King Ralph’s Crown

Louise writes – ‘Would you be able to make a replica of the Imperial State Crown for the film ‘King Ralph’ in six weeks?’SCAN0036 The request was daunting since it was the first time we had been asked to make such an iconic object, one that is so familiar to so many people. I set about the task and started by dividing the crown into four parts and sent four people to the Tower of London to see the real thing.

The Imperial State Crown finished in six weeks

The Imperial State Crown finished in six weeks.

Eric was to concentrate on the decorative bottom band, which forms a background to the Cullinan Diamond at the front, supplied to us by the production, and the Stuart Sapphire at the back. Bruce had to look at the alternating fleur-des-lis and crosses, mounted with diamonds and the Black Prince’s ruby at the front. Shirley was to observe the crossing bands of stylised oak leaf decoration that supported the diamond-studded ball surmounted by a cross at the top. Finally, John, a jeweller, who was mounting all the stones had to study all the mounts for the jewels. He also made the ball and cross at the top of the crown, plus the Black Prince’s ruby and the Stuart Sapphire in resin, since no replicas were available. All other jewels came from A E Ward. (Now in Hatton Garden) All four returned from the Tower complaining that they had only been allowed to go around the display twice and that the crown was so sparkly it was difficult to see much of the detail. ‘Good, because if you couldn’t see it clearly, no one else will know if we get something slightly wrong,’ was my reply. We tried to estimate the cost involved and quoted £10,000 plus Vat. This was accepted by the production and the next stage was to find out the head measurement of John Goodman, the actor playing ‘King Ralph’.

John Goodman with the Crown and flag we made for the film.  As he had been a piano playing on Las Vegas, a keyboard was designed into the flag.  Photo supplied to us by the production.

John Goodman with the Crown and flag we made for the film. As he had been a piano player in Las Vegas, a keyboard was designed into the flag. Photo supplied to us by the production.

I asked on three different occasions and each time the measurement was different, so there was no choice but to ask if we could take a mould of John Goodman’s head.

'King Ralph' taking tea.  Photo supplied by the production.

‘King Ralph’ taking tea. Photo supplied to us by the production.

He duly arrived at our Shepperton Studio workshop, straight from Heathrow Airport, extremely jet-lagged. We sat him on a stool at Alastair’s end of the workshop, put a rubber cap on his head and Alastair took a mould in Alginate, a dental mould making material. After that a coating of plaster had to stabilise the flexible mould while still on his head. John Goodman could not have been more accommodating and charming. I showed him the gilding brass and stones we had purchased and warned him that the finished crown would be rather heavy; his answer was ‘I will just have to do neck exercises’. The next process was to draw the various sections of the crown so that they could be cut out of gilding brass to form the base of the crown. We worked from a poster and various post cards, but the fact that Eric, Bruce and Shirley had seen the real object meant it was easier to decipher the images. Dean bent the brass to form the basic crown; it then went to Manny Green at City Plating to be nickel-plated. We sent the basic crown to John the jeweller for the stone setting. After three weeks John rang to say he wanted twice the amount of money he had quoted to do his share of the crown. ‘Should I stop work?’ He asked. ‘No,’ I said, ‘we have to deliver the finished article in two weeks time, so please continue.’ ‘But you won’t cover your costs.’ ‘I know, that’s a problem I will have to solve, we cannot stop production at this stage, we never let any of our clients down – no matter what the circumstances,’ and I wasn’t about to on this occasion. We had the mould of John Goodman’s head and vacuum formed six plastic head shapes with a ‘gutter’ around the rim. The outer head shape was covered in a dark red velvet and the outside edge of the ‘gutter’ with white mink dotted with pieces of ermine tail. When he wore the crown in the bath it fell into the water.

'King Ralph' in his bath.  Photo suppled by the production

‘King Ralph’ in his bath. Photo suppled to us by the production

Obviously filming could not stop while the velvet and fur dried, so the extra linings could be replaced quickly as the metal part of the crown fitted into the ‘gutter’. Having his exact head shape also meant that the crown fitted perfectly when held in place by a leather chinstrap when ‘King Ralph’ played bowls in the palace.

'King Ralph' playing bowls.  Photo supplied to us by the production.

‘King Ralph’ playing bowls. Photo supplied to us by the production.

In the end we did not make any money but because the production gave us a little extra from their budget we did just cover our costs. They were pleased with the finished result, achieved in just six weeks – and so were we.

The Sceptre made for 'Johnny Enlgish'.

The Sceptre made for ‘Johnny Enlgish’.

We made other Royal Regalia a few times over the years, including an Orb and Sceptre for ‘Johnny English’ starring Rowan Atkinson and John Malkovich in 2003 plus many other props for the film. But more of that later.

The Orb made for the film 'Johnny English'.

The Orb made for the film ‘Johnny English’.



7 thoughts on “King Ralph’s Crown

  1. I wonder what stones John was using to replicate the diamonds? Must have been a pretty intricate job. I also wonder how much the real thing weighs and if the Queen does neck exercises!


  2. The real thing weights just under a kilo or a bag of sugar, I imagine the Queen not only did neck exercises but walked around with a book on her head as well, to improve her deportment, as most ‘young ladies’ did in those days. All the non specified stones came from A E Ward. The problem with copying any older jewellery is that modern stones are not cut in the same way as vintage ones.


    • Unfortunately as we retired more than five years ago we are unable to accept any more commissions. There were many people who worked on the crown and since we made it over twenty-fie years ago most have now retired as well. We are sorry that we are unable to help you.


  3. I am not sure if this post will even be seen since you retired years ago but I thought it was worth a shot. Did you make yourself or get from a supplier the replica of the Black prince’s ruby (i am trying to find a replica which is how I got directed to your blog here).


    • We did get your post. When we made the crown we were able to purchase the majority of the stones but we did have to make the Sapphire and the Black Prince’s ruby. We first modelled them in clay before making a silicone mould. We cast both in resin and finally polished them. Maybe you could either do this or find someone who would undertake the commission. Good luck and thank you for your post.


      • Thank you for the reply. I can turn string into great things (crochet lol) but alas no talent for modeling and casting. I will take a look around to see if I can find someone who may be willing to take it on. Thank you again 🙂


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