and the frame made of gold, silver and platinum.

The Queen, wearing the Imperial State Crown, sitting next to Prince Philip prior to reading the Queen's Speech in November 2006 Credit: AP

What is its royal history and where are the jewels come from?

The Imperial State Crown was made for the coronation of King George VI (the Queen's father) in 1937 by Garrard and Company, replacing the crown worn by Queen Victoria.

St Edward’s Sapphire, set in the centre of the topmost cross, is said to have been worn in a ring by St Edward the Confessor and discovered in his tomb in 1163. The legend goes that St Edward, one of the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England, gave a ring to a beggar who turned out to be St John the Evangelist.

The ring was later returned to the King via Syria, and he was buried with the jewel in Westminster Abbey in 1066. In the 12th century his tomb was opened and the ring removed.

Watch ITV's special live coverage of the funeral of HM The Queen

The Black Prince's Ruby has an equally compelling history (or legend). It is said the ruby passed through Spain from the east in about 1366, where Don Pedro took it from the Moorish king of Granada. Some say the stones was set in the helmet of Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

Meanwhile, the 104-carat Stuart Sapphire is thought to have been smuggled out of the country by James II when he fled to France in December 1688 during the Glorious Revolution. It found its way back to British shores, and the Imperial State Crown via an Italian dealer hired by George IV.

Cullinan II, or the 'Second Star of Africa', weighs 317.4 carats and is the second largest stone cut from the great Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever discovered.

Found in 1905 by Frederick G.S. Wells, in a mine near Pretoria, South Africa, the diamond was presented to Edward VII in 1907 as a (very expensive) olive branch in the wake of the Boer War. 

It is sometimes said that three pearls that hang the below the monde belonged to Queen Elizabeth I (and are known as Queen Elizabeth's Earrings) but the association is disputed.

What does the crown symbolise?

The Imperial State Crown symbolises the sovereignty of the monarch.

According to the Royal Collection Trust, the Imperial State Crown was made after English monarchs requested a crown closed by arches, to demonstrate that England was not subject to any other earthly power but their own.

Where can I usually see Imperial State Crown?

The crown is part of the Crown Jewels which are kept on public display at the Tower of London.

The Imperial State Crown is carried into the House of Lords prior to the State Opening of Parliament. Credit: PA

Was the Queen crowned with it - and will King Charles be?

No. Sovereigns are crowned with the St Edward's Crown - weighing 2.23kg - which is exchanged for the comparatively light Imperial State Crown which the monarch wears as they leave Westminster Abbey after the service.

Before the Civil War the ancient Coronation crown was kept at Westminster Abbey and as a result, the monarch needed another crown to wear when leaving the Abbey - and so the Imperial State Crown was made.

The Imperial State Crown is also used on other State occasions including the annual State Opening of Parliament.

The Queen on her Coronation balcony with the late Duke of Edinburgh. Credit: PA

What lies next to the Imperial State Crown on the Queen's coffin?

Besides the Imperial State Crown lies the orb and sceptre, also heavily symbolic items.

The Sovereign’s Orb, which features a cross above a globe, is a symbol of Godly power, the monarch being God's representative on Earth.

Part of the Crown Jewels, the gold orb was made for Charles II’s coronation in 1661, and mounted with nine emeralds, 18 rubies, nine sapphires, 365 diamonds, 375 pearls, one amethyst and one glass stone. The orb's three sections represent the three continents medieval rulers believed existed.

It has been used in the coronation of a British monarch since Charles II.

The Sovereign’s Sceptre With Cross represents the temporal power of the King or Queen, and is associated with good governance.

The sceptre holds the world’s largest diamond, the Cullinan I, also known as the First Star of Africa.

The Queen's final journey from Buckingham Palace in our latest podcast episode

What happens to the Imperial State Crown after the Queen's funeral?

During the service, which will be conducted by the Dean of Windsor David Conner, the Imperial State Crown, the orb and the sceptre will be lifted from the Queen’s coffin by the Crown Jeweller, separating the Queen from her crown for the final time.

With the help of the Bargemaster and Serjeants-at-Arms, the priceless Crown Jewels will be passed to the Dean who will place them on the High Altar.

At the end of the last hymn, the King will step forward and place the Grenadier Guards’ Queen’s Company Camp Colour – a smaller version of the Royal Standard of the Regiment – on the coffin.

The remarkable life of the Queen remembered in our latest episode of What You Need To Know.