Of all of England’s crown jewels the loveliest and most sinister is completely misnamed.  The “Black Prince’s Ruby” is not a ruby at all but a colossal blood red spinel (gem-quality magnesium aluminium crystal). Additionally, during his life, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine (1330 – 1376) was never called “the black prince” and nobody knows where that nickname came from.

All of that aside, the gemstone’s history is even darker than its name.  The gem first became known to history in the 14th century when it was a treasure held by Abu Said, the Moorish Prince of Granada (although rumor holds that it may have had an earlier life as a sacred stone of India).  Pedro of Castille (AKA Don Pedro the Cruel) was systematically reconquering Spain from the Moors at the time.  Abu Said desired to surrender and visited Don Pedro under the white flag of truce to explain his provisions.  Pedro ambushed the Moorish Prince and slaughtered his retinue.  Rumor holds that Don Pedro personally killed Abu Said and looted the giant spinel from the prince’s corpse.

The Black Prince had a spectacular moustache.

King Pedro presented the gem to Prince Edward as a down payment for military assistance: Prince Edward and his English archers would help King Pedro quash a revolt and, in exchange, Pedro would provide his mercenary allies with a treasure trove of jewels.  Shockingly, Pedro did not live up to his side of the bargain and, growing disgusted by Don Pedro’s cruelty and faithlessness, Edward withdrew from Spain.

[As a kharmic aside, Don Pedro was betrayed for money by Bertrand du Guesclin and misled into an ambush where he was stabbed to death by his bastard half brother Henry of Trastamara (thereafter Henry II of Spain).  Henry left Pedro’s body unburied for three days so that he and his men could abuse and ridicule the corpse.]

Henry V Attired in Battle Armor

The stone was later worn by Henry V of England who incorporated it into his battle helmet during the Hundred Years war.   Said helmet saved the King Henry’s life during the battle of Agincourt when he was beset by French knights.

Imperial State Crown of Great Britain

Today the Black Prince’s ruby can be found in the Imperial State Crown of Great Britain, a towering mass of giant diamonds, huge sapphires, dark velvet, and ermine.  This crazy headdress is worn by Great Britain’s monarchs at the end of their coronation ceremonies (when they thoroughly and completely crowned and could not be more regal if they tried to be).  The Imperial State Crown is also worn annually at the State Opening of Parliament, one of the ridiculous Ghormenghastian rituals which the figurehead monarch of Great Britain is expected to take part in.  It was worn as the actual coronation crown by Queen Victoria and a stripped down version was used for the same purpose by Edward VII (who had the crown remade because it was so heavy it hurt his neck).