The Black Prince's Ruby
is actually a bead-shaped spinel
weighing roughly 170 carats
(34 g), approximately the size of a chicken egg. It is currently set in the cross pattée above the 317.40 carat (63.48 g) Cullinan II
in the front of the Imperial State Crown
. The Black Prince's Ruby is one of the oldest of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom
, with a known history dating back to the middle of the 14th century and having been in the possession of the British kings since it was given in 1367 to its namesake, Edward of Woodstock
(the "Black Prince").
Until fairly modern times, all red gemstones were referred to as "rubies". It was only relatively recently that the rarer spinel has been differentiated from the more common ruby
. The two gemstones
can be distinguished on the basis of hardness and density, namely that a ruby is slightly harder and denser than a spinel. The two stones can also be told apart by their optical properties: a true ruby is dichroic
while a spinel is singly refractive
Don Pedro of Seville
The Black Prince's Ruby enters the "stage of history" in middle of the 14th century as the possession of Abu Said, the Moorish Prince of Granada
. At that time, the rule of Castilian Spain was being centralized to Seville
and the Moorish Kingdom of Granada was being systematically attacked and reverted to Spanish rule as a part of the Christian Reconquest
of Spain. Abu Said in particular was confronted by the belligerency of nascent Castile under the rule of Pedro of Castile
, also known to history as Don Pedro the Cruel. According to historical accounts, Abu Said wished to surrender to Don Pedro, but the conditions he offered were unclear. What is clear is that Don Pedro welcomed his coming to Seville. It is recorded that he greatly desired Abu Said's wealth. When Abu Said met with Don Pedro, the don had Said's servants killed and may have personally stabbed Said to death himself. Upon searching Said's corpse, the spinel was found and added to Don Pedro's possessions.
In 1366, Don Pedro's illegitimate brother led a revolt against Don Pedro. Lacking the power to put down the revolt unaided, Don Pedro made an alliance with the Black Prince. The revolt was successfully put down and the Black Prince demanded Abu Said's ruby in exchange for the services he had rendered. While historians speculate that this was contrary to Don Pedro's desires, he had just suffered a costly civil war and was in no position to decline. It can be assumed that The Black Prince took the Ruby back to England, although it is absent from historical records until 1415.
A wartime adornment
During Henry V of England's
campaign in France, he wore a gem-encrusted helmet that included the Black Prince's Ruby. On October 25
, in the Battle of Agincourt
, Henry was struck by a blow to the head by the French Duke of Alençon
's battleaxe and nearly lost the helmet, along with his life. However, the Battle of Agincourt was won by Henry's forces, Henry did not die, and the helmet was preserved along with the Black Prince's Ruby. Richard III
is reported to have also worn the Black Prince's Ruby in his helmet at the Battle of Bosworth Field
where he died.
had the Black Prince's Ruby set into the state crown near the turn of the 16th century, where it remained until the time of Oliver Cromwell
. With the exception of The Coronation Chair
, and several other minor items, Cromwell had the principal symbols of the king's power within the Crown Jewels disassembled and sold, having the metal melted down and made into coins. A British jeweller bought the Black Prince's Ruby in the days of the Commonwealth
, but sold it back to the crown (Charles II
) when the monarchy was restored in 1660.