On Saturday, the Queen made her traditional Christmas Day broadcast to the nation and people all around the world. For this year’s message, she wore a brooch with very sentimental personal history.
The Queen chose the Sapphire Chrysanthemum Brooch for her 2021 Christmas broadcast, pairing it with pearl earrings and a three-stranded pearl necklace. The choice of the brooch was a very sentimental one, as it’s become associated with her marriage to the late Duke of Edinburgh. Both the Duke and the brooch were featured in the photograph sitting beside her on her desk for this year’s message, which was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on December 23.
The chrysanthemum brooch has been in the Queen’s jewelry box since 1946. She received it when she launched an oil tanker, appropriately named the British Princess. One of its most prominent early appearances came on November 25, 1947, when she wore it for a photo session at Broadlands during her honeymoon. She and the Duke of Edinburgh had been married at Westminster Abbey five days earlier.
She continued to wear the brooch often throughout the years. Here, in April 1948, she wears the jewel to attend the unveiling of a memorial to American President Franklin D. Roosevelt in London’s Grosvenor Square.
In October 1950, she wore the brooch at Buckingham Palace for the official photos taken after the christening of her daughter, Princess Anne. On this occasion, she also wore another sapphire jewel: the Cartier bracelet given to her by her father, King George VI, as an 18th birthday present.
Here, the Queen wears the brooch with pearls and a very late ’40s, early ’50s hat in a photo taken in 1951, the year before her accession to the throne.
The brooch can be frequently spotted in photographs taken throughout her reign. Here, in February 1965, she wears it to lay a wreath at the tomb of the late Empress Menen during a visit to Ethiopia.
Diplomatic occasions weren’t the only opportunities to wear the classic brooch. Here, in June 1991, she wears it at Epsom as she watches the Derby with the Queen Mother. (The Queen Mum, incidentally, is wearing Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Brooch.)
Naturally, she loves to wear the brooch with clothing in various shades of blue, like the royal blue coat she chose to inspect a Canadian honor guard from Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry at Buckingham Palace in May 1998.
And she’s also chosen the brooch for other holiday celebrations, too. In April 2015, she wore the brooch for the royal family’s traditional Easter celebrations at Windsor.
But it’s really those honeymoon portraits that have captured the world’s attention. Here’s another image from the photo session at Broadlands, Lord Mountbatten’s country estate, taken in November 1947.
In 2007, photographer Fiona Hanson helped the Queen and the Duke recreate their honeymoon photos to mark their diamond wedding anniversary. Sixty years after their honeymoon, they returned to Broadlands to take their anniversary photographs, and the Queen wore the very same jewels—brooch, necklace, and earrings—that she’d worn for the pictures taken back in 1947. The images also offered a lovely view of her diamond engagement ring, which has a very interesting royal backstory of its own.
The sapphire brooch was a touching choice for this year’s Christmas message, the first she has recorded since the Duke’s death. She’ll be surrounded by several members of her family this year at Windsor for Christmas, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. And, just in case you missed it, Charles and Camilla are giving us all an extra Christmas present this year: they’re presenting a special reading of excerpts from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, as part of Camilla’s Reading Room initiative.
UPDATE: I’ve gotten a LOT of questions about the placement of the brooch for this broadcast, and whether it’s a kind of secret signal. I don’t think so—I think it’s just part of the framing choice for the video, keeping the brooch close to the photograph. I elaborated over on my Twitter account if you’re interested!