05 July 2020

Princess Amelia's Topaz Parure

Christie's

An intriguing set of topazes with a fascinating royal backstory will be hitting the auction block later this month! Here's what we know about the topaz parure that belonged to Princess Amelia, daughter of King George III.




Christie's

The set of topaz and diamond jewelry dates to the start of the nineteenth century. According to tradition, it belonged to Princess Amelia, the fifteenth and youngest child of King George III and Queen Charlotte. The set is certainly reminiscent of other jewelry suites from the period; consider its resemblance, for example, to the Cotes Peridots. The suite is a complete parure, with a bandeau-style tiara and accompanying necklace, earrings, and brooches.


Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom, ca. 1797 (Wikimedia Commons)

Princess Amelia had a short life. She was only twenty-seven when she died, and much of her adult life was spent dealing with and convalescing from various illnesses. She never married, though she was deeply in love with a royal equerry, the Hon. Charles FitzRoy (who, as his surname suggests, was a descendant of King Charles II). When she died in 1810, she was much mourned by the royal family. Many believe that her death was one of the pivotal events that hastened her father's mental and physical decline.


The Hon. George Villiers and his wife, Theresa (Wikimedia Commons)

Though she bequeathed her property to Charles FitzRoy, this suite of topaz jewelry ended up with another pair of courtiers, the Hon. George Villiers and his wife, Theresa. They were close friends of Amelia (and the auction notes for this set describes Theresa as one of her ladies-in-waiting), so it seems plausible that she might have left them the suite. It's also notable that the couple became significantly embroiled in royal scandal after Amelia's death. George Villiers was Paymaster of the Marines, and an audit of his bookkeeping revealed major irregularities. On top of his financial crimes, after Amelia's death, George and Theresa attempted to blackmail the royal family by threatening to publish some of Amelia's letters.


Lilias, Countess of Bathurst, ca. 1902 (Wikimedia Commons)

The topazes have stayed with George and Theresa's descendants until now. They were passed down to her daughter, Maria Theresa, who married the novelist Thomas Henry Lister. Their granddaughter, Lilias Borthwick, married the 7th Earl Bathurst; she also later owned the topazes. Lilias is best known for her inheritance of The Morning Post in 1908, making her the only female owner of a major newspaper in the world. (Unfortunately, she did not use the outlet for good. During Lilias's tenure as owner, the paper advanced imperial and anti-semitic causes.) The topazes were later inherited by Lilias's grandson, the 8th Earl Bathurst. They are now being offered at auction by the heirs of his late wife, Gloria.


Christie's

Here's a closer look at the various pieces of the suite, which is being auctioned by Christie's in London. The bandeau-style tiara, described in the auction notes as "a topaz collet headband," is an interesting piece. Note the small bale attached to one of the stones, which suggests that it was designed to be attached to another piece, perhaps a pendant?


Christie's

The suite's necklace features large topazes interspersed with old-cut diamond spacers. There's also large open bale on the necklace to allow it to be worn with a pendant.


Christie's

The suite includes three separate pairs of earrings. This is one of the pairs that was apparently an original part of the set; it features topaz studs and large topaz pendants. The auction notes describe this pair as having been "adapted" later.


Christie's

This pair of topaz stud earrings is also apparently an original part of the suite. These are also described as having been adapted.


Christie's

The third pair of earrings is a later addition to the suite. These feature topazes in a diamond halo surround. The topazes are a clear match to the rest of the topazes in the suite, suggesting that it's the diamond setting that is a later addition.


Christie's

This ornament is described in the notes as "a pear shaped topaz and old-cut diamond pendant brooch with diamond detail." It was apparently an original part of the suite, but has also been "adapted" at some point. It's able to be worn as both a pendant (note the diamond-set loop at the top of the piece) and as a brooch (note the pin of the brooch fitting sticking out from the bottom of the pear-shaped topaz).


Christie's

The set includes one more later addition: "an associated topaz double headed serpent brooch." It's a very interesting part of the suite.


Christie's

Here's a look at the entire suite of jewelry. The topazes will be auctioned at Christie's in London, along with more property owned by the late Gloria, Countess of Bathurst, on July 22. The estimate for the entire set has been set at 18,000-25,000 pounds (or approximately $22,000 to $31,000 USD). Anyone in the market for some royal topazes???


Stay tuned -- we've got brooch tournament results tomorrow!