07 October 2014

Reader Mailbag: The Queen's Brooch?

As you might imagine, I get lots of questions in my inbox about royal jewels, everything from identification of pieces to inquiries about purchasing items. As a new feature on the site, I'm going to offer answers to some of these questions, so that you can all enjoy the glittering results! Today's question comes courtesy reader Vanessa:

Do you know what brooch Queen Elizabeth wore to Diana's funeral? When I google the images, several different ones come up. Do you also happen to know if there was any significance behind it?

Thanks for the question, Vanessa! I can understand why the Google image search for this question is confusing: not only do you get multiple instances of HM wearing brooches on black coats at the time of Diana's funeral, you also get images of Helen Mirren from The Queen wearing replicas of the jewels. Here are some photos to help us clarify things...

When the Queen arrived in London on Friday ahead of the funeral -- she'd been at Balmoral with Prince William and Prince Harry since Diana's death -- she joined Prince Philip, Prince Charles, William, and Harry on a walkabout to speak with members of the public. She dressed in black and wore a diamond and pearl brooch with her usual daytime pearl earrings and necklace.

Pearls and diamonds are both often classified as "white jewels," and are therefore appropriate for occasions when the wearer is in mourning. This brooch, though, also includes a yellow diamond. Leslie Field describes the brooch as "an unusual long narrow diamond triangle with two pearls and a canary yellow diamond set in the middle." [1]

The Queen wore the same brooch in her televised tribute to Diana.

The pearl and diamond brooch worn by the Queen on September 5 is apparently not a royal heirloom piece, though she has been wearing it since the beginning of her reign. However, the brooch that she wore at the September 6 funeral service is one of her historical treasures. It's the smallest of Queen Victoria's diamond bow brooches, part of a set ordered by Victoria from Garrard in 1858. Victoria designated the brooches as heirlooms of the crown in her will, and they've been worn by every queen since.

I'm not sure if there was a specific connection between this brooch and Diana, but the piece is an important, valuable family heirloom, one that the Queen often wears for somber occasions. She sometimes wears one of the bow brooches with her poppies for Remembrance Sunday; above, she wears the bow brooch on Remembrance Sunday in South Africa in 1999. (For the funeral of her mother, five years after Diana's funeral, the Queen wore another of her bow brooches, Queen Mary's Kensington bow brooch, which has a pearl drop.)

The Queen Mother was still alive in 1997, and she also attended Diana's funeral. She wore another Victorian heirloom: a diamond brooch studded with pearls. Victoria also designated this piece as an heirloom of the crown, but the Queen Mum wore it until her death. Today, it's worn by Queen Elizabeth II.

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1. See Field, The Queen's Jewels, p. 112.