On Tuesday, the Queen held her first audience with her 15th (!) prime minister, and she wore casual pearls for the occasion.
The Queen usually appoints new prime ministers from Buckingham Palace, but because of HM’s continuing mobility issues, it was decided that Liz Truss would journey to Balmoral Castle in Scotland to meet the Queen for their first audience.
In an official bulletin, the press office at Buckingham Palace wrote, “The Queen received in Audience The Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP today and requested her to form a new Administration. Ms Truss accepted Her Majesty’s offer and kissed hands upon her appointment as Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury.” Note that the phrase “kiss hands” is traditional and symbolic language—no actual hand-kissing takes place during these initial meetings.
For the appointment audience, the Queen wore the usual casual outfit she prefers while in residence at Balmoral: a blouse, skirt, and cardigan sweater. Her pleated, kilt-like skirt was in the Balmoral tartan pattern. She accessorized with pearl earrings and a multi-stranded pearl necklace, as well as a daytime watch and her engagement and wedding rings. No brooch—she doesn’t wear them on cardigans as a rule. Her more casual attire at this meeting shouldn’t, I think, be viewed as a signal about the state of her health or her attitude toward the important constitutional moment. It’s just what she usually wears at home at Balmoral.
When the first meeting between the Queen and her Prime Minister takes place at Buckingham Palace, we tend to see her wear a more formal version of her daytime attire. She’s worn day dresses, pearls, and brooches for the initial audiences with three of her most recent prime ministers. Here, she greets Boris Johnson on his appointment to the role in July 2019.
For that meeting, the Queen wore her usual pearls with one of her newer brooches, a diamond and pearl jewel in a navette or lens shape. I don’t believe we have any provenance information about the brooch itself, though it’s been speculated that it may have been a 90th birthday present.
In July 2016, for her first audience with Prime Minister Theresa May, the Queen wore another printed day dress with pearls and a brooch.
This time, the chosen brooch was a more important historical piece. The Queen chose the Cambridge Emerald Cluster Brooch with its cabochon emerald pendant for the meeting. As the name suggests, the brooch comes from Queen Mary’s Cambridge Emerald collection.
And in May 2010, for her first audience with Prime Minister David Cameron, the Queen again wore a dress with pearls and a brooch. This time around, the dress featured a tweedier fabric with a metallic sheen, which could be worn for both day and evening events.
With her pearls, the Queen wore a brooch that she’s had since the 1940s: the Diamond Clematis Brooch. This is the brooch that she chose for her official engagement portrait session in July 1947.