07 June 2014

State Visit Jewels: Queen Elizabeth II in France

At the end of this week, fresh off the State Opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and several other members of the royal family headed to France for a state visit. The visit was planned to coincide with the commemorations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Friday, and much of the program was related to events related to the anniversary and to honoring veterans of World War II (including the Queen and Prince Philip!). But the schedule began on the British side of the Channel:

At St. Pancras Internationl in London on Thursday morning, the Queen unveiled a plaque commemorating the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Chunnel. St. Pancras is the London station for the Eurostar, and after she unveiled the plaque, she and the DoE hopped a train to Paris. For this leg of the trip, she sported the first of four brooches for the day! This one features a bunch of grapes set in diamonds gathered by a sapphire bow. She inherited the piece from the Queen Mum.

HM changed her outfit while aboard the train. When she disembarked at the Gare du Nord in Paris, she was also wearing a different brooch: the Botswana Flower Brooch. This gold and diamond brooch was presented to the Queen by President Mogae of Botswana in 2007 during the annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. She hadn't worn the brooch in public until this appearance.

The Queen and Prince Philip were greeted in Paris by President Hollande. For the official welcome ceremony, HM wore one of her most valuable and beautiful brooches: the Williamson brooch, which features one of the most impressive pink diamonds ever discovered. The brooch was made in 1953 by Cartier using diamonds given to the Queen by Canadian geologist Dr. John Williamson, who owned the African mine in which the pink diamond named for him was found. The Williamson diamond, which forms the center of the brooch's jonquil flower, is a 23.6 carat round brilliant.

There was one more event on the docket for the Queen on Thursday: a reception at the British embassy. She recycled one of the dresses made for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, but the brooch was less familiar: it was a floral brooch made of gold and diamonds that apparently hasn't been worn by the Queen in public previously.

Friday was a somber day of remembrance of the members of the Allied forces who sacrificed their lives during the D-Day invasion in 1944. But even more than that, it was a celebration of the tenacity and the bravery of those who fought on the Normandy beaches. Because of that, it seems only appropriate that the Queen wore one of her most glittering brooches for the services honoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Remember, the Queen is nothing if not the daughter of the Queen Mother, who famously insisted on wearing lovely clothes to visit those who had suffered during the bombings of World War II, saying, "If the poor people had come to see me, they would have put on their best clothes." By showing up looking her best, she was honoring them the way they would have honored her.

It's especially fitting, then, that the Queen wore a brooch that was one of her mother's favorites to honor the men and women (including herself and her husband) who served in her father's armed forces during the war. This is the diamond fringe brooch made for Queen Victoria using diamonds given to her by the sultan of Turkey. It was one of the Queen Mother's best-loved pieces; significantly, the Queen Mum wore the brooch at Prince Charles's wedding in 1981. (An event, by the by, at which the Queen wore the Williamson brooch, pictured above.) This is only the second time the Queen has worn the Turkish brooch in public since inheriting it in 2002, and the only time she has ever worn it for a daytime event.

The major events of the state visit wrapped up on Friday evening, when the Queen and Prince Philip attended a state banquet at the Elysee Palace in Paris. For the banquet, the Queen wore one of her standby tiaras: the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland, which was given to her by her grandmother, Queen Mary. She also wore the diamond Coronation Necklace and Coronation Earrings, as well as a diamond and ruby floral brooch that belonged to the Queen Mum. The star and red sash that she wears are part of the insignia of the Legion d'honneur, a French order of chivalry begun by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. The Queen, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles are all members of the order.

As we wrap up our coverage here of the state visit, have a listen to the Queen's speech during the banquet, made available on the official YouTube channel of the British monarchy. It's always fun to remember how fluent HM is in French; this speech is in both French and English. Enjoy! (And stay tuned tomorrow for a special Sunday edition of the Saturday Sparkler!)

The very busy monarch also managed to fit in one more event before hurrying out of France to get to the Epsom Derby on Saturday. She and Prince Philip visited a flower market in Paris that was renamed in her honor: it's now Le Marche aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II. Her outfit also gave a nod to Chanel, appropriate for a Parisian outing. The brooch was also an appropriate choice: a diamond floral brooch, given privately to the Queen in 2007 as a diamond wedding anniversary present.