Our journey through the incredible jewels of the Greville Bequest so far has covered tiaras, a necklace, and a pair of earrings. Today, we’re shining a spotlight on a pair of clip brooches from the collection, made to resemble glittering leaves of English ivy.
The diamond and platinum brooches were made for Dame Margaret Greville by Cartier. Mrs. Greville was a devoted regular customer of both Cartier and Boucheron, turning to both firms to make new pieces and alter existing jewels. The clips were made in London by Cartier in stages. They’re not identical—like a good pair of eyebrows, they’re sisters, not twins. Sir Hugh Roberts tells us in The Queen’s Diamonds that the first brooch was likely made prior to 1930, because an entry in the Cartier Archive mentions a revision to an ivy brooch belonging to Mrs. Greville that year. The second brooch was made in 1937.
There’s an excellent close-up of the brooches in the Roberts book (page 255), which allows you to see that the diamond settings of each brooch are unique. One is set with larger diamonds, and the other with smaller stones. Additionally, the large round brilliants in the center of the clips are different, too: one is an old-cut diamond, and the other features a more modern cut.
When Mrs. Greville died in 1942 and bequeathed her jewelry to Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), the ivy leaf clips were among the treasures sent to Buckingham Palace in a black tin trunk. I don’t believe we have any record of Elizabeth wearing the brooches herself, although she liked wearing jeweled clips, and she certainly adored Cartier pieces.
Instead, the first documented royal wearer of the ivy leaf clips was Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II. When the younger Elizabeth turned 21 in April 1947, her parents gifted her the clips as a birthday present. The royal family was in the middle of a tour of South Africa at the time. Queen Elizabeth had packed the clips in her luggage so that she could offer them to her daughter on her birthday.
Princess Elizabeth was a fan of the clips from the start. She wore them often in the years after she received them, both as traditional clips placed on the neckline and as scattered brooches. One of her most memorable early appearances in the clips came in October 1951, during a visit to the United States. She arrived at the airport in Washington wearing one of the brooches on the collar of her jacket and the other pinned to her hat.
The clip brooches were, ultimately, the last jewels that Princess Elizabeth was pictured wearing in public before her sudden accession to the throne in February 1952. She and the Duke of Edinburgh were in Kenya at the start of a planned Commonwealth tour, and for their arrival at Sagana Lodge on February 5, Elizabeth wore the clips pinned at the corners of the neckline of her dress. If you look closely, you’ll be able to see them in this photograph.
After their official welcome at the lodge, Elizabeth and Philip spent the night privately at the nearby Treetops Hotel. During the night, King George VI passed away, and Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. While the Flame Lily Brooch has become a more recognizable symbol of her accession, these clip brooches also have an important bejeweled place in that moment of history.
The Queen has continued to wear the clip brooches over the years, usually as a pair pinned together on a jacket or dress. Here, she wears the brooches for a visit to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall in 2004. The diamonds popped brightly against the green of her jacket on this occasion.
It’s a little tougher at first to see the brooches on the champagne-colored jacket that the Queen wore for a reception at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in October 2016, but they’re definitely there!
The Queen made a meaningful appearance in the ivy leaf clips in February 2022, wearing them for an official portrait released to mark the 70th anniversary of her accession. The image is filled with reminders of her father and the succession, including an informal photograph of George VI with one of the family dogs, and the much more formal red box that both monarchs have used in their official work. The choice of the clip brooches, gifted to the Queen by her parents on the very day that she made her famous address dedicating her life to the serving the people of Britain and the Commonwealth, was an appropriate and sentimental one.
Most recently, we saw the Queen wear the ivy leaf clip brooches at Windsor Castle in May 2022. She chose them for an audience with the Emir of Qatar, and they sparkled away on her floral brooch throughout their meeting.