The French Coronation Crowns

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Crown of Empress Eugenie

The Crown of Empress Eugénie was the consort crown of Eugénie de Montijo, the empress consort of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Though neither she nor her husband underwent a coronation a consort crown was specially created for her. Though most of the French Crown Jewels were sold by the French Third Republic in 1887, the Crown of Empress Eugénie was kept and is on display in the Louvre museum in The Apollo room. In the spirit of full disclosure I took pictures of these crowns but they were in a glass case with lots of reflections and I decided to use pictures from the web.


Coronation crown of Napoleon

The Crown of Napoleon was a coronation crown manufactured for Emperor Napoleon I of the French and used in his coronation on December 2, 1804. Napoleon called his new crown the Crown of Charlemagne. This was a vanity of Napoleon to associate himself with Charlemagne and the French Kings until that time since the crown of Charlemagne had been destroyed in the French revolution. Actually, he only wore the crown for a brief moment, preferring instead to wear a crown of gold laurel leaves like the ancient Roman emperors. A great painting by Ingres shows Napolean in his full coronation regalia. His gilded crown of laurels was destroyed in 1819 by Louis XVIII and the coronation crown is in the Apollo room at the Louvre.

Charlemagne at the top of the staff of Louis XVI

The Crown of Charlemagne was the ancient coronation crown of Kings of the Franks, and later Kings of France after 1237. It was probably originally made as a simple circlet of four curved rectangular jewelled plates for Charles the Bald, but later, four large jewelled fleur-de-lis were added to these four original plates. Wikipedia insists that this was an open topped crown but the image to the right of the top of Louis XVI scepter is an image of Charlemagne and clearly shows a cross at the top of the crown. The scepter is also at the Louvre.


Until the beginning of the 18th century French kings wore plain crowns with a few precious stones. This was changed by King Louis XV in 1722, when he had a new crown created, which he had embellished with diamonds from the Royal Collection. He wore it at his coronation.

Crown of Louis XVI

The new crown was made by Laurent Ronde, the French Crown jeweller. It originally contained collection of Mazarin Diamonds and the famous ‘Regent’ diamond (both of which were acquired during the reign of Louis XIV), which was set in the front of the crown, as well as hundreds of other precious diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. This was the only ancient crown to survive both the French revolution and the dispersal of the crown jewels in 1887 although the precious stones were replaced with glass. It is also at the Louvre in the Apollo room.

The Crown jewels or Diamants de la Couronne de France consisting of gemstones and jewellery became unalienable by decision of Francis I on June 15, 1530. the Côte-de-Bretagne red spinel was then among the 8 main jewels. By 1814, Napoleon I had increased the Crown jewels to 65,072 stones and pearls, not including the personal jewels of both empress Josephine and Marie-Louise! Louis XIV added significant stones with the gift of the 18 Mazarin diamonds (from Cardinal Mazarin) and the purchase of the ‘Royal French Blue’ and ‘Ruspoli’ sapphire later followed in 1717 with the Regent Diamond. By the 1887 sale of the French crown jewels they numbered 77,662 stones and pearls. However, an important set of stones and pearls was sent to the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle and some of the most important jewels were bought back in the years since 1953, which today makes the collection number more than 11,000 stones and pearls.

Hope diamond

The Crown Jewels were stolen in 1792, during the French revolution, when the Garde Meuble (Royal Treasury) was stormed by rioters. Most, though not all, of the Crown Jewels were eventually recovered. However, neither the Sancy Diamond nor the French Blue Diamond were found in the years after. The Royal French Blue is believed to have been recut, and it is now known as the Hope Diamond. Since 1958, it has been in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., where it is the single most-viewed object in the Smithsonian’s collection.