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The jewels that caused a rift between Queen Victoria and her uncle Ernest

Although Queen Victoria inherited the throne in the United Kingdom, and during her reign, the British Empire gained a vast amount of territory, she was still unable to inherit the throne of Hanover as a woman.

Her uncle, Ernest-August, became King of Hanover instead. And Victoria and Ernest-August had a lengthy battle over the Crown Jewels that once belonged to Queen Charlotte. 

When Queen Victoria inherited the throne in 1837, it was the first time in over 120 years that different people held the British and Hanoverian thrones. Salic Law prevented Victoria from inheriting the throne. Thus, her uncle inherited it. They would have a complicated relationship after 1837.

Ernest-August refused to vacate his St. James’s Palace apartments, claiming that they were his for life after his father, King George III, granted them to him. He also refused to allow Prince Albert to take precedence over him. And most notably, Ernest-August demanded that Queen Charlotte’s jewels be returned to Hanover.

When Charlotte died in 1818, she specified in her will that her jewels go to the “House of Hanover.” The issue is that both the British throne and Hanoverian dynasties were both the “House of Hanover.” 

Victoria largely refused to give up the jewels. In 1857, it was reported that the jewels might be worth up to 1,000,000 GBP. Others estimated their worth between 100,000-200,000 GBP. In any case, many in Britain felt that they should stay in Britain as they had been purchased with English funds. 

The Queen took the opportunity to wear the jewels whenever possible in front of her uncle, including her favourite pearl strand necklace.

After several different commissions, it was decided that the jewels did belong to Hanover in 1857. However, Ernest-August died in 1851, and his heirs had given up claims on many of the pieces. They only received Queen Charlotte’s nuptial crown and a few other small diamond pieces.

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