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 Bow Brooches.
After she lost many family jewels to the King of Hanover in 1858, Queen Victoria commissioned these three diamond brooches, two large and one slightly smaller, from Garrard using over 500 diamonds she had in her collection. While she was not pictured wearing them, Queen Victoria designated the Bow Brooches an Heirloom of the Crown upon her death in 1901, meaning they pass from Queen to Queen “to be worn by future Queens in right of it”.
Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary creatively hung diamonds as pendants from the Bow Brooches and used them as stomachers and skirt ornaments, often wearing all three together. Later, Queen Elizabeth (better known as the Queen Mother) wore just one brooch more conventionally, though she sometimes wore them on her hat.
Queen Victoria’s Bow Brooches passed to the Queen in 1952, and have been regularly worn since then, always just a single brooch. Early in her reign, the Queen did wear the brooch to affix the front of her sash, at the New Zealand State Opening of Parliament and the Australian State Opening of Parliament during her 6-moth Commonwealth Tour, but she has generally worn them on her lapel at daytime events, or at the back of her sash, where they aren’t pictures.
In 1986, the Queen loaned one of Queen Victoria’s Bow Brooches to the newlywed Duchess of York for the Braemar Games, a very unusual gesture but very much appreciated by the Duchess who is a well-known fan of Queen Victoria.
Queen Victoria’s Bow Brooches have continued to among the Queen’s most regularly worn jewels, worn most notably recently on the day she superseded Queen Victoria and became the longest reigning monarch in Britain in 2015. There is no doubt we will continue to see it for years to come.