18 November 2017

The Queen Anne and Queen Caroline Pearl Necklaces

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Our month-long focus on Queen Elizabeth II's wedding gift jewelry arrives today at two pieces with serious British royal history: the Queen Anne and Queen Caroline Pearl Necklaces.

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The necklaces are generally worn together as a pair, resembling a double-stranded pearl necklace, but they are two distinct, separate pieces with individual clasps. The smaller necklace is the Queen Anne, which is strung with 46 pearls; the slightly longer Queen Caroline Necklace has 50 pearls. In Queen Victoria's 1896 jewelry inventory, the provenance of each necklace is given; the inventory notes that the smaller necklace belonged to Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, and that the longer necklace belonged to Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II.

Elizabeth's parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, offered the Queen Anne and Queen Caroline pearls to their daughter in 1947 as one of her wedding gifts. The necklaces were displayed along with numerous other jewelry presents at St. James's Palace ahead of the wedding day.

Princess Elizabeth planned to wear the necklaces on her wedding day, but when she was getting ready to depart, staff realized that the necklaces were still on display with the rest of the couple's wedding gifts. The Queen's private secretary, Jock Colville, volunteered to fetch the pearls.

Traffic on the wedding day was a nightmare, but Colville managed to secure the pearls in time -- because King Haakon VII of Norway, the bride's great-uncle, loaned Colville his limousine! Even that royal conveyance couldn't full conquer the royal wedding congestion, and Colville heroically sprinted part of the distance to get the pearls to the princess in time. His efforts were successful, and Elizabeth walked down the aisle of Westminster Abbey with two major pieces of British royal history around her neck.

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The Queen has worn the pearls occasionally in the years since, but her pearl collection alone is pretty incredible, so these only pop up from time to time. One of the most recent major outings for the pearls was the Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.

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On that occasion, the creamy pearls coordinated nicely with her golden dress. (The Queen Anne necklace snagged occasionally on the dress's neckline on this occasion, making it look slightly shorter than it actually is.) Because the Queen was greeting various performers and guests throughout the evening, we even got a few unusual angles on the pearls, including this side view.