3 Emblems Within a Crown

“Power * Legitimacy * Victory

The Norman conqueror William I wore his crown three times each year: at Winchester at Easter, Westminster at Whitsuntide and at midwinter at Gloucester. But, as Shakespeare tells us, ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ For the crown stands for the three emblems of power, legitimacy, and victory, but also for an ordained blood sacrifice as epitomized by the crown of thorns.

As an icon of power the crown has numerous lines of descent: the double crowns worn by the pharaohs of Egypt, the laurel wreaths of victory awarded to Greek heroes (and turned into the finest gold for Greek kings), the jewel-studded diadem worn on the brow by Persian and Hellenistic monarchs. The truest line of descent for the Western crown seems to have been the Greek radiant crown—Lucian’schaplet with sunbeams’—which was placed on statues of the sun god and which Constantine the Great co-opted in his fusing of the cult of the unconquered sun to the newly formed symbolism of a Christian emperor.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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