The long summer of celebrations surrounding Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee continues with a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace, which showcases some of the most personal pieces from the Queen’s jewellery collection – many of which have never been on public display before. From dazzling wedding gifts to milestone birthday presents and her childhood crown, these are the pieces that remain closest to the Queen’s heart and paint a vivid picture of her illustrious 70-year reign.
The exhibition, entitled Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession, is being held as part of the Palace’s Summer Opening of the State Rooms and celebrates the start of Her Majesty’s historic reign by centring around 24 official portraits of the Queen taken by Dorothy Wilding, the first official female royal photographer. The photographs were taken in February 1952, just 20 days after the Queen ascended to the throne, and have gone on to become some of the most enduring images of the Royal Family, as they form the basis for the profiles of Her Majesty that we see on stamps and coins to this day. In the exhibition, Wilding’s original hand-finished prints are shown alongside items of jewellery worn by the Queen for the sittings, some of which have never been on public display before.
Many of the jewels on show hold deep personal connections for the monarch. Perhaps one of the most captivating is a simple gilt crown that was made in May 1937 to fit the head of the then 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth, who wore it at the coronation of her father King George VI. Completely free from gems or embellishments, the object marks the historic moment she became heir presumptive to the British throne.
The crown is shown alongside some of the Queen’s most recognisable coronets and tiaras, including The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara, which Queen Mary gave her grand-daughter as a wedding present in 1947. Since then, the Queen has worn this particular tiara more frequently for royal duties than any of her other jewels – indeed, she’s had so much practice with tiaras that Princess Margaret was once quoted as saying that her sister was the only person who could place one on her head while running down the stairs.
Also among the collection are a sapphire and diamond Cartier bracelet, which was given to her by her beloved father King George VI as an 18th birthday present in 1944, as well as the South Africa necklace, gifted to Princess Elizabeth for her 21st birthday by the Government and Union of South Africa.
The exhibition also shows the spectacular Delhi Durbar necklace, which incorporates nine emeralds originally owned by Queen Mary’s grandmother, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as an 8.8 carat diamond pendant cut from the Cullinan diamond – the largest diamond ever found. Made as part of a suite of jewellery, the accompanying emerald and diamond earrings will also be on display for the first time – and many might be surprised to hear the Cambridge emeralds were originally won in a German lottery.
Another show-stopping piece is the Diamond Diadem the Queen wore on the day of her Coronation. Originally created for George IV’s extravagant coronation in 1821 and set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, Her Majesty has worn the impressive headpiece on her journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament since the first year of her reign.
All in all, it’s a dazzling display devoted to the Queen’s most personal keepsakes, as well as a celebration of a life lived in jewels.
Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession will be on display at Buckingham Palace until 2 October 2022
Main image: Dorothy Wilding, HM Queen Elizabeth II, 26 February 1952
The Queen wears The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara.