The Queen’s Jewels – Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Tribute
The Queen has a phrase for a grand state event when all the glitter and majesty of monarchy is required. She calls it a ‘big dressing’. ‘Let’s give them my best bits,’ she will say in the same jokey way that the royal family call one of the most famous diamonds in the world ‘Granny’s Chips’. That refers to the cleavings of the South African Cullinan diamond into (relatively) smaller pieces that the Queen wears dangling from her left shoulder: a pear-shaped 94.4 carat diamond and a square stone of 63.6 carats. These are some of the most striking pieces in the magnificent collection of the Queen’s jewels.
See also: Elizabeth and Philip, a Royal Romance; a Platinum Jubilee Tribute
‘My best diamonds,’ she still calls the necklace she received with a gasp of joy and surprise for her 21st birthday from the South African government. The sapphire brooch surrounded by diamonds (her favourite for anything from Badminton Horse Trials to lunch at Windsor) is always called ‘Albert’s brooch’, because it was a gift to the young Queen Victoria from her new husband in 1840.
These familiar family names for exceptional jewels sum up the duality of the royal collection: it is both public and private.
Lord Cobbold, the then Lord Chamberlain, claimed in 1971, at the time of the Select Committee on the Civil List, that ‘in no practical sense does the Queen regard any of the items as being at her free personal disposal’. Yet some of the most stately pieces have genuine emotional attachments for the Queen – especially the legacy of her grandmother Queen Mary, who gave Princess Elizabeth fine pieces as wedding gifts and bequeathed a treasure trove on her death in 1953.
Even when she was married in 1947, Princess Elizabeth did not have the coffers of grand jewellery of today, when diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are laid out on different trays of a portable mini-trunk. The Queen’s long-serving dresser ‘Bobo’ MacDonald used to exert control, choosing the appropriate jewels to go with each outfit.