Happy St. David’s Day, honouring the patron saint of Wales! To mark the day, we are featuring a historic royal heirloom with a special connection to Wales, which has been worn by generations of royal ladies: Queen Alexandra’s ‘Ladies of North Wales’ Leek Brooch!
In 1863, Princess Alexandra of Denmark received a Brooch, Pendant and a pair of cabochon emerald Earrings from the ‘Ladies of North Wales’ when she married the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). The Brooch features a Welsh Leek in emeralds surrounded by a frame of diamonds and emeralds, with ‘to our own Princess’ written in Welsh, all with a cabochon emerald pendant. Though she was described wearing it on numerous occasions, Queen Alexandra was notably pictured wearing the Brooch at the inauguration of a new dock in Cardiff in 1907 (found by the wonderful Beth).
While the then Duchess of York appears to have inherited the earrings from the ‘Ladies of North Wales’ after Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925, she only got the Brooch and Pendant after becoming Queen in 1937, wearing it notably on the King and Queen’s first visit to Wales after their Coronation. The Brooch was also worn for a post-war tour of Wales in 1945, a visit to the Welsh Guards on St David’s Day in 1957, the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, and a Summit Dinner at Buckingham Palace in 1977. While she gave the ‘Ladies of North Wales’ Pendant to Diana, Princess of Wales as an engagement present in 1981, the Queen Mother appears to have retained the Brooch until his death in 2002, when it was inherited by the Queen.
Now, the Brooch, Pendant and Earrings are united in the collection of the Duchess of Cornwall, as a suite of jewels specifically reserved for the wife of the Prince of Wales. The Brooch was notably worn by the Duchess of Cornwall for a Reception at the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff in 2006, but there is no doubt we will continue to see this royal heirloom worn by Princesses of Wales for generations to come!