Nine years ago today, Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the British royal family descended on the Mall outside Buckingham Palace for the Diamond Jubilee Concert, part of the celebration of the Queen’s 60th anniversary on the throne. Today, we’re shining our Sparkling Spotlight on the jewels she wore for the concert—which, surprisingly, didn’t include a whole lot of diamonds!
The concert was part of several days of Jubilee celebrations, including a water pageant on the Thames and a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Ten thousand free concert tickets were made available to citizens, who applied for them via a lottery system. Hundreds of thousands watched the concert on big screens in London parks, and as many as 17 million Britons watched the BBC broadcast on television. (The concert was also aired in countries around the world.)
The roundup of acts for the concert was a who’s who of British pop music. Above, the Queen chats backstage with Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Tom Jones, and Sir Paul McCartney. Not too shabby!
The Queen wore a spectacular metallic dress made by her dresser and personal assistant, Angela Kelly, for the occasion. Kelly talks in detail about the process of making the outfit in her first book, Dressing the Queen. She reveals that the gold color of the dress was inspired by the golden statue of Queen Victoria that stands in front of the Palace. Though the idea was new, the fabric was vintage. Kelly writes, “I wonder how many people realised that the fabric of The Queen’s gown was itself a period piece—bought overseas as long ago as 1961.” The golden dress featured silver polka dots, offering the Queen just that much more sparkle as she stepped on to the concert stage.
The dress also featured a complicated embroidered applique on the Queen’s right shoulder. In this photo, from the touching moment when the Prince of Wales paid tribute to his mother, you can see that the applique runs down the back of the dress as well. Kelly offers us a bit of insider info on the embellishment, too. She notes that in the earliest drawings of the dress, the applique was on the left shoulder. However, she says, “it was The Queen’s decision to change it round, and absolutely right that we did.” The book includes several excellent photos of Kelly making and trimming the dress.
When the Queen appeared briefly in the audience with her family during the concert, she put a black dress cloak over the dress for extra warmth.
Though Kelly’s sketch of the dress features the Queen wearing a pair of long sparkling earrings, the Queen chose relatively understated jewelry for the concert. Kelly explains that, because the concert “was not a state occasion,” the Queen opted not to wear significant jewelry. (Kelly offers her assessment that major jewels “would not be right for a pop concert” anyway.) Although the concert was part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the Queen’s major jewels for the evening were pieces set with pearls.
The round pearls neatly echoed the round silver dots on the dress, and the creamy tone of the pearls coordinated nicely with the gold color of the dress. Around her neck, the Queen fastened the Queen Anne and Queen Caroline Pearl Necklaces. The smaller necklace is the Queen Anne, which is strung with 46 pearls; the slightly longer Queen Caroline Necklace has 50 pearls. In Queen Victoria’s 1896 jewelry inventory, the provenance of each necklace is given; the inventory notes that the smaller necklace belonged to Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, and that the longer necklace belonged to Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II. Unfortunately, the Queen Anne necklace (the shorter of the two) fought a bit with the neckline of the Queen’s dress during the concert, sometimes hiding a bit under the edge of the fabric.
For the concert, the Queen wore a slightly grander version of her usual diamond and pearl earrings. Both her everyday pair and this larger pair come from Queen Mary’s jewelry collection. The pair she wore for the concert, which feature a much larger diamond stud, were given to Queen Mary by a committee of women (calling themselves the “Ladies of Devonshire”) as a wedding present in 1893. The Penny Illustrated Paper noted in July 1893 that “a pair of beautiful single pearl earrings was selected from Messrs. Carrington, whereby the ladies of Devonshire, who, through Lady Clinton, joined Lady Elizabeth Biddulph’s Fund, are specially identified.” Queen Mary gave the earrings to the present Queen as a wedding gift in 1947.
The overall impression was gleaming and glittering, even without major diamonds. Soon enough, we may get to enjoy another dazzling concert look from HM. News came this week that the Platinum Jubilee celebrations are planned for the first week of June 2022, and a “Platinum Party at the Palace” concert is included in the roster of activities. I can’t wait!