Friday, March 27, 2009

Question from Jenna - Royal Jewels

Is any of the Royal Jewelry ever kept or are they always remade into other pieces of jewelry reusing only the stones? Such as are all the crowns, bracelets, necklaces, pins and rings kept but rejeweled or are new pieces made to suit the new Queens or Kings? And another question..... what articles of jewelry are worn by Kings today other than crowns?

8 comments:

Elizabeth M. said...

There is a wonderful book by Leslie Field called THE QUEEN'S JEWELS, which details the history of many of the more famous jewels worn by Queen Elizabeth II. Apart from the Crown Jewels kept in the Tower of London, the Queen wears earrings, brooches, necklaces, and tiaras. many of these were owned by Queen Victoria and left to the crown for the use of all future queens. For instance, the brooch Prince Albert gave her the day before their wedding--a large sapphire surrounded by diamonds--was left by Victoria to the crown for the use of all future queens. In addition, members of the royal family receive jewels on occasions like visits to different countries, christening ships, etc. other jewels have been handed down or inherited. Queen Mary had a magnificent jewel collection, and was very specific about who should receive it after her death. The diamond and pearl tiara Princess Diana wore so often was made for Queen Mary before the first World War, and handed down to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth, who gave it to Diana as a wedding gift.
There are several pieces of jewelry that were made by resetting the stones from much older pieces, as well. For instance, Queen Alexandra was given a suite of jewels set with opals by Queen Victoria as a wedding gift. Alexandra seemed to be of the belief in the tale that opals were bad luck, and when she became queen, had the suite reset with rubies.
The famous La Peregrina pearl. given to Mary Tudor by her husband Phillip II as a wedding gift, went back to Spain after her death, and after changing hands many times, is today owned by Elizabeth Taylor, whose then-husband Richard Burton bought it in the late 1960s for only $37000. She had it reset as the pendant on a necklace of diamonds and rubies.

PhD Historian said...

I second Elizabeth's recommendation of Leslie Field's The Queen's Jewels. It is a fascinating book.

But if I may backtrack to Jenna's question and assume that she is referring specifically to jewels worn by the Tudor monarchs ....

Jewels from the Tudor period tended not to survive intact, most of them being remade as you describe. Only a few pieces have survived intact, such as the famous Armada Jewel (which can be seen at London's V&A Museum), Mary Stuart's rosary, and a handful of others. I am not aware of any item of jewelry from among the current Crown Jewels or the private royal collection that is an intact jewel from the Tudor era.

What articles are worn by Kings today other than crowns? Well, in modern western culture, men do not generally wear jewelry in the form of bracelets, necklaces, pins, etc., though they do wear rings and crowns. So the list is pretty short for kings.

Male monarchs do wear crowns, of course, and those are pretty significant "jewels." Actually, the diamond diadem (open crown) usually worn by Elizabeth II when on parade on her way to the state opening of Parliament and that is seen in her portrait on older UK coinage was originally made for King George IV, but it has not been worn by any king since the 1830s.

From among the central Crown Jewels, kings wear the armills, or bracelets of sincerity and wisdom, but only at the coronation. They also wear the coronation ring, but again usually only at the coronation. Technically, the gold spurs are considered "jewels," and they too are worn or touched by male monarchs only at the coronation.

Apart from the coronation, kings wear symbols of various orders of knighthood, all of which are jeweled. The badges of the Order of the Garter, the Order of the Bath, and the Order of the Thistle are all sometimes set with diamonds and other precious stones, especially the badges intended for formal evening wear (badges worn with day-wear uniforms are not jeweled). The collars of the Orders are solid gold and sometimes set with pendants, such as the Garter "George," that may be enamelled and set with stones.

Kings may wear a wedding band, plus a signet ring on the fifth finger. Prince Charles is famous for always fiddling with his signet ring. And they wear cufflinks, often jeweled, as well as watches, usually very expensive ones. But beyond that, it's left to the women to wear the really fancy, expensive, and sometimes elaborate tiaras, earrings, necklaces, pins, brooches, bracelets, rings, family orders, etc.

As a man who loves stones, I think it's all terribly sexist ... even "unnatural," since male animals are usually the most showy and colorful!

Marilyn R said...

The actual Crown Jewels are not altered at all, with the possible exception of the Imperial State Crown (the one with the Black Prince's ruby, the Confessor's sapphire etc)which has to be comfortable when worn for the State Opening of Parliament. It was reset, to the same design, in a new frame for Edward VII because his head was larger than Queen Victoria's, and various adjustments have been made for subsequent monarchs. The coronation ring might also have to be resized.

There is an enormous pool of well-known royal heirlooms, such as the tiara mentioned by Elizabeth M and worn by Princess Diana, which are 'given' as birthday presents and wedding gifts, but which are expected to be returned to the family when the person dies. There was controversy over some of the items which the Duke of Windsor held for his lifetime and which would normally be handed back but were sold at auction - including an item purchased by Elizabeth Taylor.

These items are sometimes altered as fashions change - Queen Mary gave the then Princess Elizabeth a famous diamond tiara topped with pearls as a wedding present; over the years these have been replaced by diamonds.

I lecture on this subject and keep up with Sotheby's catalogues - a tiara belonging to the private collection of Queen Alexandra was sold just before Christmas.

The Leslie Field book is lovely, as is the stunning similarly titled QUEENS' JEWELS by
Vincent Meylan, which deals with the royal families of Europe (including the Romanovs)and also the royal jewels of Iran. Meylan discusses whether Elizabeth Taylor or Queen Sophia has La Peregrina - both ladies claim to possess the real thing...

Jenna said...

I thank all of you so much for the information you have given and look forward to reading THE QUEENS JEWELS, by Leslie Field.

PhDHistorian was correct in assuming that I was mainly interested in Tudor jewelry since the Tudor period fascinates me, however, I am also interested in finding out what is the oldest, intact, piece(s) that still exists that have passed down through the British Monarchs..

I have read how over the centuries royal jewelry has been reset and how large stones have been broken down into smaller ones. That seems a little sad to me that history doesn't have the pristine historical items that were actually worn by the KIngs and Queens who originally owned them. One would think that is the purpose in the Crown Jewels being kept by the sovereign. Wouldn't they be considered historical artifacts that should be protected and kept in their original form? And don't they really belong to the people?

I am sorry if my questions seem simple minded or elementary. I am new at this but totally enamored with it all. I am sure there are others just like me. Thanks to this site and to the wonderful people who blog here, I have learned so much and now have a long list of books that I can't wait to get my hands on.

Marilyn R said...

Never be afraid to ask questions.

The oldest stone is probably that from the ring of Edward the Confessor who died in 1066. There is a video on YouTube of the Queen talking about the Imperial State Crown which contains the oldest and most precious stones, and some huge pearls thought to have belonged to Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
If you Google Imperial State Crown you will find

Gallery
The Crown Jewels. www.royal.gov.uk

and below it

Video: Queen Elizabeth Presents the Imperial State Crown.

Remember that the English royal regalia was broken up after the execution of Charles I in 1649; jewels were sold and then bought back after the Restoration. It is possible that the very heavy solid gold St Edward's Crown, used only briefly for the crowning ceremony, is a survivor and it has been suggested that it could have belonged to Henry VIII, or Richard II.

The story of the Scottish regalia, the Honours of Scotland, reads like a novel. The medieval crown, seen on a 1503 portrait of James IV, was remodelled by his son, the father of Mary Queen of Scots in 1540; the Sceptre, a gift from the Pope in 1494 and the Sword of State from 1507 were first buried under a church floor and later walled-up in Edinburgh Castle to stop the naughty English getting their hands on them and were not rediscovered until 1818. They are now on display in the castle.

PhD Historian said...

Jenna, to answer your very logical question about jewels belonging "to the people" :

That is a fine line that many people, especially Americans, sometimes have difficulty understanding. In the US, for example, gifts given to important public officials (President, Vice President, Secretary of State, etc) and their wives by non-relatives are usually considered gifts to the nation. All public officials are required by law to report every gift they receive, no matter how large or small. Thus the scandal years ago over Nancy Reagan accepting and keeping gifts of designer clothing. Most of the gifts given end up in the Smithsonian or on display in some public building such as the White House. The receiving official does not "take it home" when he leaves office. The gifts become the property of the nation.

That is not the case in Great Britain. The royal family often receives lavish gifts that become their personal property. When George V and Queen Mary attended the Delhi Durbar in 1911, they were given massive amounts of jewels, especially diamonds, by maharajahs and other potentates of the Indian kingdoms, most of which Mary kept as her private property. The famous Cullinan Diamond, which yielded nine large cut stones, was a birthday gift from the people of the Transvaal (South Africa) to George V on his 66th birthday. George then gave the two largest stones to the nation, but the remainder became the personal property of Queen Mary and now belong to the present queen. Elizabeth sometimes wears the Cullinan III and IV as a brooch, known as "Granny's Chips." I actually saw here wearing it once at a Trooping of the Colour. Similarly, when Diana married Charles, she received some nearly priceless jewelry from several foreign heads of state, especially from the Arab states. Most of those items became her private property ... more or less.

I say "more or less" because their is also the concept of the gift being "held in trust for the nation" by the recipient. The presumption is that the Royal Family will continue working on behalf of the nation throughout their lives, therefore they are "allowed" to "keep" the jewels given to them, and to pass them on to the next generation, because the Royal Family, "the Family Firm," is essentially a corporation doing a job and the jewels are one of the tools needed to do that job. Were the monarchy ever to be abolished in the UK, there would no doubt be a lengthy legal battle over which jewels were property of the state, which were "held in trust," and which were the personal private property of the individual royal.

The members of the Royal Family do still have massive collections of priceless jewels that are fully and legally their own private property. In addition to the Cullinan diamonds mentioned above, Queen Mary purchased with her own money a large collection of jewels from the exiled royal families of Russia and Eastern Europe that had fled to London in the wake of the communist revolutions during and after WWI. Queen Victoria also purchased large amounts of jewels (and more famously, art) that are now the private property of various members of the Royal Family. The Royal Family's private jewel collection is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

But to return to your original concern ... the notion that any jewels, even the Crown Jewels, might be the property of the nation rather than the property of the state and therefore protected as historical artifacts ... that is a very modern concept. In the Tudor and early Stuart periods, even the Crown Jewels themselves (crowns, sceptres, etc) were generally considered to be the property of the monarch, not the people or the nation. Oliver Cromwell began to change that when he broke up and sold off the crown jewels in the 1650s, but state ownership did not become a solid concept until the mid-Hanoverian period.

So since the jewels were all considered to be the personal property of the monarch in the Tudor era, the kings and queens of that period were quite free to do as they chose with the jewels and stones. And preserving them as historical artifacts was far less important at the time than was using them to best advantage to display the wealth and power of the monarch. Sadly, "best advantage" sometimes meant breaking up a lovely piece and using the stones elsewhere.

(Can you tell that, like you, I am very interested in the history of jewelry? "LOL")

Marilyn R said...

Jenna
Sometimes needs must - Queen Henrietta Maria sold off some of the Crown Jewels to raise funds for her husband Charles I's cause, this might have included some of the Tudor pieces; and William the Conqueror apparently slept with them under his bed!
It always surprises me that royal jewels survive the hatred and anger unleashed in a revolution, but both Russia and Iran show that they can.

It takes a bit of the glamour away when you find that from Stuart times up till the early 20th century many of the stones were hired from the Crown Jewellers and replaced by paste copies after a coronation.

PhD - the Cullinan was given to Edward VII not George V. It was found at the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1905 and, weighing 3106 carats, or about 1⅓ pounds, is still the largest gem-quality diamond ever discovered. It was purchased by the Transvaal government, who presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907.

The King entrusted the cutting of the stone to Asscher's Diamond Co. of Amsterdam. On February 10th, 1908, Mr.I J Asscher made the first strike with the cleaver but the blade broke. The second time the stone split perfectly, but poor Mr Asscher fainted.
Further cleavings would produce nine major gems, 96 smaller brilliants, and 9.50 carats of unpolished pieces. In total more than half of the weight of the gem as found was lost in the cutting. The nine larger stones remain either in the British Crown Jewels or in the personal possession of the Royal Family.

The Transvaal Government had expected all of the stones to remain together in England in the Royal Collection but, somewhat tactlessly, King Edward kept only Cullinans I & II and let Asschers keep the rest as payment for the cutting; he then bought C VII for Queen Alexandra. The Transvaal very gallantly bought the rest of the stones from Asccher and presented them to the king.

I was at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace earlier this year and Cullinans III & IV were on display linked together as the brooch – absolutely breathtaking! If you are a Cullinan fan do try to get there.

PhD Historian said...

Marilyn R, thanks for the correction!