L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The one who gets all the loot - bejeweled portraits of Queen Mary

Portrait by Arthur Trevethin Nowell, 1927.

During her time, Queen Mary - the consort of George V, grandmother of the present queen - oversaw a great wealth of jewelry being added to the already brimming royal coffers of the United Kingdom. Both in the collection of "crown jewels", and those held in private possession of the Windsor ladies. Many pieces were new-made, other were redesigns of earlier pieces. And she also purchased important pieces from those royals who had not fared so well post-WWI, most notably, the surviving members of the Russian Imperial family. (Though the Queen was a notorious magpie and "bargain-hunter" - perhaps the lingering result of a royal but embarrassingly debt-ridden childhood - rumors that appeared a few decades back that, during the Thirties, she bought up her Russian relatives' jewelry for less than market value, appear to have been proven false.)

Detail of above. The Queen is wearing the "Lover's Knot" tiara she had had made by Garrard in 1914, copied from a tiara owned by her
aunt and godmother, Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The uppermost pearls removed, it was later famously worn by
Diana, Princess of Wales.

During her husband's reign and as a dowager, she was not afraid to display this ever-accumulating bounty on her person and, like her mother-in-law Queen Alexandra before her, she was quite impressive in the sheer quantity of ornamentation she could carry. Indeed, even more so than her petite predecessor, Queen Mary's height and the great expanse of her famously prodigious bosom were able to accommodate a truly mighty jeweled burden. And her husband and the British people took great delight in their queen "all got up like a Christmas tree." This was true even after the Edwardian age that was her heyday had passed, after the fashions changed - and she stayed the same. She was reliably bejeweled and immovable. And has thus remained a royal icon.

Portrait by Richard Jack, 1927. The Queen wears the diamond and pendant pearl tiara that had belonged to the Grand Duchess Vladimir of
Russia. The large brooch centered on the Garter Riband is made up of the third and fourth cuttings from the famous Cullinan diamond;
the present Queen has referred to them as "Granny's Chips".
Portrait by Simon Elwes, 1933-34. Queen Mary wears the Vladimir tiara with the brooch from the Garrard suite of 1863 which was given as a
wedding present to the future Queen Alexandra by her fiancé, then Prince of Wales.
A colored illustration from a contemporary periodical, circa 1902.
Portrait by Sir William Samuel Henry Llewellyn, 1914. The queen, dressed in Garter robes, wears the "Girls of Great Britain and Ireland" tiara.
The upstanding pearls later removed, it has become iconic as worn by her grand-daughter, especially early in her reign.
Portrait by Arthur Trevethin Nowell, 1935. She again wears the "Lover's Knot" tiara.
Portrait by Simon Elwes, 1938. Dressed for the coronation of her son, George VI, she again wears the Cullinan III and IV brooch.
Portrait by David Jagger, 1930. A bit more understated, this, the queen is only wearing a few rubies and some pearls.
A watercolor sketch done from the group portrait of 1913, by Sir John Lavery, 1914.
Oil sketch of the Queen, by Sir John Lavery, done in preparation for or commemoration of the group portrait seen below, 1913.
"The Royal Family at Buckingham Palace", by Sir John Lavery, 1913.
Portrait by Leonard Campbell Taylor, 1928. The diamond choker was later shortened into a bracelet by her successor, Queen Elizabeth.
Coronation portrait by Sir William Samuel Henry Llewellyn, 1911-12. The State Diadem was actually made for the coronation of George IV -
though, as it happened, it went unused - but since then has only been worn by queens, consort and regnant.
Dressed for the coronation of Edward VII, circa 1902. Miniature based on a photograph by W. & D. Downey.
Portrait by Sir Oswald Birley, 1934. The Queen wears the choker as in the portrait by Taylor, above, as well as the "True Lover's Knot" brooch.


  1. She certainly had a reputation with the jewellers in London though it's hard to verify rumours about her shopping habits.

  2. The "True Lover's Knot" broach worn in the last photo was worn by Queen Elizabeth II at the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge wedding.

    I've only just become acquainted with your artistic work, and love it. Do you do commissions?

    1. Thank you so much, columnist. And, yes, I very occasionally do commissions.

  3. Marvelous collection - several quite new to me, although I'd thought I was rather a conoisseur of QM portraits. Especially like the fierce expression in the Jagger portrait...