This month, we are marking the Bicentenary of the Birth of Queen Victoria by featuring her Top 20 Jewels, one for each decade since the Birth of 2nd-longest reigning British Monarch, in the 20 days leading up to the Anniversary itself, and today’s feature is her Wheat-Ear Brooches-
Three mirrored pairs of two brooches, featuring diamonds ears of wheat set in silver and gold, the six Wheat Ear Brooches were ordered from Rundell & Bridge by King William IV for Queen Adelaide in 1830, using some stones from the family collection, which had to be replaced when the King of Hanover won his claim for the return of Hanover jewels that had belonged to Queen Charlotte in 1858.
The Brooches were given to Queen Victoria in 1837, and were often used to embellish her necklines at formal events in her old age, including the Wedding of Prince Carl of Denmark and her granddaughter, Princess Maud of Wales, (later King and Queen of Norway). After her death, the Wheat Ear Brooches were designated Heirlooms of the Crown, passed from Queen to Queen.
Due to their size, Queen Victoria’s Wheat Ear Brooches are difficult to spot in old photographs, but the Queen Mother wore them to affix her Sash of the French Legion of Honour on the wrong shoulder during the legendary State Visit to Paris in 1938, and they passed to the Queen in 1952. While two of the brooches have been worn more traditionally, throughout her Reign, the Queen has worn Queen Victoria’s Wheat Ear Brooches in a uniquely creative style, as ‘hair slides’ in place of Tiaras for less formal evening events, which are a rare occurence.
In 2018, the Queen loaned three of Queen Victoria’s Wheat Ear Brooches to her granddaughter, Princess Eugenie, who wore them in her hair for the Wedding Dinner at Royal Lodge, Windsor. Two of the Wheat Ear Brooches were on display, with the rest of the wedding outfits, including her Wedding Earrings and Greville Emerald Tiara, at Windsor Castle until April 22nd.