Cambridge Pearl Brooch

Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge unveiled their first joint portrait at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, which featured the Duchess wearing a historic heirloom from her namesake predecessor; The Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch!

Composed of a large round pearl framed in diamonds with a large baroque pearl pendant, Hugh Roberts in The Queen’s Diamonds states that the Brooch is English and was probably made by Garrard, entering the collection of Princess Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge at some point before 1877.

The Cambridge Pearl Pendant Brooch was depicted on Princess Augusta, the Duchess of Cambridge in an oil portrait by Heinrich von Angeli in 1877, which is now in the Royal Collection:

The eighty-year old Duchess is shown with head and shoulders facing half-left. She wears black mourning dress with white lace about her neck clasped by a jewelled diamond and pearl drop brooch, and a black cap edged with white lace. She is seated in a red upholstered wing chair.
The portrait was painted for Queen Victoria, who was anxious that the Duchess should be painted. In her Journal, 30 June 1877, the Queen wrote that Von Angeli had painted ‘a splendid head’ of the Duchess for her, and to the Crown Princess she wrote on 2 July that the old lady ‘suffering but alive to everything’, had been delighted with Von Angeli. The artist had been paid ?157 10s on 18 May for the portrait. The frame is by Brooks, the portrait is signed and dated ‘H v Angeli 1877’ and is inscribed on the back with the sitter’s age, eighty.

Before the Duchess of Cambridge’s death in 1889, the Pearl Pendant Brooch was inherited by her younger daughter, Princess Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck, in 1885, who wore the Brooch for a couple of portraits, along with the Teck Crescent Tiara and Teck Diamond Hoop Necklace.

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After the Duchess of Teck’s death in 1897, the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch was among the jewels inherited by her only daughter, the future Queen Mary, though gaining possession of the Cambridge Emerald Parure was more difficult. Queen Mary began wearing the Pearl Brooch in the 1890s and continued wearing it for many events and portraits through her time as Queen and Queen Mother, with a last notable appearence at the Christening of Prince Charles in 1948.

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The Queen inherited the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch on Queen Mary’s death in 1953, but did not begin wearing it regularly until the 1970s, with notable appearences on Captain Cook Bicentenary Tour, 1970, Christmas at Windsor Castle in 1971, the Spanish State Visit to Britain in 1986, and the Battle of Britain 50th Anniversary in 1990.

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In recent years, the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch has become a favourite of the Queen, being worn for a series of events and portraits, both with and without the pearl pendant, as well as multiple Christmas Speeches. The Brooch has become a a symbol of the Queen’s wardrobe in the last decade, topping the annual list of most worn Brooches.

Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge unveiled their first portrait at the University of Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum, wearing the Pearl Pendant Brooch from the last Duchess of Cambridge in the portrait along with Princess Diana’s Collingwood Pearl Earrings and Princess Diana’s Pearl Bracelet, with the note that the Duchess herself chose the Brooch as a reflection of the portrait’s ties to Cambridgeshire and the couple’s role as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:

The Duke and Duchess invited British artist Jamie Coreth to Kensington Palace for several sittings, with the Duchess choosing jewellery which honours the Royal family.

There is no doubt we will continue to see the Duchess of Cambridge’s Pearl Pendant Brooch on the Queen for years to come, with a few loans to the Duchess of Cambridge in the years before she inherits this heirloom from her namesake predecessor.

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