It’s been quite the year for royal jewellery revivals. After the regal brides of 2018, the Duchess of Sussex and Princess Eugenie, surprised us by choosing tiaras that hadn’t been seen in decades for their weddings, the Duchess of Cambridge has joined this rather exclusive club by wearing a necklace that has been hidden in the palace jewellery box for years.
As day one of the State Visit of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands drew to a close, Kate joined members of the Royal Family at a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace. The Duchess was wearing the Royal Family Order for the first time at a public event although her version of this honour, presented to Windsor women by the Queen herself, is made of glass rather than ivory. Kate was also wearing, as widely expected, the Queen Mary Lover’s Knot Tiara. But to match its sparkling combination of pearls and diamonds, was a rather impressive necklace never seen on the Duchess before. Kensington Palace later confirmed it was Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Necklace.
You get no prizes for guessing the provenance of this particular royal jewel. As it name states quite clearly, this necklace was the property of Alexandra, consort to Edward VII, and she received it as a gift when they got married in March 1863. It was one of her most important marital presents, coming from her groom himself, and she wore it on their wedding day at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Poor Alexandra needed all the sparkle she could get as she said ‘I do’ for hers was very far from a happy royal event. Her soon to be mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, was still in mourning for her beloved husband, Prince Albert, who had died in December 1861. The grieving queen wore head to toe black for the ceremony which she watched from a small area above the main chapel and then went on to insist that the newlyweds pose for official portraits in front of a bust of the long-lamented Albert. Let’s hope Alix enjoyed her new jewels.
The necklace itself features eight large pearls surrounded by small diamonds and joined by garlands of diamonds. There are also drop pearls on the three central pearl and diamond clusters. It passed through generations of royal women to the Queen Mother who, on her death in 2002, left it to the Queen.
Like the royal wedding tiara surprises of earlier this year, Kate’s use of the necklace will be a loan from the Queen. In May this year, Her Majesty loaned the Queen Mary Diamond Bandeau Tiara to Meghan for her royal wedding and in October, Princess Eugenie of York borrowed the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik diadem for her marriage. We can only hope for another sparkling surprise from the Windsors before the year is done.