Our celebration of the 85th anniversary of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s coronation continues this afternoon with a look at the history of one of the most sparkling jewels commissioned for the ceremony: Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation Necklace.
On May 12, 1937, Queen Elizabeth (better known to us as the Queen Mother) piled on stately jewels to be crowned alongside her husband, King George VI, at Westminster Abbey in London. Elizabeth had never expected to be queen consort: when she had married her husband in 1923, he was Duke of York, and his elder brother was the heir to the throne. The abdication in 1936 changed everything, catapulting the Yorks to Buckingham Palace.
The jewels that Elizabeth wore for their coronation included numerous pieces that had been worn by previous queens consort. These included the Coronation Earrings and Necklace, which had been made for Queen Victoria in the 1850s, and the King William IV Buckle Bracelets. But she also added a second diamond necklace to her ensemble.
King George VI had acquired an antique diamond collet necklace for his wife as a coronation gift. The nineteenth-century jewel was likely made in England, perhaps by Carrington. The piece consisted of 40 collet-set diamonds, making it longer than Queen Victoria’s Coronation Necklace. Elizabeth wears both necklaces here, as well as Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara and the Coronation Earrings, in an official portrait taken at the time of the coronation.
On the coronation day itself, Elizabeth layered four necklaces in total. Starting closest to her chin, we’ve got the traditional Coronation Necklace, which she wore without its pendant diamond. (It was temporarily set in Elizabeth’s crown for the occasion.) Next was her new, longer Coronation Necklace, which sits so closely to the neckline of her gown that it’s almost completely hidden in some photographs from the day. And then, after that, come two strands of very evenly-matched pearls.
For her official coronation portrait, completed in 1938 by Gerald Kelly, Elizabeth wears just the two diamond coronation necklaces: Queen Victoria’s Coronation Necklace (with the pendant this time) and her own Coronation Necklace.
After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, her coronation necklace was inherited by her elder daughter, the present Queen. The necklace is among the pieces that the Queen has loaned to the Duchess of Cornwall. Here, she wears the necklace in an official portrait taken during her 60th birthday celebrations in the summer of 2007.
Camilla wears a slightly shorter version of the necklace than the Queen Mother originally did. The necklace currently consists of 31 collets rather than 40, allowing it to fit more neatly within the neckline of an evening gown.
Camilla wore the necklace again in March 2008 at Windsor Castle, during a state banquet given for President Sarkozy of France. She also wore the same evening gown that she’d worn for her birthday party the previous July. Here, she walks in to dinner with Jack Straw, who was then Secretary of State for Justice.