solely briefly acknowledged the elephant within the room

Where does the soul of the nation lie? In a bit of paper, such because the Magna Carta? Or a constructing, such because the Houses of Parliament or Buckingham Palace? The Crown Jewels (BBC One) had a distinct reply: in a stone. 

In explicit, in a ruby sapphire in regards to the dimension of a squash ball, the color of a stiffening bruise. This was St Edward’s Sapphire. Reputed to belong to Edward the Confessor, it’s the oldest gem within the Crown Jewels and, because the Restoration, has sat on the monarch’s head within the Imperial State Crown on the State Opening of Parliament. Older than the Norman Conquest, it embodies the 1,000-year continuity of the Royal household. And you possibly can slip it into your pocket. 

The Crown Jewels themselves, in fact, are far much less transportable. In reality, they’re virtually as immovable because the constructing through which they sit – the Tower of London – and price a lot that, as one knowledgeable stated, you possibly can “take the number of gems in the collection and add that many zeros”. Well, there are almost 24,000 gems within the Jewels, and 13 crowns, and brought collectively they symbolize “the story of our islands, for good or ill,” as presenter Clive Myrie put it. 

Perhaps that’s why this documentary felt so unwieldy. Bound in metallic and treasured stone, it seems that Britain’s historical past clanks like a cast-gold crown fumbled onto a flagstone flooring. This wasn’t Myrie’s fault. His twinkly gravitas – so spectacular within the BBC’s protection of the Ukraine conflict – was well-suited to this Jubilee tee-up. But his presence felt like a missed alternative. “As a child of Empire, there was no positive connection in [the Jewels] for me,” stated Myrie. In reality, he was solely persuaded to go to them for the primary time when he noticed an advert on the Tube with a small boy, black like him, enthralled by the sight of a crown in all its gilt glory. 

Yet the troublesome historical past of the Koh-i-Noor diamond – taken from its proprietor, the 11-year-old Maharaja of the Punjab, Duleep Singh, throughout Queen Victoria’s annexation of the Punjab – was solely briefly touched on. “[It’s] a symbol of colonial humiliation for many people,” defined journalist and presenter Anita Anand. She remembered visiting it as a toddler together with her Indian relations: “I learnt a lot of Hindi swear words.”

But this spikier materials didn’t fairly match into the in any other case cosy format of The Crown Jewels. There was a phase through which Myrie had a bash at fashioning a gold cross, bodging it endearingly as it’s contractually obliged for presenters of historic TV. And he glided round in a succession of natty scarves saying “fascinating” as consultants confirmed issues – rocks, outdated books, extra rocks! – to him. Some of these items was fascinating: the one merchandise of Charles I’s royal treasures to outlive Cromwell’s furnaces was a coronation spoon; it was rescued by a courtier who purchased it at public sale, and introduced it to Charles II after the Interregnum. But there was a nagging absence of an emotional through-line, a thread of private connection which might maintain the fabric collectively. 

In reality, there is just one particular person for whom these jewels have any actual private connection. And she appeared in an archive interview from 2013. Presented with St Edward’s Crown which she wore when, aged 27, she was topped, Her Majesty was mischievous and wry. She is the one particular person alive to have felt it weighing on her forehead, however there was no sense of heavy the pinnacle; as an alternative, she turned it round playfully like somebody confronted with a once-beloved, now-forgotten toy. “Weighs a ton,” she famous. Had Her Majesty put it on since 1953? “No, I haven’t. Thank goodness.”  

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