Friday, January 18, 2013

Queen Victoria’s Nuptial Gifts (Part 2): Jeweled Favors

Coburg Eagle Brooch, 1840
Bridesmaids Gifts from Queen Victoria
Turquoise, diamond, pearls, rubies
Copyright The Royal Collection
Photo Source: The Royal Post Blog
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Well in advance of their wedding day, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert sat before several different artists, most probably including Sir William Ross, the Queen's "Miniature Painter in Ordinary" {National Gallery}. Henry Pierce Bone and possibly Sir William Ross and/or William Drummond. Some of these miniature portraits were then sent to Mssrs. Rundell and Bridge, the Royal Jewelers from 1797 to 1843. The prestigious jewelers set these miniatures into the lids of finely crafted gold snuff boxes, which were presented to each of the foreign ambassadors on the day of the wedding ceremony.

Her Majesty also commissioned Mr. William Wyon, chief engraver at the royal mint, to etch their profiles into one hundred quarter-inch medallions, which were later affixed to gold rings and distributed most generously to guests on their wedding day. Eva Hope reports that under magnification the Queen’s features are “beautifully delineated” and the inscription ‘Victoria Regina’ crowns her beautiful head. {Hope, Anecdotes,  729-30}

Perhaps the most exquisite of these jeweled favors were the twelve Coburg eagle brooches made for the Queen’s bridesmaids. The body of each bird was seeded entirely with turquoise beads, symbolic of true love. Each eagle clasped in each of its gold talons a large pearl, also symbolizing true love.

Under the Queen’s personal direction, with some input from Prince Albert, the designs of these birds was carried out to perfection by London watchmaker and jeweller Charles Augustus Ferdinand du Ve, a contractor for R. & S. Garrard. {Royal Collection} Their jeweled faces featured eyes made of rubies, expressing passion, and beaks made of diamonds, representing eternity. {Royal Collection}

These gifts were unique and exquisite, and it must have been the happy couple’s sheer delight to bestow them upon their most precious guests and family members. However, it is safe to surmise that their most intimate exchanges were their most treasured.

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Additional Source: National Gallery, The. "Prince Albert, William Charles Ross, 1840." Accessed January 21, 2013.

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