Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Question: The Queen's Pearls

Can you tell me the history of the Queen's pearls?

With the exception of State dinners, if you see the Queen on any public occasion, she will rarely be without her pearl-and-diamond button earrings, a brooch, and her pearls (she wears all three in the photo at right).

The Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, received her first set of pearls, a triple strand, as a young girl. They were given to her in 1935 by her grandfather, King George V, to celebrate his Silver Jubilee. Today, she usually wears these pearls in the daytime.

The other pearl necklaces, that I'm aware of at least, are the ones she received as a wedding gift from her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The one string is said to have belonged to Queen Anne, last of the Stuart monarchs. The other to Queen Caroline, wife of King George II. She wore these necklaces on her wedding day in 1947, and they are now worn on informal evening occasions.

An oft told anecdote about the pearls. Having received them as a wedding gift, they were put on display at St. James Palace, along with the rest of the gifts. As she was getting ready for her wedding, she wanted to wear the pearls and realized they were still on display. Shortly before the Princess was to leave for Westminster Abbey, she sent John Colville, her Private Secretary, to collect the pearls.

He rushed down the seemingly endless corridor, hurtled down the Grand Staircase, and ended up in the quadrangle, where he commandeered King Haakon VII of Norway's large Daimler. Although traffic had been stopped since early morning, the crowds were so deeply packed across Marlborough Gate, that the car, even flying its royal flag, had to halt while he fought his way through on foot. When he arrived at the Friary Court entrance to the State Apartments there was only an elderly janitor to listen to his odd story, but he finally allowed Colville upstairs to explain his mission to the men who were guarding the 2,660 presents. The dilemma was: if they accepted is story and he turned out to be a clever jewel thief who had made off with the Crown pearls, they were in trouble; but if they refused to let him have the necklace and it all turned out to be true, they were equally in trouble. There was no one to consult; time was running out, and only after they found his name in the wedding programme as one of the Household officials in attendance on the Princess did they allow him to remove the pearls. *

Thanks for your question!

© Marilyn Braun 2007


The Queen's Jewels by Leslie Field *
The Royal Jewels by Suzy Menkes
Official Site of the British Royal Family

More on royal jewels:

Jewels fit for a Queen
Camilla's Tiara

Royal Engagement Rings
Royal Focus: The Poltimore Tiara

Photo: Camera Press/Snowdon


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your "pearls of wisdom." Also, I was wondering which of her many tiaras was the Queen wearing at the White House dinner on Monday?

Marilyn Braun said...

Hi Frec,

The Queen is wearing the 'Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara'.

You can read about it in the article Jewels Fit for a Queen

Anonymous said...

this is a very informative article. however, you wrote on your piece that King George VI was her grandfather. i think you meant King George V. looking forward to reading more about the royals.

Marilyn Braun said...

Ooops!!! Thanks for catching that!

I have corrected it now. :o)