As King Charles and Queen Camilla welcomed the South Korean President and First Lady to the UK, many couldn’t help but notice one particular accessory Her Majesty was wearing. It was the Russian Sapphire Cluster Brooch owned by her late mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II.Embed from Getty Images
The Queen paired the brooch with a navy Anna Valentine coat and a feather-filled hat designed by Philip Treacy, two favourites of Her Majesty.Embed from Getty Images
At a closer look, the heirloom features gold filigree set between a bright and vibrant sapphire and dazzling diamonds. These jewels date back even further to the matriarch of the House of Windsor, Queen Mary, but it has links with a wide range of royals before that.
At its heart the brooch contains gems that Queen Elizabeth II inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary. And it became a favourite of Elizabeth II during her record-breaking reign with Her Late Majesty choosing it for some highly symbolic moments including her meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2014.
The brooch had quite a history before landing in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II. It once belonged to the Empress Marie Feodorovna, consort of Tsar Alexander II and mother of Tsar Nicholas II. And there is another family link there. Marie was the sister of Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII. Alexandra and Edward were Queen Elizabeth II’s great grandparents and the Tsarina was Her Late Majesty’s great, great aunt.
Queen Mary, the daughter-in-law of Alexandra, reportedly purchased the brooch from Marie’s daughters in 1934. It soon became a firm family favourite and Mary’s own daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, later The Queen Mother, was also seen using it before it passed to Queen Elizabeth II.
There are more family links to come. The brooch bears a resemblance to the famous sapphire and diamond cluster Prince Albert presented to Queen Victoria. However, the brooch is distinguished by an opulent gold filigree between the sapphire and diamonds.
The visit by the South Korean President and First Lady follows the first incoming one of King Charles’ reign by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa last autumn.