10 March 2017

The Queen Mother's Lily Brooch

Queen Elizabeth kept some loose diamonds at Cartier, the jewelry firm where she and her husband, King George VI, were regular patrons. In 1939, jewelers were commissioned to create a floral brooch with a lily motif from some of those stones.

Queen Elizabeth wears her Lily Brooch, 1951
British Pathe, see video here
The result is one of the longer brooches in the royal collection. Popularly referred to as the "foot long" brooch (actual measurement: around 6.75 inches long), it contains just over 200 of Queen Elizabeth's own diamonds plus an additional 52 added by Cartier. The piece is shown in detail in The Queen's Diamonds by Hugh Roberts, where it is noted that joints in the thin stem originally allowed the brooch to be worn in different positions, but these have since been fixed in place.

The Queen debuts the brooch, 2010
The Queen Mother's use of the brooch seems to have been most heavily concentrated in the 1950s. It passed to The Queen in 2002, and she first wore it for the South African state banquet in 2010. Unfortunately, with her fondness for white evening dresses, the real scale and design of the brooch blended into the background.

Royal Images via Ministry of Defence
Now, in 2017, we have a chance to really admire the brooch. An official portrait included in the program for the Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial unveiling shows the true scale and magnificent detail of Queen Elizabeth's Lily Brooch. It's much larger than the brooches The Queen wears for daily engagements, and is probably difficult to place, but it makes an impressive statement.

Thanks to David for the tip! 

2010: State Visit from South Africa