Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t an enormous fan of amethysts—her collection only included a few pieces of jewelry set with the royal purple gemstone. But the most prominent amethyst piece in her jewelry box, a brooch that belonged to Queen Victoria’s mother, was a firm favorite. Today, we’ve got a look at a rare appearance from the complete Kent Amethyst Brooch, during the late Queen’s 1991 state visit to the United States.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived for the start of their third American state visit on a sweltering morning in May 1991. They day’s events began at the White House, where the Queen joined President George H.W. Bush for a formal welcome ceremony. Here, the two heads of state participate in a military review.
One of the regiments included in the ceremony was the 3rd US Infantry, the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the US Army, dating to 1784. Known as “the Old Guard,” they’re the official ceremonial unit and escort to the president.
Both the monarch and the president made remarks during the ceremony on the White House lawn—but an infrastructure oversight led to a famous “gaffe” moment during the speeches.
When the Queen stepped forward to make her remarks, her face was hidden by the microphones. Only her large boater hat was visible to most of the people attending the gathering. A palace spokesperson noted that a special platform was usually used to accommodate the height differences between the two heads of state—Bush was 6’3″, and Elizabeth II was 5’4″—but “for some reason” it was not placed on the platform for the occasion. The moment became known as the “talking hat” speech.
After lunch with President and Mrs. Bush at the White House, the Queen and the Duke made their way to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Under rainy skies, the royal couple laid a wreath at the tomb. It was the third time they had visited the cemetery and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony, having previously done so in 1957 and 1976.
The Queen wore the same ensemble for both of the main events of the first day of the state visit: a purple and white jacket and skirt ensemble with black accessories, plus that famous purple and white boater-style hat.
She wore her usual pearl earrings and three-stranded pearl necklace with the ensemble, plus the Kent Amethyst Brooch, complete with its trio of diamond and amethyst pendants. The brooch is part of a larger suite of amethyst jewels that belonged to Princess Viktoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who was later the Princess of Leiningen and then the Duchess of Kent. She was the mother of Queen Victoria, who inherited the amethysts. They’ve been in royal hands ever since.
Here’s a closer look at the brooch from an appearance in 2019, showing off the unique hexagonal amethyst with its intricate diamond surround. You’ll be able to spot the bales here where the pendants can be attached to the bottom of the brooch.
The late Queen wore the brooch often, especially with clothing in various shades of purple.
But it was rarer to see her wear the brooch with its pendants. The larger setting of the brooch was perhaps thought to be more suitable for the start of a grand state visit to one of Britain’s most important international allies. In her speech at the White House, she shared, “Friendships need to be kept in good repair—not just the personal friendships between heads of state, but the more diffuse friendships between the governments and peoples of two nations. At your kind invitation, Mr. President, we are here to celebrate and to reaffirm that friendship.” In turn, Bush noted, “There will always be a Britain and that Britain will always be our friend.”