Queen Elizabeth II Dorset bow royal brooch Remembrance Sunday black 2017

Queen Elizabeth II during the annual Remembrance Sunday memorial on November 12, 2017 in London (Photo by Mark Cuthbert)

When Queen Elizabeth II appeared at the Remembrance Sunday service on Nov. 12, 2017, she wore her Dorset bow royal brooch pinned to a black coat, just like in previous years. However, this ceremony marked the first time the 91-year-old monarch didn’t lay a wreath on the Cenotaph. Instead, she watched from a balcony on Whitehall, flanked by Prince Philip and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall as Prince Charles laid a wreath on behalf of her.

ROYAL BROOCH COMPOSITION

A large, ornate bow composed on brilliant diamonds, set in gold and silver. According to The Queen’s Diamonds, it is “formed as a naturalistic ribbon-tie, pierced and pavé-set with brilliants, and with hinged pendant loop.”

The bow’s ribbon has lines of diamonds on the outer edges, while the interior features a line of diamond trefoils. The bow’s “knot” features several large diamonds.

It is 4.5 cm x 7.2 cm. According to Hugh Roberts in The Queen’s Diamonds, the “design almost replicates a bow brooch of 1855 made by François Kramer for the Empress Eugénie, sold with the rest of the French crown jewels at auction in 1887.”

CREATION

The brooch was made in 1893 by Carrington & Co., a jeweller based on Regent Street in London that was a court jeweller to Queen Victoria. It attracted a royal clientele to its luxurious store at 130 Regent Street, and held Royal Warrants for silversmiths and jewellers monarchs up to Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1970, it was bought out by its next-door neighbour, Mappin &Webb, whose history states that “Royal Warrant Holders and Court Jeweller Carrington & Co (Established in 1834) is acquired by Mappin & Webb.”

There is some confusion about the firm, however. A citation, possibly outdated, at the Science Museum, which has some Carrington railway silverware in its collection states: “Carrington & Co. (130 Regent Street, London). John Bodman Carrington entered his first mark at Goldsmiths Hall London in 1880. The company incorporated the Birmingham manufacturers G.R. Collis & Co and S.W. Smith & Co. Following J B Carrington’s retirement in 1906, the company was taken over by his two sons and became Carrington & Co. Shop still active at 170 Regent Street.”

Then again, there is a Carrington & Co. website, that sold pieces “inspired by the historical legacies of this famed English jewellers [sic]” and which appears to have stopped updating in 2014, states the firm was started in 1780.

PROVENANCE

Dorset bow royal brooch Queen Elizabeth II

A close-up of the Dorset bow royal brooch (Photo by Mark Cuthbert)

Mary received the brooch in 1893 as a wedding present from the County of Dorset. Diamond bow brooches were so fashionable that she also scooped up a diamond-and-pendant-pearl version from the “inhabitants of Kensington,” and two bow-and-heart diamond brooches from her groom, the future King George V.

Then, 54 years later, she gave it to her granddaughter. “A brooch, diamond fancy ribbon bow,” is how it was described near the front of List of Wedding Gifts, the guide to all the presents given to then Princess Elizabeth and Lt. Philip Mountbatten for their wedding on Nov. 20, 1947.

The brooch wasn’t the dowager queen’s only gift. She showered the future queen with precious gifts ranging from a tiara, two diamond bangles and four George III silver salvers to six tablecloths and two needlework cushions.

WORN

While Queen Mary wore it often, especially on those grand evenings when she was literally dripping in diamonds, her granddaughter hasn’t worn it that frequently. For one, it’s a fairly large brooch. For another, Queen Elizabeth II has a rather spectacular collection of diamond bows, with the Dorset falling into the fancy, even fussy, range. Still, it’s been pinned to her outfits for a number of state visits as well as some rather special occasions, including the christening of her eldest, Prince Charles, in 1948.

The Queen also wore it to Princess Anne’s wedding in 1973 (go to around 2:20 in the video)

Most recently, the Dorset bow royal brooch has been Elizabeth II’s go-to brooch for Remembrance Sunday, likely because its sturdy Victorian workmanship means it can support several poppies being tied onto its frame. And its curvaceous nature makes it stand out against a black coat. Indeed, she’s worn that royal brooch four times in the last six years, including on Nov. 12, 2017.