Today at Windsor Castle, the Royal Collection opens the second of three special exhibitions celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year. The Windsor exhibition includes a very special royal gown—and some royal jewels that have never been displayed publicly until now!
Caroline de Guitaut, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art at the Royal Collection Trust, is pictured here adjusting the Queen’s Coronation Gown and Robe of Estate in their display case in St. George’s Hall. The Royal Collection notes that the hall, the largest room in the castle, was specifically chosen as the “spectacular setting” for the gown display.
The Queen’s remarkable gown for her 1953 coronation ceremony was designed by one of her favorite couturiers, Sir Norman Hartnell. He had previously designed her wedding dress in 1947. The Royal Collection shares that the dress “was created in the finest white duchesse satin, richly embroidered in a lattice-work effect with an iconographic scheme of floral emblems in gold and silver thread and pastel-coloured silks, encrusted with seed pearls, sequins and crystals.” The dress was based on the eighth design dreamed up by Hartnell, though the Queen “requested that the emblems of the seven independent states of which she was monarch be incorporated, together with those of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.”
Portraits of the Queen on her coronation day are also included in the exhibition. The Royal Collection explains that a “highlight of the display will be a 2.5-metre-tall portrait of The Queen by Sir Herbert James Gunn.” The young monarch is depicted standing in Buckingham Palace, wearing her coronation gown, robes, jewels, and decorations.
Also displayed is a famous coronation photograph of the Queen taken by Cecil Beaton. The picture was taken inside Buckingham Palace after the Queen returned from the coronation ceremony. She posed in front of a painted backdrop depicting the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey.
A sketch of Norman Hartnell’s ninth and final design for the coronation gown is also included. Original embroidery samples from the dress’s construction process are displayed nearby.
But I know you’re all excited for the same thing that I am: the jewels! A whole lot of sparkling jewelry from the Queen’s collection is included in the Windsor Castle exhibition. The section of the exhibition devoted to the coronation features the Coronation Necklace, made by Garrard for Queen Victoria in 1858. It replaced a necklace lost the previous year to Victoria’s German cousins in the Hanoverian Claim. It was subsequently worn for coronations by Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth II.
The coordinating Coronation Earrings are also on display at Windsor Castle. The earrings were also made in 1858 by Garrard for Queen Victoria. The Queen Mother and the present Queen wore the earrings for the 1937 and 1953 coronations, respectively. And I contend that Queen Alexandra wore them—just not as earrings—for the 1902 coronation as well. The Royal Collection contends that Queen Mary wore them in 1911, too. If so, she wore the just the stud portion of the earrings, which is possible, as the two pendant diamonds on each earring are detachable.
The collar of the Order of the Garter worn by the Queen is also included in the exhibition. The collar features a diamond-encrusted badge. The Royal Collection explains, “This badge, known as the Marlborough George, is also part of the display. Originally made for George IV in 1828, the gold figure of St. George on a rearing horse slaying the dragon, the emblem of the Order, is mounted in enamel and diamonds.”
The Queen’s tenure as Head of the Commonwealth is celebrated with a selection of royal brooches that come from (or are related to) Commonwealth nations. The Flame Lily Brooch, given to the Queen in 1947 by the people of present-day Zimbabwe, represents the nations of the African continent. The Queen famously wore this brooch on her return to Britain after her unexpected ascension to the throne in 1952.
During the extensive Commonwealth tour that followed the 1953 coronation, the Queen received several remarkable pieces of jewelry. Among them was the New Zealand Silver Fern Brooch. The diamond and platinum jewel was presented to the Queen in Auckland on Christmas Day 1953. She’s worn it for events in or related to New Zealand for the past 70 years (and has loaned it to other royals, notably the Duchess of Cambridge, as well!).
During the Australian leg of the 1953-54 Commonwealth Tour, the Queen received another sparkling gift. Prime Minister Robert Menzies presented her with the Australian Wattle Brooch during a banquet in Canberra. The brooch, made of platinum and set with white and yellow diamonds, is designed to represent the national flower of Australia. The Queen has been wearing it ever since, both for Australia-related events and more generally.
In 1981, during her visit to Sri Lanka, the Mayor of Colombo presented this colorful brooch to the Queen. (I call this one the Colombo Floral Brooch; the Royal Collection notes that they call it simply “the Sri Lanka Brooch.”) The brooch is made of gold and set with an array of gemstones: pink, blue and yellow sapphires, garnets, rubies, and aquamarines.
The final Commonwealth-related brooch on display is the magnificent Diamond Maple Leaf Brooch. Made in 1939 by Asprey, the brooch was given to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by King George VI shortly before they departed on their landmark royal tour of Canada. (We recently discussed that tour here!) The Queen Mother often loaned the brooch to Queen Elizabeth II during her lifetime, and in 2002, the Queen inherited it outright. It’s been worn in Canada by four royal ladies: the Queen Mother, the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is the display of four brooches related to the nations of the United Kingdom. The set was given to the Queen as a Diamond Jubilee present in 2012 by the late Sultan of Oman. The Royal Collection notes, “The brooches are made of gold, set with white, pink and yellow diamonds and, for the shamrock, emeralds.” For the first time, the exhibition confirms exactly which four brooches make up the quartet!
England is represented in the set by the Rose of England Brooch. (In the past, we’ve referred to this jewel as the Double Rose Brooch. Now we know its proper name!) This one is a big surprise: nearly everyone had guessed instead that the Queen’s Tudor Rose Brooch was part of the Diamond Jubilee quartet. The Queen has worn the brooch on some significant occasions in England, including part of her 90th birthday celebrations, as well as Princess Beatrice’s 2020 royal wedding.
The Thistle of Scotland Brooch makes up the Scottish portion of the set. (We previously called this one the Three Thistle Brooch.) This one has often been suggested to be part of the Diamond Jubilee Quartet, though others speculated about the Carved Amethyst Thistle Brooch‘s involvement as well. The Queen notably wore the Thistle of Scotland Brooch at Royal Ascot in 2015.
Nearly everyone correctly guessed that the Shamrock of Northern Ireland Brooch was the representative of Northern Ireland in the set. (I previously called it the Diamond Shamrock Brooch.) The Queen notably wore this brooch in Frankfurt during a state visit to Germany in 2015.
The Diamond Jubilee Quartet is completed by the Daffodil of Wales Brooch. (I previously called this one simply the Diamond Daffodil Brooch.) This brooch has perhaps gotten the most wear out of the entire set. The Queen has worn it for a range of events, including an outing during her 2015 state visit to Germany and a memorable appearance at Royal Ascot in June 2019.
The exciting Windsor Castle exhibition opens today (Thursday, July 7) and runs until September 26, 2022. (Prospective visitors should note that Windsor Castle is closed to visitors on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) The exhibition is included in the price of a general admission ticket to the castle. Here’s hoping some of our lovely readers will be able to view the display in person!