We all know that the Queen has an amazing jewellery collection. But which are her favourite pieces?
I’m not talking about the Crown Regalia (more popularly known as the Crown Jewels) but her personal collection – made up of pieces that she has been given or inherited. The Queen has inherited pieces in her own right, and as Monarch – such pieces are known as Crown Jewellery and were left to the Crown by Queen Victoria as she thought them too special to leave them at risk of being sold or given away. But the astute royal watcher may have noticed that even with hundreds of pieces of jewellery to choose from, the Queen still appears in the same few pieces most of the time. Like us, she has her favourites. Let’s find out about them:
Queen Mary’s “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” Tiara
This is probably the Queen’s favourite tiara, she wears it more than any other on State Visits, at banquets and at all sorts of evening events. In 1893, the tiara was given by the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” as a wedding present to Princess May of Teck (the future Queen Mary, consort of King George V). The tiara as we know it now was slightly different then, and by 1920 Queen Mary had removed the nine large pearls that sat on diamond spikes around the top, replacing them with more diamonds. In 1947, Queen Mary gave the tiara to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present and the Queen has worn it ever since, perhaps because it has the advantage of being incredibly light.
The Queen Anne and The Queen Caroline Necklaces
These two, quite separate necklaces are always worn together, and were a wedding present to Princess Elizabeth from her father King George VI. On her wedding day, the pearls, like all her other wedding presents, were on display to the public at St James’s Palace when, half an hour before she was due to leave, the Princess decided she wished to wear them. The Princess’s Private Secretary, Sir John Colville, was dispatched to retrieve them. He raced out of Buckingham Palace and commandeered the first car he found, which happened to belong to the King of Norway, and fought through the crowds of people waiting outside. When he got to St James’s Palace, the police guarding the presents didn’t believe his story. Should they let him take the pearls? What if he was just a very clever thief? On the other hand, if they didn’t let him take them and he was telling the truth, they would be in trouble with the King! Eventually, having no one to ask, they found his name in the wedding programme, listed as an official to the Princess, and allowed him to take the pearls. He got them back to the Princess just in time. By the way, the two necklaces originally belonged to Queen Anne, the last Stuart monarch, and Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II. The Queen Caroline necklace was made up of her 50 best pearls from all her other necklaces. Both necklaces were left to the Crown by Queen Victoria, so technically cannot be given as presents at all!
The King George III Fringe Tiara
This was another piece of jewellery worn by the Queen on her wedding day. She also lent it to her daughter, the Princess Royal, to wear at her first wedding. It was made in 1830 as a necklace from diamonds that had belonged to George III and can be worn as such or as a tiara (how we most often see it today). This tiara / necklace is also a piece of Crown Jewellery and was involved in another pre wedding mishap. As the Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, was getting dressed for her wedding, the frame of the tiara snapped and it had to be hastily repaired by the court jeweller, who was rushed to his workroom with a police escort, Luckily, it was repaired in time, and it is a tiara still often worn by the Queen today.
The Queen’s Engagement Ring
Staying with the wedding theme, this is understandably another of the Queen’s favourite pieces worn on her wedding day. Prince Philip designed it himself and the eleven diamonds it contains, including the large three carat solitaire stone, all came from a tiara belonging to his mother, Princess Andrew of Greece. The remaining stones from the tiara were made into a bracelet, also designed by the Prince, and given to his bride as a wedding present. The engagement ring has proved to be rather useful for the Queen’s staff – when she is annoyed, she twists it round and round, a sign that her staff recognize immediately!
Queen Victoria’s Collet Necklace and Earrings
Another set belonging to the Crown rather than the Queen personally, these were originally made in 1858 and can be seen in Queen Victoria’s official 1897 Diamond Jubilee Portrait. The necklace, which originally added up to 161 carats but has since been shortened, has been worn by Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and our present Queen at their coronations. The Queen also often wears it at important evening events.
The King George IV State Diadem
This is technically a piece of Crown Regalia but is not always recognised as such. It is, however, probably the most well known piece of any jewellery worn by the Queen. As can be seen from its name, it was made for George IV, at his request, for his coronation in 1821 but it was never worn after he changed his mind at the last minute. It was actually worn for the first time by Queen Victoria at her coronation, and she wore it often for many years afterwards. It featured on the first postage stamp issued in 1840, and is now worn by the Queen on our current stamps, as well as being worn to her coronation and to every State Opening of Parliament she has attended.
The Queen’s Flower Basket Brooch
This is one of the Queen’s more personal favourites, given to her by her parents to mark the birth of Prince Charles in 1948. The Queen wore it a month later for his first official photograph and you can often see her wearing it nowadays.
The Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia’s Tiara
The final one of the three tiaras most often worn by the Queen, dates from around 1890 and in the Russian Revolution of 1917, it was safely hidden in a secret safe when the Grand Duchess fled the country. One of her loyal servants managed to rescue the tiara and remove it from the country. When the Grand Duchess died in 1920, the tiara went to her daughter, Princess Nicholas of Greece and was bought in 1921 by Queen Mary. She had the last fifteen of the Cambridge emeralds mounted as drops so that they could be interchanged with the pearls. The Queen inherited the tiara on Queen Mary’s death in 1953, and often wears the tiara with either the pearls or the emeralds, depending on which matches her evening dress!
So there we have it, a short tour around the Queen’s jewellery box. But amongst all this splendour, there is a set you will see the Queen wearing more than any other – her simple pearl necklace and earrings. You see, even with arguably the world’s greatest diamonds at her disposal, the Queen is an ordinary country woman at heart.This is probably the Queen’s favourite tiara, she wears it more than any other on State Visits, at banquets and at all sorts of evening events. In 1893, the tiara was given by the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland” as a wedding present to Princess May of Teck (the future Queen Mary, consort of King George V). The tiara as we know it now was slightly different then, and by 1920 Queen Mary had removed the nine large pearls that sat on diamond spikes around the top, replacing them with more diamonds. In 1947, Queen Mary gave the tiara to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present and the Queen has worn it ever since, perhaps because it has the advantage of being incredibly light.
Next time, jewellery favoured by other members of the Royal Family.