When the Duchess of Cambridge yesterday afternoon stepped out of the Royal Canadian Air Force plane that had carried the family from London to Victoria, British Columbia, a dazzling piece of jewellery with great historical significance could be seen prominently displayed against the royal blue backdrop of her Jenny Packham dress. It was of course none other than the Queen Mother’s Canadian Maple Leaf brooch, a nod to the host country’s most widely recognized national symbol.
In the form of a leaf of the Canadian Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), the national emblem of Canada, it was given to Queen Elizabeth by King George VI, to mark the State Visit to Canada in 1939. It was first seen on the Queen’s lapel during the Atlantic crossing in the liner Empress of Australia, and appeared on many occasion throughout the tour and thereafter sometimes worn as a hat-badge.
The Queen loaned it to Princess Elizabeth for her first visit to Canada in 1951.
The Queen then inherited it upon her mother’s death in 2002, and in turn has since loaned it to the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge for her first visit to Canada with the Duke in July 2011 and now for this tour.
The brooch is a creation by jewellers Asprey & Co. and is made of brilliant and baguette-cut diamonds mounted in platinum. The maple leaf it represents is, of course, a traditional Canadian emblem, having been used as such since the 18th century. The Canadian flag currently in use, proclaimed by the Queen on 28 January 1965, features a single, highly-stylized red maple leaf at its centre. The maple leaf also features in both the flag of Ontario and the Royal Standard of Canada, making the brooch an eminently suitable choice for Canadian tours and, in general, for engagements with a Canadian connection.