Friday, December 13, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Crown of the Emperor Bahadur Shah II, c. 1830

The Crown of the Emperor Bahadur Shah II
India, c. 1830
Purchased by Queen Victoria, 1861
The Royal Collection
Though referred to as a crown, this beautiful sculpture of gold, turquoise, rubies, diamonds, pearls, emeralds, feathers and velvet is more accurately, a skull cap. The piece was worn at the back of the head held in place by the emperor’s turban which was similarly bejeweled.

This piece, along with a set of two throne chairs, was purchased by Major Robert Tytler following the 1857 Indian Mutiny. Tytler returned to England and refused offers from a high-end Bond Street jeweler (amounting to a staggering £1000), instead preferring that the jewel was first offered to Queen Victoria. As Prince Albert handled the purchase of all of the queen’s jewelry, he was told of the “crown” and expressed great interest in its value as a work of the jeweler’s art, but also as a symbol of power over India. The Prince did, in fact, want the “crown” as well as the two thrones and offered £500 for the lot. Tytler felt the offer was far too low, but could not refuse Prince Albert who stated that the major would receive a special appointment from Her Majesty when he returned to India in order to make up the difference between the true value of the pieces and their offer. Tytler agreed. And, he returned to India. However, he did not receive any sort of appointment—special or otherwise. This slight so angered his wife that in her memoirs—written forty years later—she was still fuming about the episode.

Crown of the Emperor Bahadur
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
via The Royal Collection Trust
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


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