Recently, a member of staff at Grange Hotels was afforded the opportunity to stay overnight in our Grange City Hotel’s Presidential Suite, together with a visit to the Tower of London’s Jewel House. Here, she shares her experience, plus a little bit of history about some of the most powerful symbols of British Monarchy…
“Earlier this month, I was awarded an overnight stay in Grange City Hotel’s luxurious Presidential Suite, which also included a trip to the nearby Tower of London (a place I had never actually visited before, but knew we had a close partnership with). As I was shown into the Suite, the first thing I noticed was the striking view of the Tower from my window, which got me even more excited for the afternoon ahead.
Visiting the Tower was a fantastic experience; discovering over 1000 years of history in such a grand and enchanting setting. One of the highlights of my entire visit, and the part I knew I would certainly need to leave plenty of time to enjoy, was the famous Jewel House; home to the Royal Collection of the Crown Jewels.
Funnily enough, after walking back to the hotel later that day, I got talking to a guest in the lounge bar who is actually a member of the Tower and was, in fact, staying at the hotel following her recent visit for a ‘behind-the-scenes’ viewing of the Crown Jewels during their annual clean! I hadn’t really heard much about this, and, having admired the Royal Collection that very same day, I was fascinated by the idea of seeing the assortment of jewels and ornaments as worn by the British Monarchy, outside of their display cabinets - which are, of course, carefully guarded by the city’s iconic Beefeaters!
As it turns out, January marks a special time of year in the calendar for the Crown Jewels, as this is the month in which they undergo their intricate annual cleaning process, which can only be done after hours, once the public display has closed for the day.
I have to admit, it was exciting to know that I was staying just moments away from where all of this was taking place.
And so, on a wintry January night, I found myself looking out over the Tower from my bedroom, and imagining what it would be like to be privy to such an exclusive event. Having discovered that the entire cleaning process of every item takes two and a half weeks, I couldn’t help but wonder which pieces would be taken out of their casings that evening…
During my visit I had seen countless items of royal regalia, and one of the pieces which had actually been used for a royal occasion just last year, is The Lily Font, which was made in 1840 for the baptism of Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria’s first child. The piece is still used for royal baptisms, including Prince William and, most recently, Princess Charlotte.
Perhaps one of the large altar dishes at the Tower would be removed for the cleaning that evening, a few of which will soon be in use again when they are taken out for a church service just before Easter. On Maundy Thursday, the Queen uses the dishes to carry red and white bags of specially minted coins, which are then handed out to a group of men and women; one man and one woman for each year of the monarch’s life. So that means that this year, there will be 89 men and 89 women receiving the coins!
Of course, looking out at the fortress, there’s no doubt in my mind which piece I would most want to see if I was afforded a sneak peek, and that’s the Imperial State Crown, (judging by the amount of people fawning over it in the Jewel House earlier that day, I would imagine they agree!)
It has existed in various forms since the 15th century, but this particular one, made of gold, silver and platinum, was created in 1937 for George VI, and later resized and ‘feminised’ in 1953 for Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen still wears this crown during her speech at the annual State Opening of Parliament, which usually happens in the autumn. It would be fascinating to see it cleaned, especially given the fact it is extensively decorated with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, not to mention almost 3,000 diamonds!
Needless to say, I’d never actually know what was being cleaned at the Tower that night… I suppose that’s what makes the whole thing so special. Still, that doesn’t stop me wishing I could be there to see it all happen! Unsurprisingly, it took me a little while to get to sleep that night, but when I did, I found myself dreaming about the 20,000 plus diamonds I had seen earlier that day…”
To see the Royal Collection with your own eyes, visit the Tower of London’s website here for more information. And, if you fancy experiencing a touch of luxury yourself, our Grange City Hotel is only a short walk away…
Members of our loyalty programme, Revarew, can also take advantage of exclusive partner offers with Historic Royal Palaces.