06 March 2019

Jewels to Celebrate the Prince of Wales


The British royals gathered at Buckingham Palace today for a reception to mark a major milestone: the 50th anniversary of the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

The investiture was held on July 1, 1969, at Caernarfon Castle in Wales. Prince Charles had already held the title for ten years; his mother had issued letters patent creating him Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester in 1958. In 1969, a televised investiture was planned and staged for the prince, including a modern set designed by his uncle, Lord Snowdon.

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For yesterday's reception, Charles was joined at the palace by the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Also present were the Earl and Countess of Snowdon and Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto.

The assembly of royals present looked far different than the gathering that attended the investiture fifty years earlier. Only the Queen, Charles, Anne, David, and Sarah attended both events. Above, you'll note that Princess Margaret, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Queen Mother were present for the investiture in 1969, as was Lord Snowdon.

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The Royal Collection put together a display of items used in the investiture for the reception, including the coronet, the gold rod, the sword, and the ring.

A new coronet had to be made for Charles's investiture, because the Duke of Windsor had (scandalously) taken the previously-used coronet with him when he went into exile. That coronet had been made for King George V in 1902, though he didn't have a large public investiture. After his death in 1972, it was returned to the United Kingdom.

Louis Osman holds the coronet he designed for the Prince of Wales's investiture, June 1969 (Kev Brown/Keystone/Getty Images)

But because the Duke was still alive (and in possession of the coronet) in 1969 -- and because the one used by earlier Princes of Wales was not in usable condition -- a new, strikingly modern one was made for Charles. Designed in the futurist style by Louis Osman, the coronet was made of electroplated gold. To keep the monde from collapsing on itself during the electroplating process, the gold was plated on to a ping pong ball (which remains inside the coronet today!). There are other modern touches to the coronet, too. Platinum-set diamonds representing the constellation of Scorpio (Charles's astrological sign) surround the monde. Diamonds on the coronet's base represent both the seven gift of the Holy Spirit and the seven deadly sins.

The coronet is displayed at Windsor Castle, 2008 (MAX NASH/AFP/Getty Images)

Charles has only worn the coronet in public once -- during his investiture. Today, it is stored in St. James's Palace in London with the rest of the regalia of the Prince of Wales.

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For the reception, the Queen wore pearls with one of her pair of diamond and amethyst floral brooches.

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Appropriately, the Duchess of Cornwall chose to wear the diamond and emerald Prince of Wales Feather Brooch that belonged to Queen Alexandra. (Learn more about the brooch, and see a close-up, in our previous post here!)

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The Princess Royal wore pearls and her abstract gold and amethyst brooch to mark the anniversary.

Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to March's birthstone, the aquamarine, at the reception, wearing her dainty diamond and aquamarine drop earrings.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate has been wearing these in public since September 2012. Above, she wears them in Malaysia during the Cambridges' Diamond Jubilee tour. (More on the earrings here!)

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The Duchess of Sussex also wore earrings we've seen before: gold bar earrings from her favorite jewelry, Birks.

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She also wore a few additional rings on her left hand...

Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

...and a golden bangle on her right wrist.

Charles's formal investiture was only the second such ceremony staged for a Prince of Wales. The first, the investiture of the future King Edward VIII as Prince of Wales, took place in 1911, encouraged by the country's Welsh-speaking PM, David Lloyd George. The ceremony was essentially invented for him, so the tradition is barely a century old -- which isn't much in the grand scheme of British royal history. Both David's and Charles's investitures have been a sort of mini modern coronation, and I'd be very surprised if we see another one like theirs staged in the future. (Would public opinion support it? I think it's questionable.)

And really, the investitures are simply a very grand formality. The title of Prince of Wales isn't automatically granted to the British heir (it has to be conferred by the monarch), but all it takes to bestow the title on the heir is a signed document (the aforementioned letters patent). I suppose we'll all have to wait (hopefully for quite a while) and see.