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British crown jewels buried in biscuit tin during WWII

AFP  |  London 

Precious stones from Britain's jewels were hidden in a and buried at Windsor Castle during World War II, a documentary to be shown on Sunday reveals.

Gems, including the Black Prince's Ruby from the Imperial State Crown, were buried under a secret exit from the mediaeval castle used in times of emergency.

The operation, intended to ensure the priceless did not fall into Nazi hands, was ordered by II's father, VI.

It was such a closely-guarded secret that Elizabeth, 91, who spent the 1939-1945 war at for safety, did not know the details.

"What was so lovely was that the had no knowledge of it. Telling her seemed strangely odd," said royal commentator Alastair Bruce, who presents the documentary.

The details were unearthed by Oliver Urquhart Irvine, the keeper of the Royal Archives.

Bruce told newspaper that an "electric set of letters" from Owen Morshead, the royal librarian, to Mary, VI's mother, shed light on the mystery.

Morshead's documents describe how a hole was dug in chalk earth and two chambers with were created.

The trap door, used to access the secret area where the tin box was kept, is still there.

Bruce discusses the jewels with in an exceptionally rare conversation recorded for television. The monarch has never given an interview.

She described the Imperial State Crown, worn for the state opening of parliament and weighing 1.28 kilogrammes, as "very unwieldy".

"Fortunately, my father and I have about the same sort of But once you put it on, it stays. I mean, it just remains itself."

The sovereign said she had to keep her head still.

"And you can't look down to read the speech -- you have to take the speech up. Because if you did, your neck would break, or it would fall off.

"So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they're quite important things."

The crown, made for George's coronation in 1937, is set with 2,868 diamonds including 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and hundreds of pearls, including four known as I's earrings.

It also features the Black Prince's Ruby, believed to have been worn by Henry V in his helmet at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

"It's fun to see," said.

"The idea that his plume was put into the stone... on his helmet. Bit rash, but that was the sort of thing they did, I suppose, in those days.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, January 12 2018. 21:20 IST