The amazing bequest of jewels left to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Dame Margaret Greville included jewels both large and small—but few are more imposing and impressive than this romantic diamond bow brooch.
Mrs. Greville owned at least one brooch in the shape of a ribbon or bow, a popular design motif in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. According to Sir Hugh Roberts, Maggie’s large diamond bow brooch was made by Boucheron, one of her favorite jewelers, at their atelier in Paris. In the spring of 1900, he tells us, she approached the firm with a special commission, asking them to dismantle an existing tiara (with a “knot-pattern” design) and use the stones to make a new diadem (not described) and a new brooch in the shape of a knot or bow.
The resulting brooch is spectacular. Roberts features a large, detailed photograph of the jewel on page 239 of The Queen’s Diamonds. Made of diamonds set in silver and gold, it’s one of the largest brooches in the current royal collection. Roberts calls it “large and lively” but also of “exceptional size.” Perhaps it’s no surprise then that, after she received the brooch from Mrs. Greville in the early 1940s, Queen Elizabeth only wore it in public a few times. It’s not the easiest piece to wear, even for someone who was skilled at wearing large jewelry.
One of Elizabeth’s earliest documented appearances in the brooch came in October 1948, when she wore it for the State Opening of Parliament in London. It was the first opening of parliament to be held with all of the usual pomp and circumstance after the war, and both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth wore robes and decorations for the occasion.
Elizabeth chose Queen Victoria’s Indian Circlet for the occasion, pairing it with lots of diamonds: the Coronation Earrings, two diamond rivière necklaces, and Queen Victoria’s Fringe Brooch. Several years ago, a poster named Arthur observed at the Royal Jewels of the World Message Board that Elizabeth also wore the Greville Bow Brooch for the occasion. You’ll spot it on her right shoulder, near the edge of her robes of state. There also appears to be a second diamond brooch on her left shoulder, but I’m not sure which piece that could be.
Elizabeth’s most notable public appearance in the brooch came more than a decade later, after she had been widowed and taken on the new role of Queen Mother. In February 1961, she attended the Royal Film Performance of The Facts of Life, a romantic comedy starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. She wore a glamorous gown of black tulle as she greeted various film stars in attendance, including Van Johnson, Warren Beatty, and Joan Collins.
With her gown, the Queen Mother dazzled in diamonds, including the grand Greville Tiara. She also wore the Diamond Peardrop Earrings from the bequest, plus a pair of diamond rivière necklaces from her personal collection. And you’ll spot the Greville Bow Brooch as well, sparkling away on her left shoulder.
Here’s another view of the Queen Mum’s jewels from the evening. This photograph really gives you an idea of the scale of the bow brooch. You also get a glimpse of a diamond bracelet on her left wrist—I think this is Queen Mary’s Choker Bracelet, now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.
Here’s another view of the Queen Mother’s tiara, earrings, and necklace from the film premiere. The longer of the two necklaces is the one given to her as a coronation gift by her husband, King George VI. It was most recently worn by the Duchess of Cornwall, who also wears the Greville Tiara. The peardrop earrings were most recently seen on the Queen.
And here’s a color photograph from the premiere. The Queen Mother was accompanied by Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones at the event. Margaret wore blue velvet with diamonds and sapphires, including the Teck Hoop Necklace. Her sapphire and diamond brooch is the centerpiece element from Queen Mary’s Sapphire Sunray Bandeau. Her pearl bracelets feature a pair of bejeweled buckles, one with the cypher of King William IV and the other with the cypher of his wife, Queen Adelaide, as clasps.
When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, she bequeathed the brooch to her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The jewel was photographed for The Queen’s Diamonds in 2012, but it’s not been seen in public since, and the Queen has yet to wear it. Which royal would you like to see wear the brooch next? I think Camilla could certainly do it justice.