During this week’s trip to Uganda, the Princess Royal wore an intriguing diamond and sapphire brooch that may indeed come from the late Queen’s jewelry collection.
The Princess Royal and Sir Timothy Laurence traveled to Uganda this week for a four-day visit, participating in both diplomatic and charitable engagements. On Tuesday, October 25, she had dinner at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Kampala with President Yoweri Museveni and his daughter, Natasha Karugire.
The princess and the president exchanged official gifts during the dinner. President Museveni tweeted, “We talked about the different patronages she has come to support here. I welcome her and wish her good luck.” For the event, Anne wore diamonds, sapphires, and pearls: diamond and sapphire earrings, the three-stranded pearl necklace that she wore on a recent trip to New York, and a diamond and sapphire cluster brooch.
We’ve seen Princess Anne wear the earrings and brooch together with another three-stranded pearl necklace on a previous occasion: the Team GB Ball in November 2021. I wrote on that occasion that I thought she had indeed borrowed Empress Marie Feodorovna’s Sapphire Brooch from her mother for the event, though we didn’t get a good close-up view of the brooch.
The brooch dates to 1866. It was purchased by Queen Alexandra (then the Princess of Wales) as a wedding gift for her sister, Princess Dagmar, who later became Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia. The brooch features a double diamond and cabochon sapphire cluster with a pearl drop pendant. After the empress’s death in 1928, her daughters sold the brooch to Queen Mary, who later bequeathed it to Queen Elizabeth II. Above, Elizabeth wears the brooch at the Chelsea Flower Show in May 1973.
You can see the brooch in color here, in a photograph taken during Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Australia in 1986.
For comparison purposes, here’s a second view of the brooch worn by Anne for the Team GB Ball and this week’s visit to Uganda.
There are two things that now hold me back from definitively saying that Anne is indeed wearing the Marie Feodorovna brooch on those two occasions. The first is just visual: there’s something that almost looks flatter about the sapphire cluster portion of Anne’s brooch. That could easily be explained away by photography, and a closer view might offer clarification.
The second, though, is the fact that the late Queen herself wore the Marie Feodorovna brooch shortly after Anne’s appearance at the Team GB Ball, for an audience with the Sultan of Oman in December 2021 (pictured above). That doesn’t exclude the possibility that Anne borrowed the brooch, returned it to her mother, and then borrowed/inherited it again later. It’s just not how we normally saw the Queen’s jewels being handled.
Here’s a closer view of Anne wearing the brooch on Tuesday evening in Uganda. I think there are two distinct possibilities regarding the jewel. One is that it is indeed Empress Marie Feodorovna’s Sapphire Brooch after all, worn by Anne on both occasions and briefly returned to her mother in the interim. A close-up view would help confirm or refute that theory, as would input from the palace. The second possibility is that it’s a different brooch, possibly a close copy of the original. We’d probably need palace confirmation to confirm/refute that theory as well.
It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Anne to possess a piece of jewelry very similar to one also owned by her mother. For years, she’s been wearing a diamond and sapphire cluster brooch that closely resembles Prince Albert’s Brooch. (It may actually be a copy of the Albert Brooch.) Interestingly, on the occasion shown above—a party to celebrate Anne’s 50th birthday at Windsor Castle in 2000—she wears the cluster brooch with the diamond, sapphire, and pearl choker necklace that also belonged to Empress Marie Feodorovna. (It certainly would make sense if Anne had been given the Marie Feodorovna brooch to “complete” the suite of Marie Feodorovna’s sapphire jewels.)
One of my favorite things about the November 2000 party appearance was that the late Queen wore the original Albert Brooch for the same event: an almost identical pair of sapphire and diamond clusters for mother and daughter. So what do you think? In the photographs from this week’s dinner in Uganda, is Anne wearing the Empress Marie Feodorovna Sapphire Brooch? Or do we have another jewelry copy situation on our hands?