29 July 2018

The Queen Mother's Australian Hibiscus Brooch

The Queen wears the hibiscus brooch for the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey, 12 March 2018 (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP/Getty Images)

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that the Queen's brooch collection is absolutely packed with sentimental and important pieces that belonged to her mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Today's brooch is one that the Queen Mum received during her long widowhood, and that the Queen has begun to wear regularly since her mother's death.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Hibiscus Brooch, set with diamond and rubies, was given to the Queen Mother by the people of Australia in 1958. The hibiscus is an important flower in Australia -- so important, in fact, that the nation even has an Australian Hibiscus Society. The brooch features two of these hibiscus flowers entwined. It was made in 1958 ahead of the Queen Mother's tour of Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald revealed ahead of the visit that the Queen Mother would receive "a diamond and ruby brooch unoffically estimated to cost more than £5,000," adding that the jewel "was designed and created by Mr W.J. Laver, of a Collins Street jewellery store which was commissioned by the Commonwealth to do the job." Sensibly, the jewelry store's manager told the paper, "Protocol doesn't permit the cost of a gift to Royalty to be mentioned -- or even guessed at."

The Queen Mother wears the brooch in Brisbane, 16 February 1958 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Queen Mother was absolutely delighted with the gift, and she began wearing it right away. A reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald wrote on February 16: "The Queen Mother wore Australia's present of a diamond and ruby brooch for the first time in public at St. John's Church today. The Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, presented it to her at a dinner party at Government House last night. The brooch was pinned to the shoulder draping of her white organza dress, the skirt of which was patterned with a trail of misty pink roses in the same tone as the rubies. Her other jewellery was the ruby-clasped three-strand pearl necklace and small diamond and pearl earrings that she wore when she arrived in Canberra."

Embed from Getty Images

Above, in perhaps the most Aussie-themed photo of the Queen Mum ever taken, she wears the brooch while cradling a koala during the 1958 visit.

The Queen wears the brooch at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 15 December 2006 (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The brooch was inherited by the Queen after the Queen Mother's death in 2002, but she didn't wear the piece in public until four years later. The occasion was a significant one: Prince William's passing out parade at Sandhurst.

The Queen wears the brooch at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, 23 October 2008 (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Since then, the hibiscus has been a fairly regular part of the Queen's brooch rotation, most often appearing when she wears red or pink outfits, and frequently for events related to Australia or the Commonwealth.

The Queen wears the brooch for the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey, 12 March 2018 (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Appropriately, then, one of the most recent outings for the brooch came in March 2018, when the Queen wore it for the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.

Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post, with new text and images.