21 October 2018

The James Bow Brooch

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We've talked a lot lately about the generous gifts of jewels that Brits made to the late Queen Mother. Today's brooch is another piece of that bejeweled category -- The James Bow Brooch, which was presented to Elizabeth by someone very close to her.




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The brooch, which features a diamond ribbon with a diamond quatrefoil element in the center of the bow, was one of the gifts given to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon when she married the Duke of York in 1923. She received the brooch from someone particularly close to her: one of her godmothers, Mary Venetia James. Born Venetia Cavendish-Bentinck, she was a cousin of Elizabeth's mother, the Countess of Strathmore. Venetia married the famous racehorse owner Arthur James in 1885, and their mutual love of horses brought them into the circle of King Edward VII. (Venetia's name is sometimes included in lists of Bertie's mistresses.) In the display of Elizabeth's wedding gifts, the brooch was placed beside a label bearing the name of "Mrs. Arthur James."

As a side note: this diamond bow wasn't the only jewel that Venetia gave to the Queen Mother. When she died in 1948, the Guardian quoted from her will: "To my goddaughter her Majesty Queen Elizabeth my gold chain with diamond drops surmounted by rubies and large diamond brooch (Japanese design with large stone in the middle)." Venetia sensibly left her grand paintings, including pieces by Titian and Gainsborough, to the National Gallery, and she bequeathed a collection of furniture and art objects to the Victoria and Albert Museum.


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The Queen Mother kept and wore her godmother's wedding gift for her entire life. In November 1998, at the age of 98, she wore the brooch for a visit to the Royal British Legion's Field of Remembrance in London.


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Here's another angle on the brooch from this particular event. At this point, the brooch had been in her jewelry box for a full 75 years. Three quarters of a century!


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The Queen Mother died in 2002, leaving all of her jewelry to her daughter, the present Queen. But a collection of her pieces were set aside, and in 2005, the new Duchess of Cornwall began wearing them in public. For Remembrance Sunday that year, she wore the bow brooch as she watched the solemn Cenotaph ceremony.


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Camilla has generally worn the brooch with dark colors, but on at least one occasion, she strayed from that trend. During her November 2006 visit to Pakistan, she wore the brooch (and a poppy) against a vividly patterned jacket.


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But perhaps the most important outing for the brooch came earlier that year. In September 2006, Camilla chose the brooch for a memorial service honoring her beloved father, the late Bruce Shand, at St Paul's Church in Knightsbridge. On that occasion, she paired the brooch with a pearl necklace with an art deco clasp, also from the collection of the Queen Mother.