On a damp London morning, the Queen arrived at Westminster to open Parliament for the 61st time in her reign.
At the centre of a glittering cavalcade of pageantry, Her Majesty rode in the newly presented Diamond Jubilee state coach; its door handles each set with 130 Australian sapphires and 24 diamonds.
As the Queen ascended the steps of the Sovereign’s entrance, on her head glittered the George IV pearl and diamond diadem, now part of the Crown Jewels. Her Majesty wore it in 1952 for her first state opening of Parliament, and has continued to do so. The diadem was seen by the crowds in London as she rode to her Coronation in 1953, across the world on television, and by cinema audiences.
King George IV commissioned the diadem for his coronation in 1820 from the London jewellers Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. A dramatic, flamboyant monarch, who adored display, it was dwarfed by his large black velvet and ostrich feather hat! In a silver and gold setting, with 4 diamond crosses, the front one mounted with a central yellow diamond, between each cross a diamond bouquet of roses, thistles and shamrocks, all resting on a pearl and diamond base. All the British queens since Victoria have worn the diadem.
Her Majesty entered the Robing room before the ceremony, where the diadem was moved and replaced by the Imperial State Crown. This diamond-encrusted treasure, part of the Crown Jewels, contains St Edward’s sapphire and the 2nd Star of Africa – cut from the famous Cullinan diamond. The crown is only worn on 2 occasions, as the Sovereign leaves Westminster Abbey after the Coronation and at the State Opening of Parliament, before finally being placed on the Monarch’s coffin as they lie in state.
The Queen’s necklace has an historic story. When Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, the Daughters of the British Empire contributed between 1d and £1 to provide a suitable gift. Most of the sum was used for an equestrian statue of Prince Albert; the remainder was spent on the Jubilee necklace. On Queen Victoria’s death it was left to the Crown. It was made by the London Company of Carrington and is composed of graduated diamond and pearl-centred trefoil links. The large centre – with a hanging pearl drop and topped by a crown – is detachable, Queen Mary would wear it as a brooch, but the Queen has never chosen to do so.
The pearl drop earrings are again Crown Jewellery presented by Prince Albert to his beloved Victoria.
The Duchess of Cornwall was present for the second time and wore a much loved tiara of the late Queen Mother’s. The “Greville Tiara” was made for Mrs Ronnie Greville, a wealthy, close friend of the then Duke and Duchess of York. It was made by Boucheron in 1921 from Mrs Greville’s own stones, designed as three layers of honeycomb diamond set panels. On her death in 1942 Mrs Greville bequeathed all her jewellery to Queen Elizabeth with her “loving thoughts”.
In 1953 the tiara was embellished by Cartier, by adding diamond set trefoils and a central marquise diamond to create height. The Queen Mother wore it for 60 years, and in 2002 it was inherited by the Queen, who has loaned it to her daughter-in-law.
Both the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall wore magnificent family jewels, befitting a dazzling state occasion.
Rosemary McIver F.G.A
Hancocks Gem Specialist