Among the oldest and most fascinating brooches in the Royal Collection, today’s jewel has been worn by British queens for nearly two centuries. Here’s a closer look at the history of Queen Adelaide’s Brooch.
As the name of the brooch suggests, the piece was originally made for Queen Adelaide of the United Kingdom (pictured above in an 1831 portrait), the wife of King William IV. The jewel, which was originally used as a clasp on a pearl necklace, was commissioned from Rundell, Bridge, & Co. by William as a gift for his wife in 1831, their coronation year. Thriftily, William handed over a bejeweled piece of royal insignia—an Order of the Bath badge that had belonged to his late father, King George III—to be dismantled so that the diamonds could be reused to make the brooch.
Adelaide passed down the brooch to her niece, Queen Victoria, who designated the piece as an heirloom of the crown. This means that it’s earmarked to stay with the main line of the monarchy, so that it can be worn by British queens, both regnant and consort. It’s been worn by every woman who has held the title since. Above, in February 1901, Queen Alexandra wears the brooch at her waist for the first State Opening of Parliament of her husband’s reign. (More views from the event here.) You’ll also recognize several other pieces of familiar royal jewelry, including Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch at Alexandra’s throat and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bow Brooches cascading down her skirt. She’s also wearing Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bracelet, as well as her small diamond crown.
Queen Mary was the next wearer of the brooch. (You’ll be able to spot it here near the bottom of the photograph. Being Queen Mary, she added an additional diamond drop to the jewel.) This portrait features lots of other important royal jewels as well, including Queen Alexandra’s Kokoshnik and her collier résillé, plus the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and the Cullinan III & IV Brooch as part of her stomacher.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was pictured wearing the brooch during her husband’s reign, and after his death in 1952, she passed it along to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. Above, at Balmoral in August 1959, the Queen wears the brooch for a visit with President Eisenhower. (More on her presidential jewels here!)
The brooch isn’t one of the Queen’s most-worn jewels, but you will see it pop up occasionally, especially for important daytime and evening events. In November 1999, she wore it for the gala dinner held during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. (The event was held in South Africa, and she’s walking here with President Thabo Mbeki.) She wore the brooch pinned to her Garter sash, pairing it with the pearl setting of the Vladimir Tiara, plus a suite of pearls given to her in 1979 by the Emir of Qatar.
In April 2006, the Queen wore the brooch for the Royal Maundy Service, held that year at Guildford Cathedral.
Along with the appearance at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Queen has also worn the brooch more than once for occasions connected to the annual Commonwealth Day observance. In March 2008, she wore the brooch at Marlborough House for a Commonwealth Day reception.
A year later, in March 2009, she wore the brooch for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.
The brooch also made several appearances in 2012 and 2013, during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year and the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of her coronation. In July 2012, she memorably wore the brooch for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in London. (She also wore it, of course, for the filming of that famous James Bond video shown during the opening ceremony!)
In July 2013, the Queen sparkled in the brooch in the royal box during the Coronation Festival Evening Gala at Buckingham Palace.
One of the most recent appearances of the brooch came in October 2013, when she wore it at Buckingham Palace for a visit with King Tupou VI of Tonga.