25 December 2013

Birthday Jewels: Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester

Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester (1901-2004)[1]
Today the world marks the anniversary of the birth of Christ, but for the British royal family, there are other birthdays to remember as well. Two British princesses, one by blood and one by marriage, were also born on Christmas Day.One of them, Princess Alexandra, celebrates her 77th birthday today. But today, let's have a look at the jewels worn by the second: the late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.

In 1901, the Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott was born on Christmas Day in London. Her father was the 7th Duke of Buccleuch and 9th Duke of Queensberry, and her mother was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Bradford, which meant that although little Alice was not born with a royal title, she had royal blood. Through her father, she was a direct descendant of one of the many illegitimate children of King Charles II. [2]

Alice's engagement to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, was announced in the summer of 1935. When they wed on 6 November 1935 in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, Alice was showered with gifts of jewels befitting her new royal role. (Indeed, the archbishop who married the couple was reportedly much more impressed with the bride than with her royal groom, telling another clergyman, "I have joined a very fine jewel to a very rough diamond." [3]) Her new parents-in-law, King George V and Queen Mary, gave her a suite of diamond and pearl jewels, including a diamond collet necklace (seen in the photograph above), three brooches, a pair of earrings, and two rings. From Queen Mary, Alice also received a turquoise parure from the Teck family (including the tiara worn above). Alice's new husband gave her a set of diamond and emerald jewels, including two tiaras, three brooches, bracelets, and a pair of earrings. [4]

Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester [7]
One of the diamond brooches given to Alice by Henry was an antique diamond knot brooch, which featured diamond drops suspended from each end of the diamond "ribbon." (You can see the brooch pinned to Alice's sash in the photo at left.) [5] The brooch was sold at Sotheby's in 2012. [6]

Alice eventually received even more jewels, further expanding the Gloucester collection. Queen Mary gave Alice another tiara, the diamond honeysuckle tiara made for her by E. Wolff & Co. in 1914. The tiara was made to have its central element swapped out for different pieces. Queen Mary wore the tiara with the Cullinan V diamond; Alice, however, received the sparkler with a diamond honeysuckle element.

When Queen Mary died in 1953, Alice inherited the pink kunzite stone that can be worn in the honeysuckle tiara. She also received yet another tiara from her mother-in-law's estate: the diamond Iveagh tiara, which Mary had received as a wedding present from the Guinness family. Alice's granddaughter, Lady Rose Windsor, wore this tiara at her wedding in 2008.

Alice's son and daughter-in-law, the current Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, still own many of the jewels that Alice received over the course of her lifetime. Some of these Alice gave to her daughter-in-law when she became duchess in the 1970s. When Alice died, she was the oldest member of the royal family, and she left behind a sparkling legacy and a great example for future royal brides. (And some pretty great bejeweled Cecil Beaton portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, too!)

1. Cropped version of photograph available at Wikimedia Commons; source here.
2. Alice's cousin, Sarah Ferguson, also shares this royal lineage, as do her daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York.
3. The quotation comes from a Telegraph profile marking Princess Alice's hundredth birthday in 2001; source here.
4. See Ursula's website for more on Alice's wedding gifts.
5. A larger photograph of the brooch is available at Ursula's website.
7. Photograph available at Wikimedia Commons; source here.