Our Sparkling Spotlight series on some of the early tiara portraits of the Queen Mother continues today with a look at a jewel she fashioned by renovating one of her wedding presents.
Around the same time that the Duke and Duchess of York posed for yesterday’s portrait session—the 1920s, during the early years of their royal marriage—Bertie and Elizabeth also sat for another set of similar formal portraits featuring a different suite of royal jewels. These images were taken by Richard Neville Speaight, whose studio was located in New Bond Street.
Like yesterday’s session, the dates given for these photographs varies from source to source. One repository states that the images date to 1928; another dates them to 1925. Archives New Zealand goes with the latter of the two, suggesting that the portraits were used to help promote the couple’s royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1927.
But there are some small details here that help us to more carefully date the portraits. For example, the Duke of York is wearing the Royal Victorian Chain along with his other decorations and medals. He didn’t receive that honor from his father until 1927, so the portraits couldn’t have been taken before then. (Note that he wasn’t wearing the chain in yesterday’s portraits, so those images had to have been taken before 1927.)
The jewels worn by Elizabeth in these portraits all date to the early years of her royal marriage. She’s wearing the magnificent Lotus Flower Tiara, a diamond and pearl jewel that she commissioned herself. She used an elaborate necklace given to her as a wedding present by her husband as the source of the gemstones for the tiara.
Here’s a picture of the original meander and festoon necklace, from the display of Elizabeth’s wedding presents. (You’ll note that Bertie’s other gift to her, the Duchess of Teck’s Flower Brooch, is included in the same box. We discussed that brooch in yesterday’s article.) Bertie bought the necklace for his new wife from Garrard, then the crown jeweler. Just six months after the wedding, Elizabeth returned to Garrard with the necklace and had them use it to make the Lotus Flower Tiara. The tiara remains in the present Queen’s collection today, and it was later worn by Princess Margaret, Serena Linley, and, most recently, the Duchess of Cambridge.
But back to the jewels in today’s portraits. With the tiara, Elizabeth is wearing a trio of pearl necklaces, just as she did in our previous portrait discussion. This time, though, she’s used a different set of pendants with the necklace. These come from the Persian Turquoise Parure, which was Elizabeth’s wedding present from her father-in-law, King George V. They’re actually the earrings from the suite, which Elizabeth has repurposed as pendants here.
Additionally, Elizabeth has pinned the elaborate diamond and turquoise brooch from the set to the left shoulder of her sequin-festooned dress. The blue color of the turquoises would have coordinated nicely with the light blue silk ribbon of King George V’s Royal Family Order, which Elizabeth has pinned to her bodice.
The turquoises would have added some brilliant color to Elizabeth’s ensemble for these portraits, and she added even more with the stack of bracelets on her left wrist. Just as she did in the Strathmore Rose portraits, she stacked all five of her Cartier Art Deco Bracelets on one wrist for these portraits. The bright, colorful bracelets are set with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies. They were a gift from Bertie, and they can also be converted to be worn as a bandeau-style tiara.
When you search for information about this portrait session, you’ll come across a series of hand-colored photographs from the New Zealand archives. I’m guessing these were colorized in the 1920s, shortly after the portraits were taken. You’ll note that this image matches one of the black-and-white photographs that I’ve published earlier in the article. But, as is the case with many colorizations of older photographs, some artistic license has been taken. You’ll note that the colorizer significantly muted the color of the turquoise jewels, rendering them as a pearly gray instead of a bright blue.
A colorized image of a solo portrait of the Duke of York is also included in the set. I’m not an expert on military medals, but I believe there are also a few errors in the colorization of those ribbons as well. (And they’ve definitely over-rouged and over-lipsticked the Duke, too!)
As a footnote, there’s another image of a young Elizabeth wearing similar jewelry and clothing from approximately the same era. I don’t know whether this portrait was taken at the same time as the Speaight portraits, or even by the same photographer, but there are significant similarities. However, in these images she has paired the Lotus Flower Tiara with a different dress and different jewels. (In some images, she’s also wearing the dress and jewels without the tiara.)
She wears the Duchess of Teck’s Flower Brooch (another wedding gift from Bertie) at her shoulder. She’s also wearing different pearls, including an elaborate diamond and pearl sautoir necklace. That sautoir was also one of her wedding presents, a gift from the Citizens of London. The necklace, made by Carrington, was described by the Graphic in April 1923 as “consisting of five rows of pearls, mounted on fine platinum wire, with two flexible diamond side-pieces, and diamond triangular end-piece, to which is attached a large pearl drop.” You can see another image of Elizabeth wearing the Citizens of London Sautoir in this article.