05 September 2020

The Kensington Bow Brooch

The Queen wears the Kensington Bow Brooch
The Queen wears the Kensington Bow Brooch at the Festival of Remembrance, November 2017 (STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom certainly isn't lacking in one particular jewelry category: diamond bow and ribbon brooches. Today's jewel, the Kensington Bow Brooch, is one of the larger examples of the category in her collection.

The Kensington Bow Brooch
The Kensington Bow Brooch, 2006 (Chris Radburn/PA Images/Alamy)

The brooch is a classic diamond bow with a pear-shaped pearl pendant. It was made in 1893 by Collingwood and given to Princess May of Teck as a wedding present the same year. The gift was offered to the princess by the people of Kensington. It was an appropriate present: not only was the future Queen Mary born at Kensington Palace, she spent a good deal of her childhood there, as well.

The Duke and Duchess of York (King George V and Queen Mary)
The Duke and Duchess of York, photographed by Lafayette at the Devonshire House Ball, July 1897 (Wikimedia Commons)

The new Duchess of York began wearing the brooch almost immediately. One prominent early appearance came in the summer of 1897, when she wore it for the famous Devonshire House Ball. Mary dressed as a lady from the court of Marguerite de Valois, who was portrayed by her mother-in-law, the Princess of Wales. Mary piled on the jewels as part of her costume, and you'll spot the Kensington Bow Brooch right in the middle of her bodice.

The Princess of Wales (Queen Mary)
The Princess of Wales, 1905 (Royal Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

In 1905, Mary (who was now Princess of Wales) wore the brooch pinned to her gown in this formal portrait, taken by W. and D. Downey. She paired the brooch with her Boucheron Loop Tiara, the Love Trophy Collar, and the County of Surrey Tiara (as a necklace).

King George V and Queen Mary
King George V and Queen Mary, 1911 (Wikimedia Commons)

The newly-crowned Queen Mary wore the brooch, again pinned to the bodice of her dress, in her official coronation portraits, too. It's a little tough to pick out, but it's right in the center of the bodice, pinned between two darker embroidered sections of the gown.

The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen
The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen in the Netherlands, March 1958 (Anefo/Nationaal Archief/Wikimedia Commons)

When Queen Mary died in 1953, she bequeathed the brooch (and most of the rest of her jewelry) to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Above, the young Queen wears the brooch for a banquet during her state visit to the Netherlands in March 1958. On that occasion, she wore it with the Vladimir Tiara, Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee Necklace, and the Gloucester Pendant Earrings.

The Queen
The Queen in Estonia, 2006 (Chris Radburn/PA Images/Alamy)

Half a century later, she paired the tiara and the brooch once more during a state visit to Estonia in October 2006. This time around, she wore the tiara "widowed" (without pearl or emerald drops), and added the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace and diamond earrings made from one of Queen Mary's dismantled brooches.

The Queen
The Queen attends the Greek royal wedding reception at Hampton Court Palace, July 1995 (Sean Dempsey/PA Images/Alamy)

Though she often chooses the brooch for evening engagements, the Queen wears it for important daytime occasions, too. In July 1995, she wore the brooch for the wedding of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece and Marie-Chantal Miller in London.

The Queen attends the Festival of Remembrance, 2017 (STEFAN ROUSSEAU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The brooch's all-white color scheme makes it suitable for occasions of mourning and remembrance, too. In November 2017, she used the brooch to gather her poppies at the Festival of Remembrance.

The Queen attends the Queen Mother's state funeral, April 2002 (FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)

In the spring of 2002, she chose the brooch for an even more personal moment: the state funeral of her late mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. It seems like exactly the right choice, wearing a grand royal brooch (with a pendant drop!) for one of the royal women who loved brooches and jewelry so very much.