Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wedding (Part 11): The Collar of the Garter

Queen Victoria on her Wedding Day
Draping from her arms to the center of her abdomen,
she wears the "small" Collar of the Garter.
Photo is cropped from a photo featured elsewhere on this blog.
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Every British Monarch is appointed Sovereign over the six British orders of chivalry. When Queen Victoria ascended the British throne in 1837, Rundell, Bridge, & Co, the Royal Jewelers, were commissioned to fashion for the Queen a new set of insignia for all six orders. One of these emblems, the Garter collar, was custom-made for her small stature. The usual “large” collar made of 30 oz of standard gold or gilt metal would have been far too heavy for her, especially on the occasion that she would need to wear the collars of several orders at one time.

In order to accommodate her smaller frame and the fashion of the times for off-the-shoulder dresses, the jewelers designed Victoria’s collar so that it would be long enough to drape from her arms rather than hanging suspended from her shoulders. It also featured smaller clasps and links. She wore it on the occasion of her wedding draping from her upper arms across the front-middle section of the bodice of her gown.

Still made entirely of solid gold, the Queen’s collar features an enamelled gold pendant of St. George slaying a dragon astride his stallion. The pendant hangs suspended from one of 12 enamelled gold medallions consisting of a red rose on a white background surrounded by the dark blue garter. The collar also features 12 enamelled medallions featuring white roses on a red background, also surrounded by the dark blue garter. (This was also a deviation from the previous style, in which all 24 medallions featured a red rose on a white background.)

Each of the enameled garters surrounding the flowers have inscribed upon them the motto of the order: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks ill of it). Alternating with the beautiful medallions are 24 gold knots. Of note, in some of the portraits of her wedding day, it appears that the Queen might also have worn the George III star, which is also an emblem of the Noble Order of the Garter.

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