Today marks the 15th Anniversary of the Death of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, the longest-lived member of the Royal Family, who died on this day in 2004 at the age of 102. A daughter of the fabulously wealthy Duke of Buccleuch and a daughter-in-law of King George V and Queen Mary, the Duchess possessed a fabulous collection of jewellery, most of which is now worn by her daughter-in-law, the current Duchess, including today’s piece.
In 1863, Princess Alexandra of Denmark received a suite of Indian jewelry, including a massive seven-row pearl and emerald necklace with a multitude of diamond, emerald, and pearl pendants, as a wedding gift from her mother-in-law, Queen Victoria, at the time of her marriage to the Prince of Wales. As Princess of Wales and Queen, Queen Alexandra was described wearing her Indian necklace on numerous occasion, and most famously pictured in the piece at the famous Devonshire Ball in 1897.
After her death, Queen Alexandra’s necklace was inherited by King George V and Queen Mary, who had it dismantled and restrung into more wearable strings of pearls accentuated by the cabochon emeralds.
In 1935, King George V and Queen Mary gave two of the necklaces as a wedding gift to Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, when she married their third son, the Duke of Gloucester, as part of a suite consisting of a stomacher and five pear-shaped emerald drops and two pearl necklaces. After Queen Mary’s death in 1953, Princess Alice inherited another necklace of alternating pearls and emeralds, which was also from Queen Alexandra’s Indian necklace. Princess Alice usually wore the Pearl and Emerald Suite for daytime events, most notably for the Duke’s swearing-in as the Governor General of Australia, and a couple of family portraits.
In the 1970s, she gave Queen Mary’s smaller, more dense, necklace to her daughter-in-law, the current Duchess, who has worn it for daytime events, but also in the evening, with additional pearl necklaces and three of the emerald drops suspended, while the two others are worn as earrings. In recent years, the Duchess has started to wear the longer two strands again, notably at the Queen’s 92nd Birthday Concert, a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, and Royal Ascot. There is no doubt they will continue to be worn for years to come.