Monday Mystery- The Black Prince’s Ruby

Jul 06, 2015
Monday Mystery- The Black Prince’s Ruby (That Actually Isn’t a Ruby at All)

Like all the other gems highlighted by our Monday Mystery series, The Black Prince’s Ruby has a long and bloody history. From the first time it’s mentioned in history, those in possession of The Black Prince’s Ruby have been subject to horrible misfortune, perpetuating the story of the infamous stone’s “curse.”

Little is known about the discovery of this polished, uncut, 170.00ct stone. Roughly the size of a chicken egg, it was most likely mined from present day Tajikistan. The Black Prince’s Ruby is known as “The Great Imposter” because the “ruby” isn’t a ruby at all- it’s a bright red spinel. Rubies are some of the more expensive gemstones in the world, due mostly to their extreme rarity; spinels, on the other hand, are extremely affordable by comparison. Many of the extremely large “rubies” found around this time were red spinels which had been similarly mislabeled. The Black Prince’s Ruby is the oldest of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

The first documented owner of The Black Prince’s Ruby was the Sultan of Granada, Abu Said. In the 14th century, the Sultan was lured to a meeting with the King of Castile, Pedro the Cruel, to discuss possible peace treaties. Upon his arrival, he and his men were ambushed and murdered so King Pedro could steal the valuable stone which The Sultan was known to keep on his person at all times.

As soon as King Pedro the Cruel took possession of the stone, his kingdom was attacked. King Pedro sought help from Edward “The Black Prince” of England to crush the uprising. As soon as Edward and his men helped Pedro secure his first victory, Prince Edward collected the ruby as his reward.

Almost immediately after The Black Prince’s Ruby entered his possession, Edward was plagued with disease and died before he could ever take the English throne. Edward’s son and heir, King Richard II, inherited the stone before being murdered by King Henry IV. Henry IV, who claimed The Black Prince’s Ruby as his own when he took control of the throne, almost immediately fell prey to a mysterious fatal disease. His son, Henry V, becomes King and rightful owner of The Black Prince’s Ruby.

At this point, the stone seems to become a good luck charm rather than a cursed omen. Henry V sets The Black Prince’s Ruby in his battle helmet. While wearing it in battle in 1415, Henry was attacked by French knights. Supposedly, one knight would have dealt a killing blow if his ax hadn’t been deflected by the large protruding ruby at the front of Henry’s helmet. His blow managed to knock the stone loose and it was lost for some years. When a French knight who had apparently found it in the muck on the battlefield tried to return it, Henry V had him imprisoned. Legend says that as a result of Henry V’s ungratefulness, the ruby’s curse falls upon him. Soon after he is reunited with the stone, Henry V dies of dysentery.

Records of a large ruby are mentioned in conjuncture with some of the most prominent figures of the English monarchy such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but it is not known if the records of that large stone are in fact records of The Black Prince’s Ruby. We’re inclined to believe that they are; after all, Henry VIII’s tumultuous reign could certainly be called “cursed!”

While no English monarch to wear The Black Prince’s Ruby has suffered great personal harm in recent memory, there are many strange events surrounding the stone itself that some say are a result of it’s curse. In 1841, portions of The Tower of London spontaneously caught fire, including the areas holding the Crown Jewels. One hundred years later, WWII German bombs almost destroyed The Tower of London with all of the Crown Jewels housed inside.

Nowadays, The Black Prince’s Ruby is set front and center in the Imperial State Crown and can be seen alongside the Crown Jewels. So what do you think? Is it curse or coincidence? Stay tuned for our next installment of Monday Mystery! In the meantime, you can read last week’s Monday Mystery to learn about a stone that plagued the French monarchy, The Regent Diamond!

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