20 October 2014

Reader Mailbag: The Queen Mother's Bandeau

Our very own Deb W. sent in a question recently about a bandeau worn by the Queen Mother:

While watching a video about George VI and Queen Elizabeth, I was riveted by a tiara on the Queen Mother that I believe I have never seen before!  Could you give help identifying it?

Thanks for the question, Deb! I was equally intrigued by the piece, which you can see at around the 2:36 mark in this YouTube clip from King George VI and Elizabeth: A Royal Love Story (2012). (Note: all of the still images in this post are screen captures from that clip.)

The documentary does not offer a specific date for the clip featuring the bandeau, though it does show it during the discussion of the abdication crisis of the mid-1930s. Bertie and Elizabeth are clearly attending a white-tie event; the man standing beside them appears to be wearing robes with the chain of a chivalric order.

The piece that Elizabeth wears is a bandeau made up of three parallel rows of gemstones. The Queen Mum had a number of bandeau-style tiaras, including the Strathmore Rose and the double-row meander that has been worn most recently by Princess Anne. But this piece is a different one: a convertible piece of jewelry. In the 1920s, Bertie bought his new wife a set of art-deco bracelets from Cartier. Each of the five bracelets in the set features a different gemstone: one with sapphires, one with emeralds, one with rubies, and two with diamonds. This bandeau is three of those deco bracelets worn together on a frame; here's an image of what the piece looks like in bandeau-form. She wore the bandeau on at least one other occasion, a 1933 trip to Covent Garden, pairing it with pearls.

The bracelets are still around today and are in the collection of the Queen. She wears them occasionally, but to my knowledge, the Queen Mum is the only member of the family who has worn the bandeau in public. You can see a very clear image of all five of them in one of my favorite royal books of last year, Angela Kelly's Dressing the Queen.