The Canadian Maple Leaf Royal Brooch is perhaps the most iconic and recognizable brooch in the Queen’s collection. Its clean crisp natural shape and dazzling diamond composition makes it a favourite within the royal family as well as of the public. Indeed, the Royal Collection sells a paste version of the brooch for 85 pounds ($145)
Royal Brooch Composition
A dramatically large brooch (5.5 cm x 5 cm) in the shape of the leaf of a sugar maple (Acer saccharum), Canada’s national tree and a symbol of Canada since the mid 1800s. The brooch’s brilliant- and baguette-cut diamonds are invisibly set into the brooch’s mount.
The brooch is made by Asprey & Company. The famous jewellery store, founded in 1781, is located on New Bond Street and boasts “articles of exclusive design and high quality.” Queen Victoria gave Asprey its first Royal Warrant in 1862 for dressing cases, travelling bags and writing cases. Since then, the firm has held Royal Warrants for every subsequent monarch.
King George VI bought it for his wife, Queen Elizabeth, for their state visit of Canada in 1939, the first by a reigning monarch. For a month on the eve of the Second World War, they travelled from coast to coast by train, stopping at every province and the Dominion of Canada. Huge crowds turned out at every stop to see George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who frequently adorned her outfits with the Maple Leaf brooch.
Official histories of royal jewellery are rather sparse on details of this brooch. According to the family legend of Vancouver jeweller Joe Histed, the brooch was made by his father, William, who then worked for one of Asprey’s jewellery manufacturers, Shire and Olin. In a story recounted in the Vancouver Sun in 2016, Histed explains that his father had made a double-clip brooch, with two maple leafs for the wife of English businessman George Weston. She wore it to a royal garden party. Queen Elizabeth was so enamoured that Mrs. Weston divided it. “The Queen Mother saw it and Mrs. Weston took it apart and gave half of it to her,” Histed told the Sun. “Mrs. Weston had one half and the Queen (Mother) had the other half.”
After the 1939 tour, Queen Elizabeth didn’t put the brooch away. During the Second World War, she often pinned it to her hats as she toured bombed areas of Britain, and subsequently wore it at many Canada-related events. She kept the brooch in her personal collection until her death in 2002, when it was inherited by her elder daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
It has been loaned more frequently than every other brooch in the Queen’s jewellery box. And the first person to borrow it was the Queen herself, when she was still Princess Elizabeth. She wore it on her first trip to Canada in 1951.
The brooch didn’t gather much dust after it was moved into the Queen’s personal collection. The Queen has worn it a few times in Britain, including at Canada House in London in 2008 for a visual memorial of Canadian servicemen killed in the First World War.
In 2009, she loaned it to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for her very first trip to Canada. She wore it several times, including on Remembrance Day, nestled alongside a few iconic poppies.
In 2010, the Queen herself took the brooch back to Canada for her 23rd and last trip. Fittingly, she wore it on a red suit on Parliament Hill for Canada Day festivities. Exactly a year later, the brooch was back on Parliament Hill, pinned to a white dress worn by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge for her first visit to Canada and again that evening on a purple dress that Kate wore to a Canada Day concert on the Hill. That was only the second time the brooch has been worn on Canada Day.
Last year, the Queen again loaned the brooch to Kate for a royal visit to Canada, this time to the West Coast. Kate wore twice, including her first day in Victoria, though, unusually, she fastened it to the right side of her outfits.
In 2017, the Queen wore it twice. Once for an official portrait to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, and again on July 19, 2017 when she visited Canada House in London. There, Governor General David Johnston gave the Queen of Canada a companion to the Maple Leaf brooch: a diamond-and-sapphire snowflake brooch.