For centuries, it was the national symbol of a nation. For decades, it was kept in Fort Knox for safekeeping. The Crown of Saint Stephen dates back to the year 1000, when Stephen, a devout Christian and the patron saint of Hungary, became King and Pope Sylvester II gave him the crown as a gift. From the twelfth century onward, the Crown of Saint Stephen was used in the coronations of some fifty kings. At the end of World War II, the Hungarian crown jewels, along with the Crown, were eventually given to the United States Army by the Hungarian Crown Guard to keep them out of the hands of the Soviet Union. The Crown was kept at held Fort Knox, Kentucky alongside the bulk of America’s gold reserves and other priceless historical items.
President Jimmy Carter made the controversial decision to give the crown back to Hungary based on evidence that it had improved its human rights record and allowed for travel of its citizens. On Epiphany, January 6, 1978, a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and including Senator Adlai Stevenson, Congressman Lee Hamilton, and Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, returned the crown to Hungary. Read more