Friday, March 15, 2013

Jewelry in Portraits: Queen Adelaide's Jewels, 1836

Queen Adelaide, 1836 (cropped as a close-up)
Painted by Mr. Martin Shee
Image is in the Public Domain
Source: Wikipedia

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

The few details evidenced in the painting make it conceivable that Her Majesty's beautiful hat pin is the brooch now called Queen Adelaide’s Brooch. Though it was first made as a clasp for one of the Queen’s pearl necklaces, the jewel was worn by successive queens as either a snap or a brooch {Roberts, p. 34}.

Her necklace appears to be composed of diamonds set in high-karat gold. However, it’s more probable that it is the Queen’s favored pearl necklace. In many portraits of Queen Adelaide during and after her reign, she wears a similar necklace composed of a single strand of high-quality white pearls.

Her stomacher appears to be paved in diamonds, with three larger central stones that might be either diamonds or pearls, and it is looped around her waist by a link chain, also set with either large brilliants of round pearls. Though it looks remarkably like Queen Alexandra’s Wedding Brooch, it could not possibly be since that brooch was made nearly thirty years after this portrait was painted.

Her pearl bracelets* appear to match the description of Queen Charlotte’s pearl bracelets. If they are not her mother-in-laws bracelets, then they might be replicas which Adelaide had made, perhaps with her husband’s portrait, cypher, and hair made into clasps framed in diamonds. Finally, though this historian has found nary a description or picture of Queen Adelaide’s wedding and keeper rings, the shape and position of the rings in Mr. Shee’s portrait indicate that these may be the rings she wears here.

*I came across this passage in a magazine from 1885 (Tidings of Nature): " being then the fashion to wear two bracelets exactly alike..." The line is reference to the Empress Josephine, who held court in France in the early 1800s. Though it's possible that Queen Adelaide's choice had nothing to do with fashion, it is of course possible that this was a popular trend, as well.


1. “1836 Queen Adelaide by Sir Martin Archer Shee (Royal Collection).” Grand Ladies Site. February 20, 2011. Accessed January 23, 2013.
2. Orr, Clarissa Campbell, ed. Queenship in Britain, 1660-1837: Royal Patronage, Court Culture and Dynastic Politics. ManchesterManchester University Press, 2002.
3. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s DiamondsLondon: Royal Collection Publications, 2012.
4. Shee, Martin Archer [Jr., sic] of the Middle TempleLife of Sir Martin Archer Shee, P.R.A., Volume the Second. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860.

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