30 March 2021

95 Years, 95 Jewels: Part 3 (November 1947)

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Our celebration of the Queen's upcoming 95th birthday continues with a look at some of the jewels she received from her husband, her parents, and her mother-in-law as wedding presents way back in November 1947. What do you get a princess as a wedding gift? Here are some ideas...

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On returning from the royal tour of Africa, Princess Elizabeth was finally ready to reveal a major secret: she was engaged to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a naval officer who had been born Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark. Her new fiancé offered her a stunning diamond and platinum engagement ring. Like Philip himself, the diamonds in the ring had a serious royal pedigree: they came from a diamond and aquamarine tiara that had been given to Philip's mother, Princess Alice, as a wedding present by Nicholas and Alexandra, the last emperor and empress of Russia (and her uncle and aunt). A second diamond and platinum jewel, the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet, was made as Elizabeth's wedding present from Philip using stones from the same tiara. (Princess Alice also gave Elizabeth a second tiara, her meander bandeau, as a wedding present.)

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Princess Elizabeth's father, King George VI, dipped into the royal vaults to offer her these paired pearl necklaces as a wedding gift. If family tradition is correct, they're among the oldest pieces of British royal jewelry still worn by the Queen. The smaller strand, made of 46 pearls, is said to have been worn by Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch. The longer strand, which includes 50 pearls, is attributed to Caroline of Ansbach, the queen consort of George II. Queen Victoria's jewel inventory of 1896, made by Garrard, notes the pearl necklaces and is the first recorded statement of their Stuart/Hanoverian provenance. Elizabeth wore them on her wedding day and continues to wear them occasionally.

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The king also gave his daughter a personal present: a suite of 19th-century sapphire and diamond jewels. The set originally included just a necklace and a pair of earrings, but as she often does, Elizabeth later had the necklace shortened. The extra stone was used to make a pendant for the necklace, and a bracelet was also later designed to match the set. (She also later acquired a tiara to go with the set, but we'll get to that in a few days!)

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Princess Elizabeth's parents were generous in their wedding gifts to their elder daughter; this generosity was enabled, in part, by the large cache of jewels that her mother had inherited from Mrs. Greville five years earlier. The necklace was made by Boucheron for Mrs. Greville in 1907. Elizabeth wore it quite a lot in the years after her wedding, but the deep vee-shape of the necklace can make it a bit of a challenge to wear. Above, she wears it for a banquet in Australia in 1954.

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Elizabeth's parents also turned to the Greville bequest to present her with a pair of magnificent diamond chandelier earrings to celebrate the wedding. Made in 1929 by Cartier, the earrings feature a variety of cuts of diamonds set in platinum. For many years, these were some of Elizabeth's go-to gala earrings, but in recent years, they've been seen far less. She wears them above during a state visit to the Netherlands in 1958.

Our next installment of the series will be up later today!