Monday, June 04, 2012

Queen Elizabeth's pearls, a jubilant tradition

Princess Elizabeth waves to the crowds from Buckingham Palace on her father's coronation day, May 12, 1937. 

It's a bit hard to see in this image, but take a look at those three strands of pearls worn by the future queen.

When her grandfather, King George V, celebrated his Silver Jubilee on May 6, 1935 (just two years before this photograph was taken) he gave each of his granddaughters their first grown-up jewelry: beautiful, ladylike pearl necklaces. Elizabeth was given three strands, and Margaret, the younger by four years, was given two.

Elizabeth's is officially known as the King George V Jubilee necklace, and it's one she's worn quite often over the years. Considering the plethora of options she has at her fingertips, I think it's wildly charming that she reaches for the pearls with such frequency. Despite their simplicity, their workaday quality, if you will, she's chosen them for some extraordinarily high-profile eventsperhaps none so great as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. 

The Queen, radiant in yellow and the King George V Jubilee necklace, at the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The pearls also made their appearance on the 20th of March, when the Queen gave her Diamond Jubilee address to both houses of Parliament at Westminster Hall.

The pearl is regarded as a symbol of unblemished perfection, and its meanings include purity, charity, honesty, integrity, and wisdom. If stones do impart their intangible qualities to the wearer, and we add to that the fact that this necklace from her grandfather (whom she affectionately called Grandpa England) marked not only a momentous family occasion but her transition into adulthood—well, it's really quite easy to see why she chooses it above so many others. 

Which, of course, leads us to yesterday's jubilee celebration on the Thames. The Queen's choice for adornment? You guessed it, the George V necklace, paired (as she'll often do) with the late-19th century Ladies of Devonshire earrings that were given to her as a wedding gift by her grandmother, Queen Mary. (A few newspapers have erroneously reported that the necklace is from the Devonshire set.)

The only question that remains: might we see the necklace at tomorrow's festivities? 


The Queen and Prince Philip aboard the royal barge for Sunday's jubilee celebrations.