23 December 2013

Jewel History: The Crown Jewels (1857)

Grand Duchess Alexandra of Mecklenburg-Schwerin wears Queen Charlotte's nuptial crown [1]
"The Crown Jewels"
(originally appeared in the Times of London, 23 Dec 1857)

We find the following in a letter from Hanover, of December 19:

"The hearts of the King and Royal Family of this country have been much rejoiced by intelligence which has just reached them through the Hanoverian Minister at the Court of St. James's, that the long dispute between the King of Hanover and the Queen of England respecting the right to certain jewels of enormous value, in the possession of the Sovereign of England, and forming no inconsiderable portion of what have been hitherto called the British Crown jewels, has been decided in favour of Hanover.

"Many of your readers are no doubt aware that when the kingdom of Hanover was severed from the United Kingdom by the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne, a claim was made by the late King of Hanover, formerly the Duke of Cumberland, to nearly the whole of the jewels usually worn on State occasions by the English Sovereign, on the ground that part of them, which had been taken over to England by George I, belonged inalienably to the Crown of Hanover; and that the remainder had been purchased by George III out of his privy purse, and had been left him by his Queen Charlotte to the Royal Family of Hanover.

"As the jewels thus claimed are supposed to be worth considerably more than 1,000,000 pounds, a single stone having cost nearly 20,000 pounds, they were not to be relinquished without a struggle; and I am assured that every possible expedient was resorted to in England to baffle the claimant. 

"Ultimately, in the lifetime of the late King, the importunity of the Hanoverian Minister in London drove the English Ministry of the day to consent that the rights of the two Sovereigns abroad should be submitted to a commission composed of three English judges; but the proceedings of the commission were so ingeniously protracted that all the commissioners died without arriving at any decision; and until Lord Clarendon received the seals of the British foreign office all the efforts of the Court of Hanover to obtain a fresh commission were vain. Lord Clarendon, however, seems to have perceived that such attempts to stifle inquiry were unworthy of his country, for he consented that a fresh commission should be issued to three English judges of the highest eminence, who, after investigation, found the Hanoverian claim to be indisputably just, and reported in its favour.

"The Court here consequently is in high glee this Christmas at the prospect of removing the Crown and regalia, so jealously guarded in the Tower of London, almost bodily to Hanover." -- Globe


Note: Queen Victoria subsequently returned only a few items to her Hanoverian cousins, including Queen Charlotte's small diamond nuptial crown [2] and a few other diamond pieces.

1. Detail of German picture postcard. Caption reads "Grossherzog Friedrich Franz IV und Grossherzogin Alexandra von Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Feierlicher Einzug in Schwerin am 5. Juli 1904." Image in the public domain; source here.
2. The small diamond nuptial crown has been worn by several Hanoverian brides, including Queen Friederike of the Hellenes, since its repatriation. It was used most recently in 1981. See Ursula's page for more, including larger photographs.