One of the most anticipated weeks of the royal year is finally here: it’s time for Royal Ascot! We had plenty of interesting jewels on display for the first day of the races, including a bejeweled tribute from Queen Camilla to two of the royal family’s biggest racing fans.
The King and the Queen arrived at Royal Ascot on Tuesday in the first carriage of the traditional royal procession, with racegoers applauding as they passed by.
King Charles was natty as always in his morning suit, complete with a watch chain and tie pin.
Speaking of that tie pin—it was an interesting one this time!
The diamond and blue enamel pin features a decorative letter A, surrounded by a diamond frame and topped by a diamond crown. I haven’t been able to match the royal monogram definitively here, but I’d guess that there are two prime candidates: Charles’s grandfathers, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI). If anyone successfully IDs this one, be sure to let me know!
Queen Camilla was elegant in cream for the first day of the races, wearing a coat and matching dress with eye-catching embroidery.
But her jewels were the most eye-catching of all. She wore her gold and diamond drop earrings, worn recently for her coronation, and a brooch from the collection of the late Queen Elizabeth II: the Courtauld Thomson Scallop-Shell Brooch.
This masterful brooch, which features a shell motif in diamonds studded with a single round pearl, was made in 1919 in London by the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co., Ltd. It was designed in part by Sir Courtauld Thomson, who was the son of a famous Scottish inventor. His sister, the writer Winifred Hope Thomson, ended up with the piece, and she left it to the Queen Mother in 1944. She treasured the piece, even wearing it on her 100th birthday.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the brooch from her mother in 2002, and it also became one of her favorite jewels. One of her earliest appearances in the brooch took place at Royal Ascot in June 2008. She wore the jewel at least five different times for the Ascot races.
She also, appropriately, used it often for events related to the memory of her mother. Here, in February 2009, she wears it for the unveiling of the Queen Mother’s statue on the Mall in London. She also chose the same brooch for a memorial service marking ten years since the deaths of the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret in 2012.
The shell brooch didn’t just look backward with the Queen, however: it also attended events related to the family’s future. Most notable among these was the wedding of Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in Edinburgh in 2011.
The brooch was a companion of the late Queen at lots of different kinds of events, from state visits and garden parties and regional visits to holiday celebrations. One of her final appearances in the brooch took place in December 2020, when she wore it for her annual Christmas broadcast. Now, it’s been passed on to the next generation of jewelry-wearers.
Riding in the first carriage of the procession with the King and Queen were their longtime friends, the Duke and Duchess of Wellington. The Duchess is a cousin of the monarch: born Princess Antonia of Prussia, she’s a great-granddaughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany (and, therefore, a great-great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria). Through her mother, she’s also a member of the Guinness family. Antonia has an impressive jewelry collection, and she wore an interesting pair of diamond hoop earrings for the races.
There were royal appearances in two more carriages in the procession as well. The Princess Royal rode in the second carriage alongside Queen Camilla’s sister, Annabel Elliot, and Annabel’s son and daughter-in-law, Sir Ben Elliot and Mary-Clare Winwood (daughter of the musician Steve Winwood).
Princess Anne wore jewels set with sapphires, pearls, rubies, gold, and diamonds for the first day of this year’s race meeting.
With her Jockey Club badge and Ascot nametag, she wore a modern brooch in the shape of a bird. (A rooster? I’m not great with birds.)
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were in the third carriage of the procession. Birgitte continued her excellent string of jewelry looks, wearing gorgeous diamonds and sapphires. I love how she’s used her sapphire and diamond ribbon clip brooches again as “buttons” on her coat!
There were a few more members of the Windsor family waiting in the parade ring. Here’s Princess Beatrice, who wore a floral dress with a pink headpiece and no jewelry of note.
Zara Tindall was elegant in pastels with a boater hat for the day. She accessorized with a pair of earrings with a modern gold stud and a honey-colored gemstone drop.
Zara’s brother, Peter Phillips, was there as well, with his girlfriend, Lindsay. She wore a pair of small pavé-set diamond earrings and a matching bracelet.
This is, of course, the first Royal Ascot since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. She was perhaps the event’s greatest champion, and there are several special tributes to her incorporated into this year’s race meeting. Here’s a look at one of them: a curated display of photographs by noted royal photographer Chris Jackson.
The images feature moments from the Queen’s long association with Royal Ascot, including pictures of her riding on the famous track and winning the Gold Cup.