Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Stuart Sapphire (Part 3)

Marchioness Elizabeth Conyngham, circa 1800
Photo Source: Wikipedia

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

For nearly 100 years, the sapphire resided in France until the Cardinal of York died in 1807. Upon his death, the Prince of Wales, George IV, dispatched Angioli Bonelli to collect from France any remaining records relating to the Stuart household.

The story goes that along his travels, Mr. Bonelli encountered a Venetian merchant claiming that a large blue sapphire in his possession had once belonged to the Stuart Crown. Bonelli purchased the sapphire (believed to be the Stuart Sapphire) and brought it back to England, along with other Stuart treasure, on behalf of the Cardinal’s only living and rightful heir, King George III. (1)

Three years later, in 1810, George III was declared unfit to rule as King. His son, George IV, assumed the position of Crown Regent, and with the title came the treasure. C. Rachel Jones writes that in 1814, George IV gave the Stuart Sapphire to his daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales.

She goes on to relate that upon the unfortunate death of the Princess of Wales, her father rescinded the gift of the Stuart Sapphire from his son-in-law, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and adorned one of his mistresses, the Marchioness of Conyngham, “on whose beautiful and naughty head it sparkled at the ball at Devonshire House in 1821.” (5)

Though her historical account of the life of Princess Charlotte is thorough and entertaining, Ms. Jones’ book may not serve as an entirely credible account. If this account has any bearing of truth, the gemstone remained in the Countesses’ possession until her death in 1861, at which time it was returned to the Crown.

In 1837, the Stuart Sapphire was mounted in the front of the band of the Imperial State Crown below the Black Prince’s Ruby, for Queen Victoria’s coronation. However, when the Imperial Crown was remade in 1937, the Cullinan II displaced the Sapphire to its current position directly opposite the Cullinan II on the backside of the crown.

1. Royal Collection, The. "The Imperial State Crown." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/31701/the-imperial-state-crown.
2. Famous Diamonds. "The Stuart Sapphire." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://famousdiamonds.tripod.com/stuartsapphire.html.
3. History on the Net. "The Stuart Monarchs-1603-1714." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://www.historyonthenet.com/Stuarts/stuart_monarchs.htm.
4. Younghusband, George John. The Jewel House. London: Herbert Jenkins Limited, 1921.
5. Jones, C. Rachel. The Princess Charlotte of Wales. London: Wyman & Sons, 1885.
6. Wikipedia. "House of Hanover." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Hanover.
7. Wikipedia. "Jacobite succession." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobite_succession.
8. Wikipedia. "George IV of the United Kingdom." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_IV_of_the_United_Kingdom#Regency.
9. Wikipedia. "Henry Benedict Stuart." Accessed June 12, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Benedict_Stuart.

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