29 March 2021

95 Years, 95 Jewels: Part 2 (March-April 1947)

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, then Princess Elizabeth, sits for her official 21st birthday portrait in April 1947 (AFP via Getty Images)

Our celebration of 95 of the jewels worn by the Queen during her 95 years continues this afternoon with five pieces that she received in March and April 1947, at the time of her 21st birthday and during her landmark visit to Africa. It was during that royal tour that the princess announced to a global audience on the radio that her "whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service."

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In 1947, Princess Elizabeth made her first overseas trip, accompanying her parents and her sister on an extensive tour of South Africa. On March 4, she made her first solo appearance during the trip, opening the new Graving Dock in East London on the southern coast of South Africa. After making a speech, the princess received a stunning gift from the South African Railways Administration: five sparkling diamonds, which Elizabeth later had set in a brooch. The Queen often wears the brooch today at events related to the Commonwealth of Nations.

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This sparkling brooch was commissioned as a 21st birthday gift for Princess Elizabeth from the children of Zimbabwe, which was then called Southern Rhodesia. Elizabeth arrived in the country with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and her sister, Princess Margaret, on April 7, 1947. The stop was a part of their tour of southern Africa. King George opened the nation's parliament, and later the same day, six children presented the brooch to the princess. In some of the most iconic images of her reign, photographers captured her on February 7, 1952, wearing the brooch as she descended the stairs to step on English soil as monarch for the first time. Above, she wears the brooch during a tour of Newfoundland in November 1951.

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During a ball held on her birthday on April 21, 1947, at Government House in Cape Town, South African prime minister Jan Smuts presented Princess Elizabeth with a gorgeous diamond necklace. In 1952, after the necklace was shortened, the removed sections were used to make a matching bracelet. The Queen has often called the South African Diamonds her "best diamonds." Above, Elizabeth wears the original necklace in 1948.

Abbie Rowe/National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons

These delicate diamond clips, made by Cartier, were a part of the large jewel bequest from Mrs. Greville to the Queen Mother in 1942. Two years later, the clips were given to Princess Elizabeth as a 21st birthday present during the South African tour. Made of diamonds set in platinum, the clips were commissioned by Mrs. Greville. Their natural ivy leaf motif makes them particularly classic and timeless, and the Queen still wears them today. During her 1951 visit to the United States, pictured above, Elizabeth wore one brooch on her lapel and the other on her hat.

It's been speculated that this dazzling six-petaled floral brooch may have been Princess Elizabeth's 21st birthday gift from members of the Royal Household. At the photocall following Elizabeth and Philip's engagement announcement in July 1947, pictured above, the princess wore her new ring with the sparkling brooch, which is designed as a clematis flower.

We'll have more of 95 Years, 95 Jewels tomorrow morning! In the meanwhile, stay tuned for a glittering Evening Earring...