Crown of Princess Blanche
The Crown of Princess Blanche, also called the Palatine Crown or Bohemian Crown, is the oldest surviving royal crown known to have been in England, and probably dates to the years after 1370. It is made of gold with enamel, sapphires, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls. Its height and diameter are both 18 cm. It has been a property of the House of Wittelsbach since 1402, when it came with Princess Blanche of England, a daughter of King Henry IV of England, on her marriage to Louis III, Elector Palatine.
After the junior Bavarian branch of the house became extinct in the male line in 1777, the senior Palatinian branch replaced the former as the country's rulers. Therefore, the crown is today displayed in the treasury of the Munich Residenz. It has been kept there since 1782.
The crown is in a heavily jewelled version of the fleur de lys (lily flower) shape that was popular for medieval crowns. It has twelve lilies rising from the circlet, alternately tall and short. The circlet's design is based on twelve gold rings beneath the lilies, mounted with hexagonal shapes in enamel and gold openwork. The placing of the jewels alternates in some respects round the crown, with for example the lowest elements, underneath the circlet, alternating between rubies and clusters of four pearls. The enamel bands on the hexagons alternate between red and blue, both spotted with white. The lily stems are detachable, and the places on the crown where they fit are numbered I to XII so they are re-attached correctly.
The crown is first recorded in a list of 1399 recording the movement of some royal jewels in London, some two years before the marriage of Princess Blanche, and among a group of jewels that had belonged to the deposed King Richard II of England and others. Therefore, it is not thought that the crown was made for Blanche. It is "most likely, though not certain, that the crown belonged to" Queen Anne of Bohemia, the wife of Richard II, whom she married in 1382. It may have been produced in Bohemia, but elements such as the beading on the stems suggest Paris, though the maker might have been a French or French-trained goldsmith working in Prague. An origin in Venice has also been suggested.
The crown came to the Palatinian line of the house of Wittelsbach as dowry of Blanche of England, a daughter of King Henry IV of England. After his ascension to the English throne, King Henry IV wanted to make important alliances in order to maintain and legitimize his rule. One ally hoped for was the Wittelsbach King Rupert of Germany, who also took the German throne after the deposition of King Wenceslaus: a marriage between Rupert's eldest surviving son Louis and Henry IV's eldest daughter Blanche was soon arranged. The marriage contract was signed on 7 March 1401 in London; the bride's dowry was fixed in the amount of 40,000 Nobeln. The marriage ceremony between Blanche and Louis took place one year later, on 6 July 1402 at Cologne Cathedral in Germany; she was eleven at the time. She died in 1409, leaving a son who himself died at nineteen.
- Cherry, John, in: Jonathan Alexander & Paul Binski (eds), Age of Chivalry, Art in Plantagenet England, 1200–1400, Catalogue number 16, Royal Academy/Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London 1987
- Harper, Elizabeth, "Pearl in the Context of Fourteenth-Century Gift Economies", The Chaucer Review, Volume 44, Number 4, 2010, pp. 421–439, Penn State University Press, DOI: 10.1353/cr.0.0044