Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom had an impressive collection of diamond bow brooches, so it was only appropriate that two royal ladies brought out important diamond bows during her memorial and funeral ceremonies. And one of them may have a major British royal connection!
On the eve of the Queen’s funeral, the King and Queen of the Belgians arrived in London and headed to Westminster Hall to view the Queen’s coffin as she lay in state.
Queen Mathilde wore a rather spectacular diamond bow brooch for the occasion. The jewel, which looks to be a nineteenth-century creation, features a naturalistic diamond ribbon tied into a bow. I love the movement of the piece, and the way that the makers were able to mimic the fabric folds of real ribbon.
Mathilde paired the brooch with her diamond and pearl wedding earrings. Initially, some guessed that this was the bow brooch from the collection of the late Queen Fabiola, but the two jewels are quite different. This appears to be Mathilde’s debut in the brooch, suggesting that it’s either a long-forgotten piece from deep in the Belgian royal vaults, or a newer acquisition or loan. Philippe and Mathilde have been known to borrow jewelry, but they’ve also purchased pieces, including antiques. (The diamond tiara acquired for the Duchess of Brabant is perhaps their most successful purchase so far.) If I were a betting woman, I’d wager that they bought this diamond bow brooch at auction as well.
And speaking of auctions…! The Queen’s committal service at Windsor was attended by a range of royals, many of whom were there as government representatives or members of the Queen’s extended family. But there were also additional royals in attendance at St. George’s Chapel with other connections to the Queen. Princess Haya of Jordan (whose jewels we discussed here) and her uncle, Prince El Hassan, both have ties to the Queen through the equestrian world. And so do the two guests walking beside them: Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani and his mother, Sheikha Amna bint Mohammed Al Thani.
The Al Thanis are part of the larger Qatari royal family: Sheikh Hamad is a first cousin of the present Emir of Qatar. He’s also the CEO of QIPCO (the Qatar Investment & Projects Development Holding Company). In 2014, QIPCO became the first commercial partner of Royal Ascot, reportedly with the blessing of the Queen herself. The sheikh also hosted the Queen at his London home, the renovated Dudley House in Park Lane.
The Al Thanis have significant personal holdings in the world of racing, and they’re also renowned art collectors. Sheikh Hamad is the head of the the Al Thani Collection, which is now displayed in galleries at the Hôtel de la Marine in Paris. Jewels from the collection have previously been exhibited all over the world, including a 2016 exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the opening of which was attended by the Prince of Wales. (The V&A also has a gallery named for Sheikha Amna, which houses 17th- and 18th-century European art.)
It should come as no surprise that such wealthy and avid collectors would have significant pieces of historical jewelry in their personal collections as well. It very much appears that Sheikha Amna wore an exceptionally special brooch in Windsor on Monday: a nineteenth-century diamond bow brooch with Romanov roots. It was previously owned by Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia (daughter of the famed Grand Duchess Vladimir) and then by her daughter, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
Marina was pictured often in the brooch for gala occasions. She even pinned it to her gown for the 1937 coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, her brother- and sister-in-law. Marina wore the diamond bow again several years later for the coronation of her niece, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953. After Marina’s death, the brooch was sold by her children, reportedly to help pay death duties, and acquired by the American collector Jayne Wrightsman.
In December 2012, Wrightsman offered a stunning collection of her personal jewelry for sale at Sotheby’s in New York. Among the pieces auctioned was Marina’s diamond bow brooch. The identity of the purchaser at the 2012 auction was not made public, but it very much appears that it was the Al Thanis (or someone who subsequently sold it to the Al Thanis, possibly). Either way, it’s interesting that the brooch apparently surfaced on such a prominent occasion—though I do wonder what the Kents, if they recognized the piece, perhaps thought of the appearance.