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Duchess of Portland’s Diamond Necklace

Today marks the 135th Anniversary of the Birth of Ivy Cavendish-Bentinck, the Duchess of Portland, who was born on this day in 1887! The accomplished Aristocrat who became the last Duchess of Portland, the Duchess possessed a spectacular Jewellery Collection, which included this splendid Antique Diamond Necklace!

The Portland Tiara | Diamond Necklace

But first lets learn about the Duchess! The only child of Colonel Lord Algernon Charles Gordon-Lennox and Lady Blanche, Ivy Gordon-Lennox was a granddaughter of the 6th Duke of Richmond and the 3rd Viscount Maynard, which her uncles and aunts including the 7th Duke of Richmond, Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, Millicent Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland, Sybil Fane, Countess of Westmorland, and Lady Angela Forbes. Growing up at Broughton Castle, rented from the 18th Lord Saye and Sele, and at 7 Chesterfield Street in Mayfair, Ivy was very eligible and rumours of an engagement to the 6th Earl Winterton were denied in 1910. Appointed a Maid of Honour to Queen Alexandra in 1912, she travelled to Étaples and Abbeville during the First World War as as Princess Victoria’s representative in connection with proposed Nurses’ Clubs in France, before she married William Cavendish-Bentinck, Marquess of Titchfield, son of the 6th Duke of Portland, in 1915, with three portraits painted by Sir Philip de László. The 7th Duke and Duchess, who inherited the Dukedom in 1943, only had two daughters, and thus after he passed away in 1977, the Dukedom went to a distant relative before going extinct in 1990. The extensive Portland Estates, included Welbeck Abbey, and the magnificent Portland Collection went to their eldest daughter, Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, who became the 511th richest person in the United Kingdom and was once considered a possible bride for Prince Charles of Belgium though she never married after her parents refused her from marrying the Duke of Leeds. Meanwhile, the Dowager Duchess had set up the Harley Gallery and Foundation in 1977, ‘to encourage creativity in all of us’, before she passed away in 1982. The Welbeck Abbey Estate is currently run by their grandson, William Parente, Principe di Castel Viscardo.

A rivière designed as a graduated line of forty old-cut diamond collets with detachable diamond swags suspending a series of pear and cushion-shaped diamond pendants, with two drops which may be worn as earrings, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1870, in purple velvet fitted case by Garrard & Co, this spectacular Diamond Necklace was in the collections of the Dukes of Portland by 1887, with a handwritten note pinned to the lid reads’ Two drops removed and mounted as earrings 11th March 1924, made detachable at will 2.7.24′.

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The Diamond Necklace was pictured on Winifred, wife of the 6th Buke of Portland, who was a canopy bearer for Queen Alexandra during the Coronation of King Edward VII that year, along with the Cartier Portland Tiara. The Tiara was the cause for a mishap recounted by the Duke, from Geoffrey Munn’s Tiaras: A History of Splendor:

While my wife was dressing for dinner… I threw myself into an armchair. Both she and her maid gave a scream and so did I, for I had sat down upon the very sharp points of the diamond tiara. Naturally the tiara was broken to bits, while the lower part of my poor person resembled the diamond mines of Golconda, so full was it of precious stones.”

In the 1930’s, the 6th Duke of Portland was wounded by the enormous diamond headdress about to be worn by his beautiful wife, Winnie.  He went to talk to her when she was getting dressed and sat on a nearby chair.  The tiara was there first and he leapt up, impaled on the platinum spikes that held the precious stones.  It was hopelessly broken.  ‘Oh never mind,’ said Winnie, not bothering about her husband’s injured behind.  ‘I’ll wear another one.’

After the Duke’s death in 1943, the necklace was inherited by the next Duke and worn by his Duchess, Ivy, at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and for a portrait also taken during the 1950s, along with the spectacular Portland Tiara. The Jewels were inherited by her daughter, Lady Anne, in 1982.

After Lady Anne’s death in 2008, the Portland Estates and Collection were inherited by her nephew, William Parente, Principe di Castel Viscardo, who sold off a plethora of historic family jewels to pay off death duties in 2010, which included this Diamond Necklace, which realised GBP 1,833,250 far above the estimate of GBP 400,000 – GBP 600,000. The Family retained the Cartier Portland Tiara, which was tragically stolen from the Harley Gallery on the Welbeck Abbey Estate in 2018.

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