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Crown jewels hidden in biscuit tin to keep them from the Nazis


The Coronation
The Queen with her crown jewels.
BBC/ITV Archive

  • The Queen’s crown jewels were hidden in a biscuit tin
    underground at Windsor Castle during World War II, according to
    a BBC documentary.
  • The operation was an effort to keep the precious gems
    out of Nazi hands.
  • The Queen only learned of the operation — which
    happened when she was 14 — while filming the
    documentary.

It’s well known that the crown jewels — a collection of crowns,
robes, and other regalia kept at the Tower of London for over 600
years — are incredibly precious.

So much so that some gems from the collection were hidden
underground in a biscuit tin at Windsor Castle during World War
II to keep them away from the Nazis, according to a BBC
documentary.

The precious stones were placed in a Bath Oliver tin in a
position where the grass could regrow and conceal the hiding
place, according to The Times.

The operation was so secret that even the Queen didn’t know what
had happened until the filming of a new BBC documentary about the
Coronation, which is set to be aired on BBC1 at 8 p.m. on Sunday,
January 14.


The CoronationBBC/ITV
Archive

Royal commentator reportedly Alastair Bruce discovered the story
among “confidential correspondence in the Royal Collection.”

This correspondence was an “electric set of letters” from royal
librarian Sir Owen Morshead to Queen Mary, the mother of George
VI. The hiding of the precious gems was ordered by George VI.

In order to hide the precious cargo, a “deep hole” was dug in the
grounds “beneath a sally port, one of the secure entries to the
castle, and two chambers constructed with steel doors,” according
to The Times.

The work had to be covered up at night. “They dug out this fresh,
very virgin white chalk and they had to hide it with tarpaulins
so when the aircraft flew over at night no clue was given to the
German Luftwaffe that anything was going on,” Bruce wrote.

The Jewels were then locked inside, only accessible through a
trapdoor, which still exists.

The most precious jewels — the Black Prince’s Ruby and St
Edward’s Sapphire — were even removed from the Imperial State
Crown and kept separately in the biscuit tin “in case of
emergency.”

A similar tin of vintage Fortis Bath Oliver Biscuits — made in
England but belonging to a user in India — can even be bought on eBay for
$67.50 (£50).


The CoronationBBC/ITV
Archive

Speaking to the Queen for the BBC documentary, Bruce told Her
Majesty — who had been only 14 at the time — the story.

“What was so lovely was that the Queen had no knowledge of it,”
he said. “Telling her seemed strangely odd.”

He added that Her Majesty had been aware that the jewels were
hidden at Windsor by 1940, when the government was trying to hide
stocks of water, but had no idea where they were buried — or
that they were hiding in a biscuit tin.

The tell-all documentary will see the Queen talking about her
Coronation, including what it’s really like to wear a heavy crown
and robes.

She reportedly jokes that you
“cannot look down” while wearing the 2lbs, 13oz Imperial State
Crown or you neck would “break.”


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