Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother). (Image Source: Daily Express)
When we think of a Queen Mother, for most of us one woman comes to mind. Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) was the mother of Queen Elizabeth II (and Princess Margaret) and the wife of King George VI. The Queen Mother lived to be 101, and as such was a constant fixture of the monarchy for a part of the lives of most adults living today. She remained consistently popular among the people, even when there were less favorable views on the royals overall.
Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) enjoyed jewelry, as did her Mother-in-Law, Queen Mary. Many of the jewels in the current Royal Collection were passed down through the hands of these impressive monarchs. Even in early images, where the future Queen Mother was just a tiny girl, she was wearing what appear to be seed pearls. We have discussed before the thoughtful and meaningful choices that the British Royals make in their jewelry choices. In their roles, jewelry was a beautiful statement but could also be a tangible representation of the love of the mothers that came before them.
King George VI was not intending to become King, his older brother Edward was to fill the throne. When Edward abdicated to take up with his twice-divorced American mistress, the crown fell onto the next son’s head. Then the Duke and Duchess of York had intended for an entirely different life than what was thrust upon them. The Queen Mother was rarely seen without something fabulous as she stepped into her new role. In their early family pictures, she had her own tiny royal Princesses in pearls.
SHARING LOVE AND JEWELRY
Several roles fell upon the Queen Mother, but she seemed to take her role as mother and later grandmother very seriously. During the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II to her consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the “something borrowed” being used was the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara. This tiara was made of diamonds repurposed from a necklace that Queen Mary received as a wedding gift from Queen Victoria in 1893. Queen Mary had the diamonds reset into this beautiful tiara by E. Wolff & Co. for Garrard in 1919. In 1936, Queen Mary bequeathed the Fringe Tiara to her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, the then Duchess of York. There is some contest about which queen was the owner of the tiara in 1947 at the time of the wedding, but according to the Court Jeweller, it was Queen Elizabeth.
When Queen Elizabeth’s daughter, the then Princess Elizabeth, was getting married, she lent her the Fringe Tiara to wear with her bridal veil. When they placed the tiara on the princess’ head, it snapped in half! The clasp had been disengaged as the tiara was also made to be convertible, it could be worn as a necklace. It was not proving to be a simple fix, so the Queen remained calm and took it to a jeweler from Garrard to fix it. Queen Elizabeth II was much later to have said “‘I think he taped up the spring.” The future Queen Mother was the picture of reassurance, during a moment that could cause panic for any young bride. No one wants anything to go wrong on their wedding day, especially not something as sentimental as their “something borrowed.” Queen Elizabeth reminded her daughter “‘We have two hours and there are other tiaras.”
“Determined to wear this tiara on her special day, the princess’s tiara was rushed away by a police escort to the Garrard workshop, where it was repaired in haste and returned just in time for the ceremony,” recounts the House of Garrard on its website. The jeweler was able to make an adequate fix in time for the tiara to be worn down the aisle. You can see in the wedding photos that there is a slight imbalance between the fringes. That was the result of the hasty repair.
There is a lot of attention paid to the fact that the British Royal Family has historically kept most of their physical affection for each other private, and some people find that cold. I think of moments like this when it could have been incredibly stressful for the bride. She was about to be wed in a ceremony that was reported on and recorded to be broadcast to 200 million people the world over. Even without video, that is a daunting experience. Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) was on hand to help keep the environment collected. I have long felt like that is a real display of love and affection.
A BEJEWELED LEGACY
When the Queen Mother passed in 2002 at 101 years old, her jewels passed on to Queen Elizabeth II. The Fringe Tiara was worn by Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter Princess Anne, in her wedding (on loan from Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother). Princess Beatrice, granddaughter of the Queen also wore it for her wedding (on loan from Queen Elizabeth II). The Queen Mother set off a chain that would end up seeing several generations of women wearing the Fringe Tiara in moments of great importance. I hope that it somehow evokes a sense of her calming presence.
Queen Victoria gifted the necklace to Queen Mary. The diamonds from the necklace became part of the Fringe Tiara, and it was later passed on to Queen Mary’s Daughter in Law. Queen Elizabeth enjoyed it for many years and lent it to her daughter, then Princess Elizabeth, for her wedding. When Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) passed away, Queen Elizabeth II became the owner of the piece. Before Queen Elizabeth ( The Queen Mother) passed, Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter Princess Anne wore it for her wedding. Most recently it was worn by Princess Beatrice for her nuptials. Princess Beatrice was then wearing the diamonds that were a gift from her Great-Great-Great Grandmother to her Great-Great-Grandmother. I am over-romanticizing to be sure, but there is a lot of multi-generational Mother’s love in this piece. That alone is worth honoring.
Do you have jewelry that you have shared with your mother or child? We’d love to hear about it, please share in the comments.
Written by Kayti Kawachi