This weekend, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom celebrated a momentous milestone: the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Over the past few days, the palace has treated us to several glimpses of the Queen celebrating the moment, including appearances from three sets of royal brooches. All of the jewels have a link to the fascinating history of the Queen’s seven decades on the throne.
On Friday, the palace released a new set of photos taken of the Queen in January 2022 at Windsor Castle. In the images, the Queen sits in the Oak Room, where she examines a selection of memorabilia from her Golden and Platinum Jubilees. In this picture, she also holds a unique piece of royal history: Queen Victoria’s Autograph Fan. The paper fan, which was given to Queen Victoria by the Prince and Princess of Wales as a Golden Jubilee present in 1887, bears the signatures of numerous members of Victoria’s large family.
The Royal Collection website includes an excellent guide to the signatures, which include the names of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, King George V and Queen Mary, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra of Russia, Empress Frederick of Germany, King Constantine I and Queen Sophie of the Hellenes, and King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie of Romania.
For the photographs, the Queen wears her Aquamarine Clip Brooches. The brooches, which were made by Boucheron, were her 18th birthday gift from her father, King George VI, in April 1944. The diamond and aquamarine clips can be worn separately (as the Queen usually wears them) or joined together as a single brooch.
The Queen has worn the brooches throughout her entire reign, and they began appearing on her with increasing frequency in the 1950s. Here, in March 1958, she wears them in Amsterdam during her state visit to the Netherlands.
In May 2020, the brooches made a poignant appearance with the Queen as she delivered a special address to mark the 75th anniversary of V-E Day. On this occasion, a photograph of her late father was displayed prominently beside her, with both the photo and the brooches serving to remind us of King George VI’s role as a wartime king.
And, on a weekend when her father’s memory is very close at hand, the Queen chose to wear the brooches again. In a message sent by the Queen on Saturday, she remarked that her accession day is “a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign.”
On Saturday, the Queen held a reception with representatives from local community groups in the ballroom at Sandringham House. The Queen traditionally spends her Accession Day at Sandringham House, which is the residence where her father died in February 1952.
During the reception, the Queen helped cut a special Platinum Jubilee cake.
The Queen was bright and engaged during the reception. She wore a pale blue dress with white floral accents, a garment she’s had in her closet for several years. She echoed the flower theme of the outfit by wearing the small Nizam of Hyderabad Brooches.
Like the aquamarine clips, the Nizam brooches have been in the Queen’s collection since the 1940s. They were originally part of a diamond floral tiara. The tiara and its coordinating necklace, both by Cartier, were the Queen’s wedding gifts from the Nizam of Hyderabad in November 1947. The floral elements in the tiara could also be removed and worn separately as brooches. There were three total brooches incorporated in the tiara: a large floral blossom in the center of the tiara, and two identical smaller floral brooches on either side. Above, she wears the tiara and necklace together (with the Greville Chandelier Earrings) at the London Palladium in November 1952, for the first Royal Variety Performance of her reign.
The brooches were always able to be removed from the tiara and worn separately, and the Queen began wearing them this way from the very start. Here, in the autumn of 1951, the Queen wears the large brooch as she calls on President Harry S. Truman at the White House in Washington, D.C., during a brief stop in the United States amid her royal tour of Canada.
And here, in March 1954, the Queen wears the smaller brooches as dress clips on the balcony of Government House in Melbourne during her royal tour of Australia.
The Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara was dismantled in the 1970s, with many of the diamonds used to make the new Burmese Ruby Tiara. But all three of the brooches were saved in their original form, and the Queen still wears all of them. Here, the Queen wears the large Nizam brooch for the launch of The Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The event was held at Buckingham Palace in October 2021.
And here’s a recent appearance from the small brooches, which the Queen almost always wears together as a pair. She pinned them to a lime green coat in July 2019 for a visit to Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh.
The use of the brooches for this weekend’s reception brings in another link to the dawn of her reign. If the aquamarine brooches represent her father, the use of a wedding gift like the floral brooches surely recalls the memory of her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. Indeed, a special message released by the Queen on Saturday highlights the importance of having a dedicated and supporting partner like Prince Philip. (In the same message, she also pays tribute to her mother, who was such a great support to King George VI—and notes that she wishes for the Duchess of Cornwall, her son’s devoted partner, to one day become queen consort.)
On Sunday, as she always does, the Queen spent her Accession Day privately. But the palace gave the public one more new glimpse of the monarch on such a remarkable day, releasing a new portrait of the Queen taken by royal photographer Chris Jackson. In the image, the Queen sits beside a photograph of her beloved father. The picture shows the monarch at work, sitting before one of the famous red boxes that contain her official paperwork.
In the photograph, the Queen wears yet another set of brooches that date to the 1940s. The Greville Ivy Leaf Clips, as the name suggests, were part of the large jewelry bequest given by Dame Margaret Greville to the Queen Mother in 1942. The brooches, made by Cartier in the 1930s, are a twinned pair of diamond ivy leaf clips. The Queen Mother, in turn, gave the brooches to the Queen as a twenty-first birthday present in April 1947.
The milestone birthday, which took place during the family’s royal tour of South Africa, was also the point when Elizabeth II made a famous radio address, promising to work on behalf of the people for her entire life. (Poignantly, she recalled this moment in Saturday’s message, which she signed “Your Servant, Elizabeth R.”) The use of the clips completes a bejeweled tribute to the trio of people who made the Queen’s historic reign possible: her father, her husband, and her mother.
The Queen has worn the Greville Ivy Leaf Clips for seventy-five years. Above, she wears both clips—one on her jacket, and one on her hat—as she arrives for her visit to President Harry Truman in Washington in October 1951.
More recently, we saw her wear the clips together on her jacket for an award ceremony at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in October 2016.
But for me, perhaps the most important echo of all comes from February 5, 1952. On that date, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in Kenya at the start of their planned Commonwealth tour. They arrived at Sagana Lodge on February 5, and in this picture from their arrival, you can just make out the ivy leaf clips pinned at Elizabeth’s neckline. Poignantly, this is one of the final images ever captured of Princess Elizabeth. During the night, her father passed away at Sandringham House, and unknowingly, she awoke on February 6, 1952 as Queen Elizabeth II.
Jewelry is such a lovely way to tie together the present and the past, and the use of three sets of brooches in this weekend’s pictures creates a perfect echo between 1952 and 2022. May we continue to see the Queen wearing her brilliant jewels for several more years to come.