Only three weeks to go now until Coronation Day! Our series on the coronation jewels worn by queens regnant and consort continues today with a look at the splendid sparkle selected by Queen Mary in 1911.
More than 60 years elapsed between the 1838 and 1902 coronations, but the 1911 coronation took place less than nine years after the previous ceremony. King George V, the son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, was crowned alongside his wife, Queen Mary, at Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911. George had succeeded his late father as monarch on May 6, 1910, and the coronation took place a little over a year later.
George and Mary were crowned in front of 6,000 guests at Westminster Abbey. The ceremony was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson, who crowned both the King and the Queen during the service. Above, the coronation scene is depicted in a 1913 painting by John Henry Frederick Bacon, who also painted Edward VII’s coronation in 1902.
As had been the case for previous coronations, multiple artists captured the ceremony in paintings and illustrations. Sketches of various moments from the service were also published in the popular illustrated newspapers of the time. Here, a drawing captures the Archbishop placing St. Edward’s Crown on King George’s head.
But in 1911, there were also cameras in the Abbey. For the first time, photographs showed the action of the coronation as it happened. Sir John Benjamin Stone, a Conservative politician, was appointed official photographer of the proceedings, and several of his photographs still exist in the Royal Collection today.
Like Queen Adelaide and Queen Alexandra before her, 44-year-old Queen Mary was crowned during the coronation service in a small vignette that followed her husband’s crowning.
Mary wore an elaborate coronation gown and robes for the service. The dress was designed by Reville and Rossiter, a London couture house that had been appointed as Queen Mary’s court dressmakers. Their design was executed by Miss Jessie Charlotte Robinson, tutor at either the Royal School of Needlework or Princess Louise’s Needlework School.
The patterns embroidered on the gown included English roses, Scottish thistles, and Irish shamrocks. Oak leaves and acorns were also included in further tributes to England, while India was represented with lotus and Star of India flowers. The wave-like border at the hem of the dress represented the oceans that linked the various parts of the Empire. The thread used for the embroidery was metallic, leading to the dress’s tarnished appearance more than a century later.
On the day of the coronation, Queen Mary wore the gown and robes with major royal diamonds. She arrived for the coronation ceremony bare-headed.
After he crowned King George V, the Archbishop of Canterbury placed Queen Mary’s coronation crown on her head. This illustration of the moment was sketched by Fortunino Matania, the Italian artist who worked exclusively for The Sphere at the time.
The crown used for Queen Mary’s coronation was a brand-new jewel made for her by Garrard. Mary paid for the crown’s creation herself. More the two thousand diamonds were set in the crown’s silver and gold frame, including the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, the Cullinan III Diamond, and the Cullinan IV Diamond. A few years after the coronation, Queen Mary signed over ownership of the crown to the Royal Collection, hoping it would be worn by future queens consort for their coronations. (Queen Camilla is fulfilling that wish this May.)
Queen Mary also wore several more significant pieces of jewelry for her coronation, including some of Queen Victoria’s Heirlooms of the Crown.
She wore diamond earrings with what some have affectionately dubbed her “diamond turtleneck”—a whopping nine diamond necklaces stacked from chin to chest, with the Coronation Necklace at the bottom of the stack. In February 1911, a few months before the coronation, she had instructed Garrard to shorten the necklace; in The Queen’s Diamonds, Hugh Roberts notes that the two stones that were removed were then used to make a pair of diamond solitaire earrings. I believe those may be the earrings she wore for the coronation (though I believe that her collection did include at least one other pair of diamond solitaire earrings at this point).
She also pinned several diamond brooches to her bodice. The Cockade Brooch was closest to her neckline, worn with the side sections positioned at an angle. Below that, she wore four diamond bow brooches: the Kensington Bow Brooch and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Bow Brooches. On her wrists, she wore a pair of bracelets with four rows of diamond brilliants, linked together by clasps with the royal cyphers of King William IV and Queen Adelaide in diamonds on a blue enamel background.
Later, after the coronation festivities had concluded, Queen Mary posed for her official state portrait wearing her coronation gown, robes, and jewels. She added the garter, sash, and star of the Order of the Garter to her ensemble for the portrait, as well as the Diamond Diadem. Her crown rests on the table beside her.