The Platinum Jubilee festivities will begin in London in a matter of hours, and we’re wrapping up our special survey of some of the Queen’s best platinum jewels with a look at a brooch that we could possibly see making an appearance during the celebrations: the Palm Leaf Brooch.
The brooch comes from the jewelry collection of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. She commissioned Cartier to make the brooch in 1938, setting existing diamonds from her collection in platinum. The shape of the brooch resembles a paisley pattern, made famous in the Queen Mother’s native Scotland.
But the name that the royal family uses for it, the Palm Leaf Brooch, recognizes that those paisley designs are actually based on a much older pattern from another continent entirely. Textiles imported to Britain in the nineteenth century often featured floral patterns with curved teardrop shaped designs, originally produced in Persia, called “boteh.” The pattern was used extensively in artwork and art objects from India, including the palm-shaped sarpech ornaments worn by Indian princes on their turbans.
The brooch was delivered to the Queen Mother shortly before the start of World War II. She kept her jewelry fairly minimal during the war years, but the Cartier brooch could sometimes still be glimpsed on her coats during public appearances. Here, she wears the jewel after the war’s end, for the farewell parade of Britain’s Civil Defence services in London in July 1945. (You’ll also note a small diamond brooch clipped to her hat. It’s part of a pair of clips that she later gave to the Countess of Wessex as a wedding present in 1999.)
The most famous appearance of the brooch came during a period of intense mourning for the royal family. Following the death of her husband, King George VI, in February 1952, the Queen Mother wore the brooch as his body was transported by special train from Sandringham to London ahead of his state funeral. A photograph taken of the Queen Mother, Queen Mary, and the new Queen Elizabeth II during the journey has become known as the iconic “Three Queens in Mourning” picture. (The brooch was not, as some have claimed, worn for the late king’s state funeral.)
The brooch remained a treasured part of the Queen Mother’s jewelry collection right up until the end of her long life. Here, in March 2000, the 99-year-old Queen Mum wears the brooch as she presents a trophy to the winner of the the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
When the Queen Mother died in March 2002, the brooch passed to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. It has quickly become a firm favorite, one of her most-worn royal brooches. She’s chosen the jewel for a wide range of occasions. She’s worn the piece for important religious observances, like the Royal Maundy service in Bury St Edmunds in April 2009.
She’s selected the brooch for royal tours to Commonwealth nations. Here, she wears the brooch in Brisbane during her October 2011 visit to Australia.
The brooch has been brought out for important personal milestones, like the Armed Forces Parade and Muster at Windsor Home Park in May 2012, which was part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
She’s brought out the brooch for state and diplomatic occasions as well. Here, she wears the brooch at Windsor Castle for an official welcome ceremony in honor of the visiting President of the United Arab Emirates in April 2013.
Just like her mother before her, she has sometimes worn the brooch for solemn occasions of mourning or remembrance, like the commemorative ceremony marking the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign at the Cenotaph in London in April 2015.
And the brooch has often been brought out for joyous occasions as well, like the wedding of her cousin’s daughter, Lady Gabriella Windsor, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor in May 2019.
And we saw the Queen wear the brooch for her happy return to Royal Ascot in the summer of 2021. The brooch is set in platinum, is a tribute to the late Queen Mother, and is a personal favorite—all of which makes me think that it’s a great candidate to be worn for one of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations kicking off shortly.