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The Queen’s reign in jewels: The Delhi Durbar necklace

Throughout her 70 year reign, The Queen has worn hundreds of pieces of jewelery with some making appearances more than others. The Delhi Durbar necklace is perhaps one of the most famous pieces Her Majesty has worn throughout her reign.

The Queen has worn it on many important state occasions including the historic State Dinner for the President of the Republic of Ireland in 2014 and during her last official overseas visit to Malta where she wore it at the dinner held as part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. As well as being one of the most magnificent necklaces in her collection, it also has an interesting family history.

In 1817, just a few years after George III had marked his Golden Jubilee, his granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales, died in childbirth. Her son was stillborn. Charlotte had been second in line to the throne and her death resulted in widespread public mourning and a dramatic succession crisis. For George III had no other legitimate grandchildren at that time.

His heir was his dissolute eldest son, then Prince Regent, whose marriage was in tatters. The remaining unmarried sons of George III headed off to find wives. In 1818, the king’s seventh son, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge married the young German princess, Augusta of Hesse-Kassel. During time in her native land, Augusta bought raffle tickets for a state-sponsored charity lottery. She ended up winning and went home with about 40 cabochon emeralds. Some were made into a necklace, others remained unset but they all eventually passed to her daughter, Mary Adelaide, mother of Queen Mary. Mary Adelaide bequeathed the gems to her son, Prince Francis.

The Prince had an untimely death in 1910 and it turns out he left all the jewels he inherited to his mistress, the Countess of Kilomrey. To try and keep the scandal low-profile, his sister Queen Mary bought the jewels from the Countess. She then commissioned Garrard to create a necklace with the jewels.

Along with most of her collection, the necklace was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Since then, Her Majesty has worn it on numerous occasions and is typically seen wearing it with other emerald jewels, specifically the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara. The tiara can also be set with emeralds.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.