British Crown Jewels Hidden in Lake in World War II, Newspaper Says
LONDON (AP) _ The most precious gems among Britain’s crown jewels were hidden in a lake at Windsor Castle during World War II to keep them out of German hands if the country was invaded, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Sunday Telegraph said the only people who knew of the hiding place were King George VI, who chose it, and Sir Owen Morshead, his librarian.
The king, father of Queen Elizabeth II, died in 1952 and Morshead in 1977.
The newspaper said that in 1940, when a German invasion was anticipated, the king ordered the royal jewelers to take the gems from the Tower of London to Windsor Castle, about 20 miles west of London.
The king and Morshead then wrenched the most important gems out of their settings with pliers and other tools provided by a chauffeur, according to the newspaper.
″The gems, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond, were then wrapped in cotton wool, placed in a tin and submerged in one of the lakes at Windsor. There they remained until the defeat of Germany and for a long time only the king and Sir Owen knew,″ wrote the newspaper’s anonymous columnist, Mandrake.
The Koh-i-Noor is an Indian diamond of 108 carats presented to Queen Victoria in 1849. Its name means Mountain of Light.
The wartime hiding place of the jewels, which today are on public display at the Tower of London, has always been a mystery in Britain.
But the Sunday Telegraph said it had discovered that the facts were revealed in 1972 in a book that was never translated from French - a biography of the military leader Jean-Marie Lattre de Tassigny by his widow, Simonne.
The newspaper said it was told of the story by Lattre de Tassigny’s British aide, John Saint-Clair Smallwood, who said he accompanied the general and his wife on a visit to Windsor in 1949 at Morshead’s invitation. Smallwood said Morshead related the secret to them as they gazed out of the castle windows onto the grounds where there was a round pond.
According to the newspaper, Smallwood related that Morshead said the king told him the crown jewels represented ″the honors and the kingdom of England″ and must not fall into German hands.
The report did not say where the crown jewel settings were kept during the war.
Most of the crown jewels date from the restoration of the monarchy after the death of Oliver Cromwell, who overthrew King Charles I and died in 1658. Cromwell had the original crown jewels sold or melted.