Today marks the 100th birthday of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The late Duke passed away only a few months ago, and tributes to him have been extensive and have continued in the weeks since his death. But today, to celebrate his birthday, I thought we’d take another at one of the most sentimental jewels: the diamond bracelet he offered Queen Elizabeth II as a wedding present.
Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark had surrendered his royal titles, becoming Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, before marrying Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom on November 20, 1947. Philip may have come from a royal background, but in 1947 he lacked the finances required to purchase a bejeweled engagement or wedding present worthy of a future monarch.
Enter Philip’s mother: Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, born Princess Alice of Battenberg, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. At the beginning of her marriage, Alice had been showered with jewels by her royal relatives. Her aunt and uncle, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, had given her a magnificent tiara of diamonds and aquamarines as a wedding present in 1903. As the official announcement of Philip’s engagement drew near, Alice gave him that tiara, instructing him to use some of the diamonds from the piece to make an engagement ring for Elizabeth.
The engagement ring is set with a central 3-carat brilliant, plus some smaller diamonds set in the band on either side of the main stone. Thankfully, there were far more stones set in the tiara than were needed for the ring’s construction. Indeed, there were enough diamonds left over to make a second gift: a magnificent diamond bracelet, which Philip would present to Elizabeth as a wedding present.
In The Queen’s Diamonds, Sir Hugh Roberts describes the bracelet as having “the form of three stepped millegrain and pavé-set links, each centered by an old brilliant in rub-over setting.” The design of the bracelet is brash, imposing, and more than a little bit masculine—not unlike the Duke himself. Philip Antrobus Ltd, who had also made Elizabeth’s engagement ring, made the bracelet as well, setting diamonds from Princess Alice’s tiara in platinum.
Elizabeth clearly loved the present, which she wore often right from the start. You’ll frequently spot the piece sparkling on her right wrist in photographs taken throughout her reign. In the image above, she wears the bracelet with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace on June 7, 1951, during a state visit from her great-uncle, King Haakon VII of Norway.
In May 1951, she was also photographed wearing the bracelet with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and the Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace at a concert at the Festival Hall in London. (You’ll spot some other royals in the background, including Princess Mary, the Countess of Harewood and Princess Royal, wearing her diamond fringe tiara; Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent wearing her fringe tiara; and Marina’s sister, Princess Olga, wearing their mother’s Cartier kokoshnik.)
The bracelet continued to have a place of honor in Elizabeth’s jewelry box after she became Queen. On October 27, 1952, she wore the bracelet with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, the Greville Chandelier Earrings, and the Dorset Bow Brooch for the Royal Film Performance of Because You’re Mine in Leicester Square.
Because the Queen always wears the bracelet on her right wrist, many of those lucky enough to meet her on gala occasions have had the chance to watch it sparkle during royal handshakes. Bob Hope got to see the bracelet (and Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara) glitter as he met the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance on November 13, 1967.
French singer Mireille Mathieu also got to see the bracelet (and Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik, plus the Antique Girandole Earrings) up close when she met the Queen after the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium on November 11, 1969.
Through the years, both the bracelet and its giver were by the Queen’s side. With Philip beside her, she wears the bracelet for the opening of parliament in Ottawa on October 14, 1957. She also wore Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik, Queen Victoria’s Pearl Drop Earrings, and the Coronation Necklace—plus her coronation gown.
She also wore the bracelet for the official portrait taken in November 1972 to commemorate the couple’s silver wedding anniversary, pairing it with the Coronation Necklace and Earrings and the George IV Diamond Diadem.
As the jewels (and the Duke’s attire) might suggest, that anniversary portrait was taken after the State Opening of Parliament. The bracelet was a frequent sight at the annual ceremony, twinkling on the Queen’s wrist as she held her speech on the throne. Above, you’ll spot the bracelet (and the Imperial State Crown, and Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Necklace) on the Queen at another State Opening decades later, on November 17, 1999.
The Queen wore the bracelet for important occasions for decades, but in 2015, she decided to loan the jewel to another member of the family. The Duchess of Cambridge debuted the Edinburgh Wedding Bracelet at a state banquet honoring President Xi Jinping of China at Buckingham Palace on October 20, 2015. For the occasion, Kate paired the bracelet with several other royal loans: the Lotus Flower Tiara, the Queen’s Diamond Chandelier Earrings, and Queen Mary’s Diamond Choker Bracelet.
The statement-making bracelet fits Kate’s style quite nicely, and we’ve seen it on her in the years since. She notably wore it on February 12, 2017, at the BAFTA Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London. I can only imagine how Kate must feel, wearing a jewel with such sentimental importance to the Queen and the Duke, set with diamonds that recall generations of royal and imperial family members. I’m certain we’ll be seeing her wear the bracelet often for years to come.