16 February 2015

Jewel History: Famous Royal Pearls (1890)

"Famous Royal Pearls"
(originally appeared in the New York Times on 16 Feb 1890)

From the London World -- The pearls of the Empress Augusta [1] were famous, but they are inferior to those now possessed by the Duke of Cumberland [2], which are the finest in Europe.

These pearls and other jewels, the whole being worth about 160,000 pounds, were awarded to the late King George of Hanover [3] in 1857, after a dispute of twenty years, as they had been claimed by the Queen [4] on the death of William IV. Part of them were brought originally from Hanover and the remainder had been the private property of Queen Charlotte, who left them to her son, Ernst, Duke of Cumberland, afterward King of Hanover.

A commission, consisting of Lord Wensleydale [5], Vice Chancellor Wood (afterward Lord Chancellor Hatherley) [6], and Mr. Lawrence Peel [7], was appointed by Lord Palmerston [8] to investigate the matter, and they unanimously awarded nearly all the jewels to the King of Hanover, a decision which greatly annoyed the Queen and Prince Albert.

George III, by his will, left Queen Charlotte all the jewels she had been given, and they were valued at 200,000 pounds; but many of them were seized by George IV and disappeared during his reign, as did a number of the crown jewels, including the celebrated Stuart sapphire, which was given by Cardinal York [9] to George III. George IV presented it to Princess Charlotte on her marriage, but after her death Prince Leopold was obliged to return it, and a few years afterward it reappeared in the headdress of Lady Conyngham [10].

1. Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1811-1890), the wife of Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany.
2. Ernst August of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland (1845-1923); his British titles were revoked in 1919.
3. George V of Hanover (1819-1878) was the last king of Hanover and a grandson of George III of the United Kingdom.
4. The queen referenced here is Queen Victoria (1819-1901).
5. James Parke, 1st Baron Wensleydale (1782-1868) was a British judge who participated in the judicial function of the House of Lords.
6. William Wood, 1st Baron Hatherley (1801-1881) was Lord Chancellor for four years. Intriguingly, he was the son of Sir Matthew Wood, one of the few public allies of Caroline of Brunswick.
7. Sir Lawrence Peel (1799–1884) was a British judge who spent much of his career in India.
8. Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) was prime minister twice during Victoria's reign.
9. Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Duke of York (1725-1807) was the son of James Francis Edward Stuart, "the Old Pretender." Henry was the last Jacobite heir to claim the British throne; he was also a Roman Catholic cardinal, and the Vatican referred to him as the "Cardinal Duke of York." He bequeathed the Stuart Sapphire, which traditionally first belonged to King Alexander II of Scotland, to George III. Today, the 104-carat sapphire is set in the Imperial State Crown.
10. Elizabeth Conyngham (1769-1861) was the last mistress of George IV. The king bequeathed all of his jewels to her; however, Elizabeth refused to accept the bequest.