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 the George IV State Diadem, officially known as the Diamond Diadem, one of the oldest and most important pieces in the Royal Collection.
Featuring four cross pattée alternating with four sprays of a rose for England, a thistle for Scotland, and a shamrock for Ireland, set with 1,333 diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant in the centre of the front cross, on a base of diamonds and two bands of pearls, this Diamond Diadem was commissioned from Rundell & Bridge by King George IV in 1820 for £8,216, and originally included diamonds that were hired for £800, though it appears that they were later traded for other diamonds in the King’s collection.
Uniquely among Diadems, this one was made to be worn by a man, King George IV, who wore it over a velvet hat during the Procession after his lavish Coronation in 1821, keeping in line with his flamboyant personal style. After his death, the Diamond Diadem was worn by his sister-in-law, Queen Adelaide, though she wasn’t illustrated wearing the piece.
The George IV State Diadem was among the most notable jewels inherited by Queen Victoria, that is still retained after the Hanoverian claim gave many of her historic jewels to her cousin, the King of Hanover. Queen Victoria wore the Diadem for a plethora of events and portraits, including the Christenings of her children, and her earliest stamps. She designated it an Heirloom of the Crown upon her death in 1901, meaning it passes from Queen to Queen.
The Diamond Diadem was worn by both Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary, though like Queen Victoria they used it for family events and portraits, most notably the wedding of the Crown Prince of Sweden and Princess Margaret of Connaught for Queen Alexandra and the Wedding of Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia and the Duke of Brunswick for Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth had the Diadem altered for her use after her husband’s accession in 1936, but wasn’t pictured wearing the piece.
Unlike previous wearers, Queen Elizabeth II has worn the George IV State Diadem for only State occasions, with very rare exceptions. She first wore the Diadem for her first State Opening of Parliament, and after wearing it for her Coronation Procession, she has generally worn it when travelling to and from the State Opening of Parliament, and for a plethora of official portraits, including some on the stamps and currency of Britain and many Commonwealth countries, making it one of the most recognizable symbols of her reign.