The Crown of Zvonimir was another one of those ill-starred comic props which keeps popping up in increasingly goofy forms throughout history. The original was extremely distinctive looking…um, probably. Nobody has seen it since the early 16th century when it “mysteriously” disappeared as the Ottomans plundered Croatia (looters probably wouldn’t make off with a golden crown covered in precious jewels right?). The crown was presented to King Demetrius Zvonimir by the Pope in 1076 (well the actual crown was presented to the actual king by a papal legate, but you know what I mean).
Like a duck-hunting hat, the crown of Zvonimir had distinctive ear-flaps. Maybe Zvonimir’s ears were prone to getting cold? Heraldic convention shows the crown as surmounted with three crosses and encrusted with sapphires, and pearls. It seems reasonable to assume that the piece was destroyed in the Middle Ages, but maybe it is has somehow survived the tumultuous centuries in some hiding spot.
In the nineteen thirties and forties a fascist regime, the Ustaše regime, came to prominence in Croatia. They seized control in 1941 and appropriated medieval symbols of Croatia’s golden(ish) age as symbols of their wicked administration. These characters forged a new crown of Zvonimir, but their version was ludicrously unlike the original. The modern fascist crown featured a wreath of golden clover leaves surmounted by a cross (which sounds like an appealing sight—for a devoutly Christian cow). The new crown, along with a complimentary golden apple scepter (which really does sound delicious) were meant to be given to the new king of Croatia. Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy (snicker) chose some crooked Italian Duke to fill this role, but the reborn Croatian monarchy never really got off the ground and the second crown also disappeared in the madness of World War II. Wikipedia blandly reports that “It is unknown whether this crown remains in existence.”
Yeesh. Maybe Croatia should work on hyping its exquisite beaches and leave these lost crowns in history’s waste-bin!