Happy Birthday to Lady Pamela Hicks, who turns 94 today! The younger daughter of Earl Mountbatten, first cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s bridesmaid and lady-in-waiting, who married a influential interior designer, Lady Pamela has had a fascinating life, and after featuring the Pearl and Diamond Tiara she reportedly still owns as well as the Mountbatten Tiara and the Mountbatten Art Deco Diamond Necklace, which she doesn’t, today we are taking a look at another illustrious jewel: her Diamond Necklace!
A striking diamond necklace composed of two rows of diamonds with hanging diamond pendants in between, this piece is of unknown provenance but was likely acquired for Lady Pamela at some point in the late 1940s or maybe in the early 1950s, possibly when her father was serving as the Viceroy and later the Governor General of India.
One of Lady Pamela’s earliest appearances in the Diamond Necklace was with her Pearl and Diamond Tiara at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, and the necklace was also worn for the Coronation Gala at Covent Garden.
Lady Pamela had initially joined Princess Elizabeth as a Lady-in-Waiting for a Commonwealth Tour in 1952, which abruptly ended upon her sudden accession to the Throne. However, the next year accompanied, Lady Pamela was again chosen as the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting for the post-Coronation Commonwealth Tour of 1953-4. The tour spanned six months and covered 44,000 miles. Lady Pamela accompanied the Queen and Duke on official engagements, notably wearing the Diamond Necklace with Pearl and Diamond Tiara on countless official engagements, including when she attended the Queen at the State Openings of Parliament in New Zealand, Australia, and Ceylon.
Lady Pamela continued to wear the Diamond Necklace after her return from the Commonwealth Tour, with notable appearances in the 1950s and the 1960s, photographed with her husband, the famed interior designer David Hicks.
Lady Pamela was not pictured wearing the Diamond Necklace in the years since, and while it may ahem been discreetly sold, the Necklace could also have been among the jewels which she had forgotten about in a bank vault, as recounted by her daughter, India Hicks:
We were crisscrossing London in search of my mother’s jewels. She has not been robbed, it was just that she could not remember exactly in which bank they had been left. We went to the first bank. When they offered us cappuccinos and custard creams, I thought something was up. They came back apologetic, “So sorry Lady Pamela, but we don’t seem be holding anything more than this box.” We opened the box. It was a strange ornate headdress. “When on earth do you wear THAT?” I asked. Apparently, it was for when you did not want to wear your tiara. Tiara’s are heavy, require hairdressers and lots of insurance. Once traveling from England to Sweden for a grand ball, my mother wore her tiara under a huge hat – in order to make certain she did not lose it.
Tiaras also require you to be married in order to wear them. I will never get to wear my mother’s Tiara because I remain a sinful unmarried woman, but the Tiara got sold a few years ago, anyway, so that is the end of that.
By the third bank, we were hopeful. “I clearly remember having a safety deposit box here,” my mother said, despite the bank having changed. Quite a bit. There was no longer a doorman in a top hat greeting valued-longstanding customers.
Instead, there was a young chap from Poland who kept asking my mother for her online banking details to get into the system. The system could tell him if there was anything downstairs in their Batcave that might belong to my mother. The system was upset when we could not give any security codes or passes or online details. The more the system became upset, the more my mother remembered the case being in this bank, the more I asked to see the manager.
The young chap from Poland sensed trouble brewing. He went to get the manager. She was also from Poland and also very young. We spent quite a bit of time with the manager trying to convince her to get someone into the Batcave, to look for a handmade leather jewellery case with the initials EM for Edwina Mountbatten engraved on the front, with a small French lock by the handle. “The key to which I have here,” said my mother proudly, producing a small brass key. No online details, but a small brass key.
“Wait here,“ she said. There were no cappuccinos in this bank, but sometime later, triumphantly returning from the Batcave, came the manager with my grandmother’s jewellery case in hand.
Of course, Edwina Mountbatten having travelled the world extensively, had amassed quite a collection of jewellery. I had underestimated the size of the case, the fact that it was raining, my mother’s wheel chair, the revolving door, and London foot traffic. Getting her to the far corner of Iceland was easier than this exit.
Once home, there was excitement as the time came to open the case. The small key was produced again and fitted into the lock and turned…and turned and turned. No amount of effort could get the key to open the case. Eric was called. Eric arrived from the garden with a dramatically sized drill in his hand. “Stand back Lady Pamela,” he said gruffly, as the drill forced its way into the poor case.
The lid opened and velvet cushions were removed to reveal staggering sparking gems.
“Your grandmother certainly knew how to outshine everyone,” said my mother.