The BBC’s Clive Myrie says ‘bright and lustrous’ crown jewels are ‘designed to shock and impress’.


BBC news journalist Clive Myrie was stunned as he approached the Crown Jewels, which feature 13 crowns and nearly 24,000 precious stones including dazzling sapphires, rubies and diamonds

Clive Myrie holds a replica of Henry VIII's original crown
Clive Myrie holds a replica of Henry VIII’s original crown

War correspondent Clive Myrie had never felt a strong connection to the crown jewels, a symbol of the British monarchy, until he spotted a prominent poster while riding on the Tube.

The poster showed a little boy looking at the imperial state crown.

Mastermind presenter Clive says of the moment just before the first lockdown: “I remember just seeing the crown and this little black kid next to it. It was an advertisement to see the jewels in the Tower of London.

“I found it interesting that they chose a person of color.

“They tried to convey the idea that they are there for everyone.

“This image stayed with me.”

The 57-year-old, who reported from Ukraine, adds: “I didn’t do anything about it. When I was growing up in Bolton, Lancashire, the monarchy and the idea of ​​a royal family were not paramount.”

Queen Elizabeth II at the State Opening of Parliament


Tim Graham photo archive via Getty Images)

The Queen wears the Imperial State Crown in 2006


(Getty Images)

But when Clive was asked to research the history of the crown jewels as part of the BBC’s anniversary programme, he mused that seeing the poster must have been a sign.

His parents, who came to England from Jamaica, have always had a fondness for the royal family.

His mother Lynne Myrie, once Mary Berry’s seamstress, was a teacher in Jamaica in the 1950s. She led a group of school children to meet the Queen.

Clive says: “On the Commonwealth Royal visit my mother saw the Duke of Edinburgh and the Land Rover and she saw the Queen arrive in it.

The Crown of Scotland


BBC/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

“She remembers how amazing it was to see and be a part of that royal motorcade.

“My parents were part of that Windrush generation, where the narrative was that England was a place to make a living, raise your children, be welcome and help the Empire. So there was always a reverence for the monarchy.

“They were thrilled that I was part of the BBC commentary team for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and that I am now involved in this documentary.”

Clive was stunned at getting so close to the Crown Jewels. The collection includes 13 crowns and nearly 24,000 precious stones, including sapphires, rubies and diamonds, collected from around the world over centuries.

The jeweled sacrificial sword from 1820


BBC/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

He says: “I wanted to find out what they are really telling us about us and our past. It’s a complicated story, but it’s illuminated by some of the most beautiful jewels in the world.”

Given the unprecedented level of access, the BBC team used state-of-the-art technology to explore the jewels in minute detail.

Clive says: “You are talking about the kind of photograph Sir David Attenborough would normally take, looking down at a plant in a forest or observing an animal up close.

“We managed to bring that pinpoint accuracy and deep insight into the stones.” The jewels are priceless. Historian Alistair Bruce says, “It’s reasonable to call it priceless, but you could just add as many zeros as there are diamonds in the collection.”

Clive says of the jewels: “When you first see them, they are designed to shock and awe.

St Edward’s Crown


BBC/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

“They’re designed to be bright and shiny, giving a sense of something you can’t reach, you couldn’t get close to. They are said to symbolize power, the royal family and their rule over the commoners.

“In terms of artwork, they are beautiful. The craftsmanship, the skill is just amazing.”

At Hampton Court Palace, Clive discovers how a team meticulously reconstructed Henry VIII’s lost crown using documents and illustrations.

Clive says: “To be physically able to hold that crown was amazing. You have a sense of its weight and complexity.

The Crown Jewels in the Tower of London


BBC/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

“That was 3kg of Tudor bling, living history right in my hands.” He was also impressed by the Imperial State Crown and the 3,106 carat Cullinan Diamond that produced the 500 carat Great Star of Africa.

The incredible collection, housed in the Tower of London, also includes the Sacrificial Sword, the Crown of the Queen Mother, Crowns of the Prince of Wales and the Imperial Crown of State with a ruby ​​worn by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

Clive marveled at the solid gold St Edward’s crown worn during coronation ceremonies.

The Queen managed to wear the crown, which weighs nearly 5 pounds, but her great-grandfather Edward VII was recovering from having his appendix removed and was unable to.

The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross


BBC/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.)

Clive also investigates the past of the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. He says: “They had representatives of the British Empire scour the world for the finest jewels, and this diamond, the Koh-I-Noor, emerged in 1851 and was taken from the possession of the Indian prince, the Maharajah. It symbolizes how complicated this story is, how difficult it is to name property.”

In the documentary, Clive also follows the trail of the Scottish Crown Jewels, actually known as The Honors of Scotland.

The crown, sword and scepter date from the reign of James V in 1540.

Clive visits Dunnottar Castle, the last place he stood against Oliver Cromwell’s army, where the Honors were kept. He says: “It’s a beautiful story about how they managed to keep her off the grubby gloves of Cromwell. They were lowered from a window, wrapped in burlap, to a local woman who collected seaweed, placed in a wicker basket and hidden in a church pulpit for nine years.

Clive Myrie in front of The White Tower in the Tower of London grounds


BBC/Atlantic Productions/The Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II/Gary Moyes)

“It meant Cromwell couldn’t erase that sense of rebellion, that sense of revolution. He couldn’t melt down those symbols.”

Clive adds, “My key takeaway from this documentary is how important these objects are to the idea of ​​monarchy and understanding how important monarchy is to us as a nation. I think that’s really caught on in the Covid situation over the last two years.

“We were all separate… the two things that I think kept a sense of unity about all of us were the BBC and the monarchy. The Crown Jewels symbolize that unity and now I understand why they are so important.”

The documentary The Crown Jewels will be shown on BBC1 on 3 June at 7.30pm.

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