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A Special Headgear: the Crown!

Crown, a special headgear to designate a ruler, exists in many civilizations around the world. Made of precious metals and often decorated with precious stones, it represents power, glory, immortality, royalty and sovereignty.

Precursor of modern crowns was the diadem, which was adopted by Constantine I and was, after him, worn by all rulers of the later Roman Empire. Roman Emperors also used the radian crown, as part of the cult of “Sol Invictus” before the Roman Empire converted to Christianity. The oldest Christian crown in Europe is probably the Iron Crown of Lombardy, used also during the coronation of Kings of Napoleonic and Austrian Italy and as a symbol of the united Italy after 1861.

Silver bridal crown, partly gilded. Sweden, 1750-1870. Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum. CC BY SA

In European countries which are based on Christian tradition, monarchic power is given from the power of the Church. Crowns, belonging to European tradition, are strongly connected to christian tradition too. When a new monarch was elected, the crown was placed on his head by a church official and most Holy Roman Emperors traveled to Rome to be crowned by a Pope. But royalty is not the only range in which this particular kind of headgear has been used in history.

Bridal crown in silver, precious stones and glass. Sweden, 1600-1699. Courtesy of Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY NC ND

In Sweden tradition, the crown is associated to the wedding as a common bridal accessory. Worn for the marriage ceremony, this accessory comes from the earlier maiden’s ringlet which consisted of a wreath with ribbons down the back, and has seen another version in circular headdress or tiara with colorful ribbons. The Bridal Wedding Crown, was fashioned out of metals such as brass, gold or silver which may also have had some wreathes of myrtle, and used to be worn on top of the veil.

Bridal crown with heather flowers made of paper. Sweden. Courtesy of Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY NC ND

This tradition, dates back to the Catholic times of the Middle Ages, comes from the iconic representation of Virgin Mary, who was always illustrated carrying a crown in earlier churches. For this reason the church requirement for bride to wear the Bridal Crown was that she must be a virgin. According to ethnologists, this tradition was an early way for church and society of controlling women’s sexuality. But it was in some cases possible to convince the priest to overlook a premature pregnancy with a bribe or sometimes by atoning for the sin by paying for a new gilding of the crown. Then, in the first decades of the 20th century, the use of wearing a crown started disappearing.

Marriage between the crown’s princess Victoria and Daniel Westling. Sweden, 2010. Wedding dress designed by Per Engsheden. Courtesy of Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY NC ND

Visit Europeana Fashion Portal to find a huge selection of crowns from our archive and follow Wedding Dresses Curation on Europeana Fashion Tumblr.

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