The Black Prince’s Ruby is one of the most famous and historically significant gemstones in the world. Despite its name, it is not a ruby but a red spinel. The gemstone weighs approximately 170 carats and is set in the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, displayed in the Tower of London. Its rich history and striking appearance have made it a subject of fascination for centuries.

Black Prince's Ruby (Red Spinel)

The Black Prince’s Ruby is named after Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince, who is said to have received the gemstone in the 14th century. Its origins are believed to trace back to Central Asia, possibly from the region now known as Afghanistan. Throughout its history, the gemstone has passed through the hands of various notable figures and has been involved in numerous historical events.

Explanation of Its Significance as a Red Spinel

Red spinels, like the Black Prince’s Ruby, are prized for their vibrant color, rarity, and clarity. Spinel is a gemstone mineral composed of magnesium aluminum oxide, often found in metamorphic rocks. It can occur in a range of colors, but the red variety is especially valued and historically has often been mistaken for ruby due to its striking similarity.

The significance of the Black Prince’s Ruby as a red spinel lies in several factors:

  1. Historical Importance: Its storied past and association with royalty and historical events elevate its status beyond just its physical characteristics.
  2. Color and Clarity: The intense red color and transparency of the gemstone make it exceptionally beautiful and highly sought after.
  3. Rarity: Fine-quality red spinels are rare, making them highly valuable. Unlike rubies, which are more widely recognized, red spinels are lesser-known but equally, if not more, precious.
  4. Misidentification: For centuries, red spinels were commonly mistaken for rubies, leading to their presence in royal collections and significant pieces of jewelry under the assumption they were rubies. This historical confusion adds to their mystique and allure.

In conclusion, the Black Prince’s Ruby is a red spinel of immense historical and gemological significance. Its illustrious history, combined with the unique qualities of red spinel, makes it a gemstone of unparalleled prestige and fascination.

Historical Background of the Black Prince’s Ruby

Black Prince's Ruby (Red Spinel)

Discovery and Origins of the Black Prince’s Ruby

The Black Prince’s Ruby is believed to have originated from Central Asia, with modern scholars suggesting it came from the region known today as Afghanistan. The gemstone’s exact discovery date remains uncertain, but it likely surfaced in the 14th century during a period when the region was known for producing high-quality gemstones, including red spinels.

Early Ownership and Transfer Among Notable Historical Figures

The Black Prince’s Ruby first gained historical prominence in the mid-14th century. According to historical accounts, it initially belonged to Abū Sa’īd, the Moorish Prince of Granada. In 1362, the gemstone came into the possession of Don Pedro of Castile, known as Pedro the Cruel. During a period of political unrest and conflict, Don Pedro sought the assistance of Edward of Woodstock, also known as the Black Prince, to quell a rebellion.

As a reward for his military support, Don Pedro presented the gemstone to Edward of Woodstock in 1367. This transfer marks one of the earliest recorded instances of the gemstone being passed among notable historical figures.

Black Prince's Ruby (Red Spinel)

The Role of the Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, in Its History

Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, played a crucial role in the history of the Black Prince’s Ruby. Born in 1330, Edward was the eldest son of King Edward III of England and became one of the most celebrated military leaders of the Hundred Years’ War. His moniker, the Black Prince, is believed to have originated either from his black armor or his ruthless reputation on the battlefield.

The gemstone gained its name after Edward of Woodstock, signifying its importance and association with him. During his lifetime, the Black Prince wore the gemstone in his battle helmet, further enhancing its legendary status. Its presence at key historical events, including the Battle of Nájera in 1367, where Edward’s forces triumphed, solidified its symbolic and intrinsic value.

After Edward’s death in 1376, the gemstone was passed down through the English royal family, becoming part of the Crown Jewels. It was notably worn by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, where it reputedly saved his life by deflecting a blow to his helmet.

In the centuries that followed, the Black Prince’s Ruby continued to be a prized possession among English royalty. It now sits in the Imperial State Crown, which is used during the coronation of British monarchs and other state ceremonies, symbolizing its enduring legacy and historical significance.

In summary, the Black Prince’s Ruby has a rich historical background marked by its discovery in Central Asia, its early ownership by notable historical figures, and its association with Edward of Woodstock. The Black Prince’s role in its history, from its acquisition to its presence in significant battles, has cemented the gemstone’s place as a legendary and invaluable artifact in British history.

The Black Prince’s Ruby in the Crown Jewels

Black Prince's Ruby (Red Spinel)

Detailed Description of the Black Prince’s Ruby’s Placement in the British Crown Jewels

The Black Prince’s Ruby is prominently featured in the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom. The crown itself is an iconic symbol of the British monarchy, traditionally worn by the sovereign during the State Opening of Parliament and other significant state ceremonies. The gemstone is set in the front cross pattée of the crown, positioned directly above the Cullinan II diamond, also known as the Second Star of Africa.

The Black Prince’s Ruby is a large, irregularly shaped cabochon, approximately the size of a chicken egg, with a deep red hue that makes it stand out among the other jewels. The gemstone is drilled and has a small ruby inserted into its borehole, a feature added sometime in its history, likely to repair or enhance its appearance. The crown itself is made of gold and adorned with an array of other precious stones, including diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls, but the Black Prince’s Ruby is one of its most striking features due to its size and historical importance.

Historical Events and Ceremonies Where the Black Prince’s Ruby Was Prominently Featured

The Black Prince’s Ruby has been a part of several notable historical events and ceremonies throughout its existence in the Crown Jewels. Some key moments include:

  1. Battle of Agincourt (1415): As previously mentioned, the gemstone was worn by Henry V on his battle helmet during this famous battle of the Hundred Years’ War. It is said to have played a role in saving his life by deflecting a blow to his head.
  2. Coronation of Charles II (1661): After the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II was crowned with the new St. Edward’s Crown, which included the Black Prince’s Ruby. This event marked the gemstone’s return to prominence after the tumultuous period of the English Civil War and Interregnum.
  3. State Openings of Parliament: The Imperial State Crown, featuring the Black Prince’s Ruby, is traditionally worn by British monarchs during the State Opening of Parliament, a ceremony that marks the beginning of the parliamentary session. This tradition has continued into the modern era, with the gemstone being prominently displayed during these occasions.
  4. Coronations of British Monarchs: The Imperial State Crown has been used in the coronation ceremonies of successive British monarchs, including Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George VI, and Queen Elizabeth II. During these ceremonies, the crown, and thus the Black Prince’s Ruby, is showcased as a central piece of regalia, symbolizing the continuity and endurance of the British monarchy.

Modern Significance in the British Crown Jewels

In contemporary times, the Black Prince’s Ruby remains a significant and highly valued component of the British Crown Jewels. Its modern significance can be understood in several contexts:

  1. Historical Legacy: The gemstone embodies a rich historical narrative that spans several centuries, including its association with Edward of Woodstock, its role in key battles, and its inclusion in the regalia of numerous British monarchs. This history adds to the mystique and reverence with which it is regarded.
  2. Symbol of Monarchy: As part of the Imperial State Crown, the Black Prince’s Ruby symbolizes the enduring nature of the British monarchy. The crown itself is a potent emblem of royal authority and the gemstone’s prominent placement within it underscores its importance.
  3. Cultural Heritage: The Black Prince’s Ruby, along with the rest of the Crown Jewels, is a part of Britain’s cultural heritage. It is displayed at the Tower of London, where millions of visitors each year have the opportunity to view it, fostering a connection between the public and the nation’s history.
  4. Continuity and Tradition: The use of the Imperial State Crown in ceremonial events, such as the State Opening of Parliament, highlights the continuity of British traditions. The presence of the Black Prince’s Ruby in these ceremonies reinforces the link between the past and the present, serving as a tangible reminder of the monarchy’s long-standing traditions.

In conclusion, the Black Prince’s Ruby holds a place of great importance within the British Crown Jewels. Its prominent placement in the Imperial State Crown, its involvement in historical events and ceremonies, and its modern significance as a symbol of the British monarchy and cultural heritage all contribute to its enduring legacy.