On Tuesday, the Queen appeared in person at Windsor Castle for a rare investiture: the presentation of the George Cross.
The Prince of Wales joined the Queen as she presented the George Cross to the National Health Service, in recognition of their heroic service during the pandemic.
Several NHS representatives were on hand to accept the award on behalf of the organization. Frontline workers from all four nations of the United Kingdom were included in the royal audience.
Those present represented a range of professionals from the NHS, from executives to medical personnel.
Here, the CEO of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, poses beside May Parsons, the Modern Matron at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. Parsons administered the first vaccine dose to a member of the British public outside of clinical trial settings. She told the Queen, “We’re terribly, terribly proud of the vaccination rollout. It was so successful.” The Queen replied, “Yes, it was amazing.”
The George Cross is one of the highest awards bestowed on Britons. The official text states that the George Cross is awarded “for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger.” It was instituted in September 1940 by King George VI, inspired by the courageous and heroic actions of British civilians during the Blitz.
This image shows the front of one of the George Cross medals awarded on Tuesday. You’ll note the phrase “For Gallantry” on the cross, as well as an image of St. George and the Dragon.
Here’s the other side of the medal. The engraved inscription reads “The National Health Service In England, 5th July 2021.” That’s the date that the Queen officially bestowed the award. (It was the 73rd anniversary of the NHS.) It’s worth noting that this is only the third time, and only the second time during the Queen’s reign, that the George Cross has been awarded to a collective group rather than an individual. King George VI bestowed the award on the Island of Malta in April 1942, during World War II. And in November 1999, the Queen awarded the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland).
The Queen and the Prince of Wales posed for a group photograph with the NHS representatives during Tuesday’s presentations. In the front row are Sister Joanna Hogg of Northern Ireland’s Royal Victoria Hospital Emergency Department, May Parsons of England’s University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire, the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Eleanor Grant of Scotland’s University Hospital Wishaw, and Dr. Ami Jones of Wales’s Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. In the second row are Peter May, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Northern Ireland and Chief Executive of Health and Social Care; NHS England CEO Amanda Pritchard; Caroline Lamb, Chief Executive of NHS Scotland; and Judith Paget, Chief Executive of NHS Wales.
For the investiture, the Queen wore a dress with a cheerful pink and green floral pattern, as well as her signature three-stranded pearl necklace and pearl and diamond earrings.
The brooch she pinned to her dress is a bit of a puzzle to me. This is the clearest photograph we have so far of the jewel. It appears to be a small diamond brooch with an emerald. I think it might be her diamond and emerald Celtic Knot Brooch, but I’m hesitant to say for certain.
For reference, here’s a photograph of the Queen wearing the Celtic Knot Brooch on a previous occasion (a state banquet in honor of President Higgins of Ireland at Windsor Castle in April 2014). It’s the smaller brooch pinned to her Garter Sash. What do the rest of you think? Do we have a match, or is it a different jewel?