14 April 2016

90 Years, 90 Jewels: Part 3 (1948-1952)

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh's coronation portrait (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a span of less than five years, Princess Elizabeth became a wife, and then a mother, and then a queen. As our journey through her jewelry box continues, we look at the expansion of her collection in 1948-1952, a period when the Queen received a few very personal pieces of jewelry, and then suddenly acquired a collection that symbolized her transition from heiress to monarch.

(Need to catch up? Check out our posts on the jewels Elizabeth acquired from 1941-47 and in November 1947.)

21. The Flower Basket Brooch: When Princess Elizabeth gave birth to her first child in November 1948, her parents celebrated by giving her a lovely brooch in the shape of a basket full of flowers. Elizabeth wore the brooch, which is set with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, for the first time in December 1948 for Charles's first official photographs. More than half a century later, she gave a quiet nod to history when she wore the same brooch at the christening of Charles's first grandson, Prince George.

22. The Diamond Festoon Necklace: In 1950, Elizabeth's father, King George VI, commissioned a new festoon necklace for her from Garrard. They made the necklace using a collection of 105 loose diamonds that he had inherited as heirlooms of the crown in 1936. As we'll quickly see, the "heirlooms of the crown" are pieces of jewelry that are handed from monarch to monarch and worn by either the queen regnant or the queen consort. The Queen regularly wears this lovely, classic necklace, often pairing it with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara.

23. The Diamond Diadem: In February 1952, George VI suddenly died. Elizabeth was in Kenya on a royal tour when she became queen, and she had to quickly fly back to Britain. Once there, she had to adjust to myriad changes; her mother, now the Queen Mum, also had to pass along the jewels known as the "heirlooms of the crown" -- although we'll see later in this series that she didn't actually surrender all of them. The grandest part of the "heirlooms" collection is undoubtedly the diamond and pearl diadem made in 1820 by Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. It was made for the coronation of King George IV, but since then it has been worn exclusively by queens regnant and consort. Elizabeth donned it in public for the first time in November 1952 at her first State Opening of Parliament as monarch.

24. Queen Adelaide's Brooch: The second-oldest jewel that Elizabeth received in the "heirlooms" collection is this diamond brooch, made by Rundell, Bridge, and Co. in 1831 for Queen Adelaide, the wife of King William IV. Originally intended as a clasp for a pearl necklace, the piece has been worn as a brooch by every queen since. Beautiful, detailed photos of the brooch can be seen in Hugh Roberts's The Queen's Diamonds.

25. The Coronation Necklace and Earrings: Queen Victoria designated this necklace and earrings as heirlooms of the crown; they were made in 1858 by Garrard to replace jewels that had been lost in the Hanoverian claim. The pendant of the necklace is the Lahore Diamond; that stone alone weighs more than 22 carats. The drops of the earrings are also Indian diamonds; they were originally a part of the armlet setting of the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Queen Alexandra wore the necklace at her coronation; Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth II wore both the necklace and the earrings at theirs.

26. Queen Victoria's Bow Brooches: This set of three diamond bow-shaped brooches was also created in 1858 to replace jewels lost to the King of Hanover. Because they are heirlooms of the crown, they passed from Victoria to Alexandra to Mary to Elizabeth to Elizabeth, arriving in the Queen's jewelry box in 1952. She still wears them today, though generally only one at a time. (Queen Mary, being Queen Mary, liked to wear all three together.)

27. The Kent Amethysts: This set of diamond and amethyst jewelry was originally owned by Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. Leslie Field notes that the demi-parure is "the oldest set of jewellery in the royal collection." Queen Victoria designated her mother's amethysts as heirlooms of the crown. The set includes a necklace, a set of three brooches, and a pair of earrings. The Queen sometimes wears one of the brooches, but she has only worn the complete set in public once: during a state visit to Portugal in the 1980s (pictured above).

28. Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Necklace: This elaborate diamond and pearl necklace was made by Carrington and Co. in 1888 to mark the 50th anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign; it was commissioned in a very complicated, political process by a committee of aristocratic women. It became one of Victoria's favorite pieces, so it's no surprise that she designated it as an heirloom of the crown. The Queen wore it for her first opening of parliament in 1952, and it's been a staple of her gala jewelry ever since.

29. The Albert Brooch: This classic diamond and sapphire brooch was Prince Albert's wedding gift to Queen Victoria; he presented it to her on the day before their wedding in February 1840, and she was smitten with the piece immediately. She wore the brooch at her wedding, and she later designated it as an heirloom of the crown; it has been worn by all subsequent queens, and it remains a major favorite of the Queen today.

30. Queen Alexandra's Dagmar Necklace: While the majority of the heirlooms of the crown come from Queen Victoria, this rather incredible diamond and pearl necklace was added to the collection by Queen Alexandra. It was a wedding gift to Alexandra from King Frederik VII of Denmark, and it was made specially for her in Copenhagen in 1863. The piece includes a remarkable enameled replica of the Dagmar Cross. The necklace is difficult to wear -- it's really almost more a piece of art than a piece of wearable jewelry -- but the Queen has occasionally worn it since inheriting it in 1952, although always without the cross and the two largest pearl pendants. (You can see great photos of the necklace in The Queen's Diamonds.) Above, she wears the necklace at one of her first gala events after her accession.

Tomorrow in 90 Years, 90 Jewels: the new Queen's collection grows exponentially following a sad event -- the passing of her grandmother, Queen Mary.