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Royal Jewels in Focus: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s Bandeau Necklace

The recent Spanish State Visit brought a glamorous surprise for admirers of the Duchess of Cambridge, as she donned a piece from Queen Elizabeth’s collection of jewels that had not been seen since the late 1980s. Known as the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Bandeau Necklace, this piece, like all of the Royal Collection, has an interesting history.

Silver and gold with individual rubies set within diamond flowers, the deep v-shape necklace includes a diamond hanging pendant at the bottom. During the State Banquet with the King and Queen of Spain, the Duchess wore the piece with the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, the Princess of Wales’s Collingwood pearl and diamond earrings and a pale pink Marchesa gown.

In 1947, the necklace was given to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift from her parents and was among many pieces contained in what was known as the Greville Bequest – a significant collection of jewels given to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth by the Hon. Mrs Ronald Greville upon her death in 1942. Greville was a good friend of Queen Mary and the Royal Family, so much so that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth honeymooned at her estate, Polesdon Lacey in 1923.

Then Princess Elizabeth wearing the necklace in 1950 in Canada. Photo: National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010955850 via Flickr

Mrs Greville had no children or close family to bequeath her property to upon her death in 1942, thus leaving her estate to charities, close friends, staff members and some of the royals with whom she was close. At the time, it was said that many anticipated her to leave Polesden Lacey to the Royal Family. However, it was left to the National Trust. She opted to leave the Royal Family gifts of jewels and money. Her gifts included the diamond and ruby necklace, a diamond necklace reportedly having belonged to Marie Antoinette, diamond chandelier earrings and a monetary gift to Princess Margaret.  Incidentally, Mrs Greville also left monetary gifts to Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and Sonia Keppel, the grandmother of the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Queen wore the necklace on many occasions as a younger woman, during her 1951 tour of Canada, for example. The necklace complimented the strapless and v-neck gowns she wore at the time. As she has gotten older and her fashion has evolved, she had the necklace shortened as her necklines became higher. She wore it last during the State Opening of Parliament in 1983 and an Official Portrait in 1987.

With the Duchess of Cambridge continuing to wear more and more pieces from The Queen’s collection, this was undoubtedly a welcomed surprise to many, with many anticipating her to wear it at occasions to come.

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