If you’ve followed the schedule and engagements of Queen Elizabeth II for a number of years, you’ll know that she’s a royal lady who likes a routine. Like clockwork, her court travels around the kingdom, from Sandringham at Christmas to Windsor at Easter and Balmoral in the late summer. She also likes regularity in her clothing and jewels. Remarkably, the brooch we’re discussing today has been worn at the same event every September for more than a decade!
In 2002, the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the Braemar Royal Highland Society presented Elizabeth with a brooch to commemorate her fifty years on the throne. The Queen has been a reliable presence at the society’s annual Braemar Gathering for her entire reign; above, you can see her attending the Highland Games at Braemar with the Queen Mother and the Duke of Edinburgh in September 1953.
The society selected a brooch with connections to one of Scotland’s native birds, the golden eagle. Made in the shape of an eagle’s feather, the Braemar brooch features a number of mixed metals — white and yellow gold, silver, and platinum — in its construction.
Every year since the society gave the brooch to the Queen, she has worn it at the annual Highland Games. It’s an easy brooch to pick out in photographs, generally worn vertically and gleaming gold against the Queen’s vibrant jackets.
The Queen and the Earl of Strathearn at the Braemar Highland Games, 2005
Depending on which royals are at Balmoral in early September, you’ll occasionally get sightings of various family members enjoying the day with the Queen. You can spot the brooch easily here, worn during one of Prince William’s rare visits to the Games, during his time at university in Scotland.
Besides the brooch’s usual appearance here, this photo also features another Scottish royal staple: the Balmoral tartan. Worn here by Camilla, the tartan was designed by Prince Albert; members of the royal family have to be granted permission by the Queen to wear it! (The only non-royal who can wear the Balmoral tartan? The Queen’s personal bagpiper, of course.)
In 2007, the Queen pinned the brooch to a bright green coat, letting the gold, silver, and platinum of the piece gleam vibrantly.
The Queen wore the brooch and a blanket in the Balmoral tartan in 2008 — Scotland can be downright chilly in the late summer!
The Queen, the Duke of Rothesay, and the Princess Royal at Braemar, 2009
The Braemar Gathering is one of the most boisterous royal outings on the
calendar. You can regularly see the Queen and members of the royal
family dissolving into fits of laughter and gasping at the feats
performed by the participants. The slate of activities includes highland
dancing, caber tossing, hill races, piping, and sack races.
The brooch shone against a neutral background in 2010…
… and amid specks of turquoise in 2011.
The Queen uses the brooch as a sartorial link to Scotland every year, while Philip and Charles often display a more obvious connection to the highlands in their clothing, wearing kilts.
Last year, the brooch made an appearance against pale pink tweed. You can see the mixed metals of the brooch more clearly here.
With the Scottish independence referendum swiftly approaching, it’s worth wondering whether this weekend’s Braemar Gathering was potentially the last held in a united kingdom. Currently, those supporting independence in Scotland have said that they plan to retain the Queen as head of state, just as she is in Commonwealth realms like Canada and Australia. It will be interesting to see which way the Scots vote, but one thing’s for certain — as long as the Queen attends the Braemar Gathering, I think it’s safe to say that the feather brooch will be attending, too!