Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Gloucester, who turns 74 today! The wife of the Queen’s cousin, the Duchess has been a hardworking member of the Royal Family for almost 50 years, and possesses an enormous collection of heirloom jewellery, bigger than many royal collections, which includes pieces like Queen Mary’s 11-row Pearl Choker.
Consisting of 11 rows of small pearls and two large, elaborate diamond floral elements, Queen Mary’s 11-row Pearl and Diamond Choker is thought to be one of Queen Mary’s extensive wedding gifts, which was often worn by her as the Princess of Wales in the Edwardian era, and even in one of her earlier portraits as Queen, though the 11-row Pearl Choker was not publicly worn after the First World War, when Queen Mary preferred massive diamond ‘turtlenecks’.
After her death in 1953, Queen Mary’s 11-row Pearl Choker was inherited by her third son, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, and sparsely worn by Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester in the 1950s and 1960s, notable occasions including the Order of the British Empire Service in 1967, when the choker was paired with Queen Mary’s Iveagh Tiara, and at the Premiere of Lord Mountbatten: A Man for the Century in 1968.
The current Duchess of Gloucester began wearing Queen Mary’s 11-row Pearl Choker in the 1980s, most notably in a series of anniversary portraits, and continues to wear the piece today, usually with the Iveagh Tiara and most notably at the Colombian State Banquet and the Spanish State Banquet in 2017. Let’s hope we continue to see this magnificent heirloom for years to come.