Friday, March 8, 2013

Sophia Charlotte's Wedding Jewels

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz
Published May 24, 1762
Mezzotinter: Thomas Frye (1710-1762)
Copy of 1762 portrait without hand or sleeve, with alterations in jewelry
Monogram in right corner: AP (?)
The Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

As mentioned previously, these jewels (and others) were given to Queen Charlotte by her husband, George III, on the day of their wedding. In addition to the beautiful pearls and diamonds seen in the original portrait, George gave her a necklace with a large diamond-studded cross pendant (seen in the above altered print) and two matching bracelets “consisting of six rows of picked pearls as large as a full pea” {8, p. 12}.

The clasp of one of these bracelets featured George III’s portrait framed in diamonds, while the other clasp, also framed in diamonds, features the King’s cypher and a lock of his hair {8, p. 12}.
A portion of one of these bracelets is just visible in the lower quadrant of the original portrait.

These jewels, plus the diamond stomacher she wears just out of sight, were purchased by the King from his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, for somewhere between 50,000 and 54,000 pounds.
The strand of pearls she wears draped beneath her diamond choker is one piece of the Hanoverian Crown Jewels, which King George inherited and gave to his wife on the day of their wedding. This strand of pearls consists of “six knee-length rows of pearls with twenty-five pearl drops, some as big as nutmegs” {13}.

Though Frye’s original portrait neither portrays all six rows nor all 25 pearl drops, it does represent well what are some of the most famous pearls in history. In the above portrait, likely altered by the person who scraped “AR” in the lower right corner, her jewelry is enhanced to portray the full splendor of the Hanoverian pearls with the diamond cross pendant added as the central piece {10}.

Upon her death in 1818, Queen Charlotte bequeathed the Hanoverian jewels she received from her husband to the House of Hanover, including the matchless string of pearls. As such, they passed down to Queen Victoria by way of Queen Adelaide and were much loved by both queens.

Queen Victoria enjoyed them for two decades, and then reluctantly turned them over to King George of Hanover, at the end of a twenty-year dispute about their ownership. The remainder of Queen Charlotte’s jewels were sold at auction through Christie’s, and the money was divided between her four living daughters, according to the stipulations of her will.


1. Fitzgerald, Percy Hetherington. The Good Queen Charlotte. London: Downey & Co. Ld., 1890.
2. “Hanoverian Pearls, The.” The Sydney Morning Herald Coronation Supplement, Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Accessed January 22, 2013.,1932343.
3. Hedley, Olwen. Queen Charlotte. Michigan: J. Murray, 1975.
4. Hill, Constance. Fanny Burney at the Court of Queen Charlotte. Toronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913.
5. Laura Purcell Blog. “A Royal Wedding.” Published March 9, 2012.
6. North, Michael and David Ormrod. Markets for Art, 1400-1800. Sevilla, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.
7. O’Connell, Sheila. kLondon 1753. London: The British Museum Press, 2003.
8. Papendiek, Charlotte Louise Henrietta. Mrs. Papendiek’s Journals, Vol. 1. London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1887.
9. Roberts, Hugh. The Queen’s Diamonds. London: Royal Collections Publications, 2012.
10. Royal Collection, The. “Thomas Frye (1710-1762), Queen Charlotte, 1762.” Accessed January 22, 2013.
11. Strickland, Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland and Caroline G. Parker. Lives of the queens of England: From the Norman Conquest.
12. Urban, Sylvanus. “The Crown Jewels.” Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 204. January to June, 1858.
13. Zahnle, Lucy E. “Jewelry Through the Ages.” Helium, September 18, 2009. Accessed January 22, 2013.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. What gorgeous jewelry, but it looks so heavy--I'm impressed she's holding her head up so high.

    1. It is most certainly heavy. In one book I read she talked about how she liked her jewelry for about two weeks and then grew tired of all the muss and fuss with putting it all on and caring for it all the time. She remarked about the weight of it, as well.