Today at Windsor Castle, the Queen’s official 95th birthday celebrations will be held. The ceremony, known as Trooping the Colour, is a military performance and salute by one of the five Household Regiments (once called the “Brigade of Guards”). Like last year’s celebration, this one will be small and private, held within the quadrangle at Windsor. But to mark the moment, let’s have a look at the Queen’s jewelry during the event over the decades.
For years, the Queen rode in uniform during the Trooping the Colour display. (You can read more about Trooping the Colour on the royal family’s website.) Above, she rides in the parade during the first ceremony of her reign, held on June 5, 1952.
Above, the Queen wears her uniform on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the parade on June 3, 1972.
She continued to appear in uniform during the parade until 1987, when she began wearing regular day clothes and riding in a carriage during the procession. Her favorite horse, Burmese, retired that year, and the Queen decided she would also change the way she participated on the day as a result.
In 1987, she began wearing a special piece of jewelry for Trooping the Colour. This is the Guards Brooch, an elaborate diamond jewel featuring the badges of all five of the Foot Guards of the Household Regiments: the Coldstream Guards, the Grenadier Guards, the Irish Guards, the Scots Guards, and the Welsh Guards. The badges are surrounded by the old Latin motto of the Household Division: Quinque juncta in uno, or “Five joined in one.” (The Household Division also now includes the two Household Cavalry Regiments, the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals, and the current Latin motto is Septem juncta in uno, or “Seven joined in one.” Another regiment, the London Regiment, was added 15 years ago, but the motto hasn’t been changed to reflect that eighth group.)
There are two prevailing schools of thought on the provenance of the Queen’s Guards’ Brooch. Many believe that the Queen inherited the brooch from Queen Mary. You can see Mary wearing a similar (or perhaps identical) brooch in the photograph above, taken in May 1938 as King George VI presented new colours to the 2nd Battalion, Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace. Mary’s brooch here has always looked a little smaller in scale to me than the Queen’s, but that certainly could just be an optical illusion, courtesy of the 1930s-era image.
The other possibility is that her brooch was originally a pendant that belonged to her aunt, Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Among her wedding presents in 1922 was a jewel presented to her by the Brigade of Guards. On March 11, 1922, The Graphic published a picture of the gem-encrusted pendant (alongside a photo of Mary’s wedding cake), with the following description: “The Brigade of Guards presented Princess Mary with an exquisite jewel, modelled on a badge presented to her grandmother [Queen Alexandra] by the officers of the Brigade of Guards for a ball given by them in 1863. It consisted of a diamond pendant, with the badges of the Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh Guards in centre of an oval garter, with the motto, “quinque juncta in uno,” and a wreath at base, surmounted by a crown having a loop to which is attached a platinum necklet. The jewel was made by Garrard, the Crown jewellers.”
I’ve written in the past that I thought it was likely that the Queen’s brooch is Princess Mary’s pendant. Today, though, I’m more convinced by the idea that the Queen actually wears Queen Alexandra’s original 1863 badge, on which Princess Mary’s 1922 pendant was modeled. It seems plausible that Queen Mary also wore Alexandra’s original badge, and then passed it along to the present Queen with the lion’s share of the rest of her jewelry.
The Queen has worn the Guards’ Brooch at nearly every Trooping the Colour parade since 1987. I’m especially fond of the way that the badge sparkles when worn against vivid colors, like this blue jacket from June 14, 2003…
…or this aquamarine coat, worn for Trooping the Colour on June 13, 2009…
…or this neon lime green ensemble, worn for the birthday salute on June 11, 2016.
There have been two occasions since 1987 when the Queen wore another brooch for Trooping the Colour. On June 4, 1988, she wore the Dorset Bow Brooch for the ceremony. The choice doesn’t seem to have been connected to the regiment (1st Battalion, Irish Guards) participating that year. Perhaps she just hadn’t decided yet at that point to wear the same brooch annually for the event, as it was only the second year she’d appeared out of uniform.
The Queen also wore a different brooch for Trooping the Colour in June 2020. The celebration was significantly scaled back because of the pandemic, and was held as a private parade at Windsor Castle. The 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards performed during the ceremony, and the Queen chose a brooch that paid tribute to them specifically: a diamond brooch in the shape of the regiment’s cap badge, modeled after a Welsh leek.
Later today, a similarly scaled-back version of Trooping the Color will be held once more at Windsor Castle. The Queen will be accompanied by her cousin, the Duke of Kent, as she takes the salute. Which brooch do you think we’ll see her wearing? (It’ll be F Company of the Scots Guards this time around. Will we see a thistle?)
UPDATE: We’ve got our answer! The Queen wore the Queen Mother’s Aquamarine Art Deco Brooch for today’s birthday parade at Windsor. She paired it with the same gray and yellow ensemble that she recently wore for the State Opening of Parliament (with another aquamarine jewel, her diamond and aquamarine clip brooches).