Yesterday, we talked all about the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, which took place 100 years ago this week. Today, we’ve got a closer look at some of the sparkling jewels given to the future Queen Mum to celebrate her royal transformation. Many of the jewels are still being worn a century later!
Numerous gifts were offered by family members, friends, and members of the public to the Duke of York and his new bride, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, in April 1923, including several significant pieces of jewelry. The gifts were arranged on tables in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace, and guests attending a pair of parties thrown by King George and Queen Mary during the wedding celebrations were able to view the display. Queen Mary personally supervised the arrangement of the presents on tables and in glass cases. American newspapers noted that the value of the wedding gifts was in the neighborhood of a million dollars.
On more than one occasion, Bertie and Elizabeth personally appeared at the palace for wedding gift presentations from various organizations. Most of the bejeweled presents, however, came from closer family members or friends. These were displayed, and some were also photographed and illustrated for newspaper publication. Above is a picture of the tiara gifted to Elizabeth by her father, the Earl of Strathmore. Acquired from Catchpole & Williams, the antique nineteenth-century tiara was described as “a diamond bandeau of five roses, with diamond sprays between, forming separate brooches.”
Elizabeth wore the tiara for a set of official portraits not long after her royal wedding. She styled it in the prevailing ’20s fashion, wearing it low across her brow as a bandeau. The tiara could also be worn more traditionally on a frame atop the head, and there’s at least one photograph of Elizabeth wearing it in that setting. The Strathmore Rose Tiara surely held sentimental memories of Elizabeth’s family, but it never became one of her most-worn tiaras. We saw it most recently in photographs taken for The Queen’s Diamonds in 2012.
From her mother, Elizabeth received a diamond and pearl sautoir necklace set in platinum. The necklace also came from Catchpole & Williams. The necklace featured a pearl tassel pendant, a trendy accessory for the time. The British press praised the necklace, with newspapers calling it “very handsome.”
Hunting down photographs of Elizabeth wearing the pearl tassel sautoir is a difficult task. She wore it at least once in public, at the wedding of Prince Paul of Serbia and Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark in Belgrade in October 1923. You’ll be able to spot the top of the tassel resting just above her hands in this photograph from the wedding.
Lady Strathmore also gave her daughter a pearl and diamond bracelet with a floral design.
King George V offered his new daughter-in-law a complete parure of jewels, suitable for wearing during the many formal appearances she would be required to make at court. The jewels were described as “a tiara, a necklace, a brooch, earrings, and hair ornaments,” set with “splendidly cut diamonds and very pale Persian turquoises.” You’ll often see this set called both the “Persian Turquoise Parure” (a reference to the turquoises) and “the Triumph of Love Parure” (a reference to the romantic, triumphal design motifs incorporated in the tiara).
Here’s a look at the necklace from the set, which features sixteen pearl and diamond pendants.
And here’s the brooch and the earrings from the suite. Elizabeth sometimes used the earrings as pendants on her pearl necklaces.
The tiara from the turquoise set originally had a kokoshnik shape, but Elizabeth had the top row of diamonds removed from the jewel. She wears it in this new shape in the photograph above, which the photo agency tells us was taken in the 1930s. (Note that she’s placing her tiara higher on her head here.) Elizabeth’s jewels aren’t frequently described in court reports from her early years as a duchess. Much more attention was paid to her clothing in the published descriptions from those events. But we know that she wore these turquoises often in the years before her husband’s accession, both for events at Buckingham Palace and abroad, like a ball held at the British Pavilion in Brussels in the summer of 1935.
Eventually, Elizabeth handed over the turquoises to her younger daughter, Princess Margaret. She wore the set for years, including appearances at state banquets, receptions, and royal film premieres.
Here’s a look at the brilliant color of the turquoises from a 1993 appearance during the Portuguese state visit to London. The turquoise parure hasn’t been seen since Margaret’s death two decades ago in 2002, but many of us are hoping that the set is still in the palace vaults today.
Queen Mary also gave a set of blue-hued jewels to her new daughter-in-law. The necklace, bracelet, ring, and brooches were set with diamonds and sapphires. The press called the necklace, with its fringe design, “splendid.”
It seems, however, that the new Duchess may not have found the necklace entirely to her liking. To my knowledge, there are no photographs of Elizabeth wearing the sapphire and diamond fringe necklace. There’s been speculation online for years that she may have had it dismantled (or at least reconfigured) to make a sapphire and diamond sautoir, perhaps the one that she wears here for a reception at the Guildhall in December 1933.
The large brooch, though, was right up Elizabeth’s alley. She wore it for her entire life, from the early days of her marriage to her twilight years. Above, she wears it for Trooping the Colour in June 1951, not long before George VI’s death.
And here, Elizabeth wears it again for Trooping the Colour almost exactly four decades later, in June 1991. She’s riding in a carriage with Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Harry.
The small sapphire cluster brooch from the suite is still around, too. It was worn often by Princess Margaret and can now be seen on her daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto.
The Duke of York’s elderly grandmother, Queen Alexandra, was able to attend the wedding and several of the celebrations ahead of the day. At a Buckingham Palace luncheon a few days before the ceremony, Alexandra gave Elizabeth this diamond, pearl, and amethyst sautoir necklace, with a large heart-shaped pendant ornament. The necklace was accompanied by a note written by Alexandra in her distinctive handwriting: “For my dear future grand daughter Elisabeth from her affte Grand Mother.” (“Affte” is an abbreviation for affectionate.)
Elizabeth wore the necklace during the mourning period that followed Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925, but no photographs of those events were published. More recently, a shortened version of the sautoir was worn by Queen Camilla in October 2012, when she was Duchess of Cornwall, for a royal film premiere.
It’s upside-down, but you’ll still be able to see the details of the petite diamond and sapphire brooch given to Elizabeth by the groom’s aunt, the Princess Royal, and her younger daughter, Princess Maud of Fife. The papers declared that the brooch was “very fine.”
In the years following her royal wedding, Elizabeth liked to pin the diamond and sapphire brooch to the upturned brim of her hats. She wears the brooch on her hat in this style in this photograph, taken in December 1927.
The Evening Chronicle reported that, on the morning of April 19, 1923, Bertie and Elizabeth held an audience at Buckingham Palace with the Lord Mayor of London, the sheriffs and members of the City Corporation, and representatives of other organizations from the City of London: “The Lord Mayor read an address of congratulation upon their approaching marriage, and asked acceptance of a gift, privately subscribed for by the citizens of London, including a diamond-and-pearl necklace and other articles. The Duke, on behalf of himself and Lady Elisabeth, warmly thanked the Lord Mayor and expressed his deep gratitude.”
The necklace was another sautoir, made of seed pearls with elaborate diamond designs and a large pearl drop. The jewel was made by Carrington. The Graphic described the piece at the time of the 1923 wedding as “consisting of five rows of pearls, mounted on fine platinum wire, with two flexible diamond side-pieces, and diamond triangular end-piece, to which is attached a large pearl drop.”
Elizabeth often wore the pearl drop separately with other necklaces, but in October 1923, she wore the full sautoir during the couple’s sojourn to Belgrade. The occasion was the christening of Prince Peter of Serbia, the son of King Alexander I and Queen Marie, an event that was held the same weekend as the wedding of Prince Paul and Princess Olga.
This delicate diamond bow brooch was a gift to Elizabeth from Mrs. Arthur James—Elizabeth’s godmother, Mary Venetia Cavendish-Bentinck. The eccentric heiress and socialite was related to Elizabeth through the Countess of Strathmore, who was born Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. Venetia was also a close friend and companion of King Edward VII. Notably, in 1948, six years after the Greville Bequest, Venetia bequeathed jewels to Elizabeth as well (a “gold chain with diamond drops surmounted by rubies” and a “large diamond brooch, Japanese design, with large stone in the middle”).
Here’s the Queen Mother wearing the James Bow Brooch on Remembrance Day in November 1983. She liked to use the brooch to secure the stems of her remembrance poppies.
More recently, the brooch has been worn by Queen Camilla. Here, the then-Duchess of Cornwall wears the brooch for her father’s memorial service in 2006.
There were other bejeweled gifts on display as well, including a cabochon ruby and diamond ring from Cora, Countess of Strafford. Cora was the wealthy American widow who had married the 4th Earl of Strafford in 1898 (who died in an accident just a few months later). Her first husband, Samuel J. Colgate, died and left her a fortune via his personal stake in the family soap company.
Elizabeth also received a “flexible diamond bracelet” from the 2nd Baron Revelstoke, who was the senior partner at Barings Bank.
And here’s three more bejeweled gifts. The diamond and ruby tie pin from the elderly Lady Laking, daughter-in-law of royal physician Sir Francis Laking, was a present for Bertie. (Lady Laking’s late husband, Sir Guy Laking, is the one that some have suggested might be the real biological father of King Olav V of Norway.) But the diamond bird brooch (from the Countess of Moray) and the onyx and diamond pin (from the Earl and Countess of Lisburne) were for Elizabeth.
Here’s Elizabeth wearing that onyx and diamond pin from Lord and Lady Lisburne on the brim of her hat during a visit to the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1925.
And finally, of course, there were bejeweled gifts from the groom. With a dash of help from Queen Mary, Bertie gave his bride an heirloom brooch, the Duchess of Teck’s Flower Brooch, and a modern diamond and pearl necklace with a meander and festoon design, purchased from Garrard.
The brooch, pinned here at Elizabeth’s shoulder in an early royal portrait, comes from Queen Mary’s family. It became one of Elizabeth’s best-loved and most-worn royal jewels, right from the beginning of her marriage. (She loved brooches with pendants.) She wore it frequently for both daytime and evening events.
After Elizabeth’s death in 2002, the brooch was inherited by her elder daughter, Queen Elizabeth II. She wore it for at least one portrait, which was used for the cover of an issue of the Radio Times in the Diamond Jubilee year of 2012.
As for the modern diamond and pearl necklace that Bertie gave Elizabeth—well, that jewel wasn’t long for the royal world. Apparently the design didn’t suit Elizabeth’s taste, because just six months after the wedding, she returned to Garrard and asked them to dismantle the piece and make something new with the materials. The “something new” was a diamond and pearl tiara with a lotus flower (or papyrus) design. Elizabeth wears the new tiara here in a 1920s portrait—note the “low across the brow” bandeau positioning again—along with pearls and pieces from the Persian Turquoise Parure.
The tiara was later worn by Elizabeth’s younger daughter, Princess Margaret, who wore it often for official occasions (like this reception in the Netherlands in 1965).
Today, the Lotus Flower Tiara is worn by another future queen consort, the current Princess of Wales. We recently saw her wear it for the Diplomatic Reception in December 2022.