Monday, March 4, 2013

Jewelry in Portraits: Mezzotint of Queen Charlotte, 1762

Queen Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, 1762
Mezzotint by Thomas Frye
The Royal Collection
©2012 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Queen Charlotte has a demure and lovely face. Playing across her lips is the faintest of smiles, and her eyes forecast the quiet and demure woman she will grow into as Queen of the Empire. Certainly she wears the jewels of an empirical queen. Upon her head rests an exquisite and dainty tiara outfitted entirely in diamonds. Attached to this dainty crown is an unassuming caplet extending into a veil which cascades neatly down her back.

Her left ear is heavy with an impressive chandelier earring composed entirely of diamonds in a three-drop style. To the right of her delicate cheek, one can just make out the matching earring dangling low behind her jaw. She wears a ribboned choker with a central band of diamonds encircling her neck with a two-tiered diamond pendant suspended from the center of the band. Draped across her décolletage are four generous rows of the most sublime pearls. From the lowest string hangs an irregular pearl that is almost perfectly pear-shaped.

She wears a richly ornamented gown which appears to be studded with diamonds and possibly pearls, and over it all she wears a velvet mantle, also richly embroidered and lined in spotted ermine with tufts of ribbon and pearls fastened to her shoulders. Honiton lace accents the entire ensemble, terminating at the sleeve of her right hand, which is devoid of jewelry except a bracelet of what looks like four rows of pearls.

A portion of the caption beneath this remarkably life-like mezzotint portrait of Queen Charlotte reads: ad vivum, “from the life” {Royal Collection}. Apparently, the persistent artist, one Thomas Frye of Ireland, was unable to secure a sitting with the queen, so he followed her to the theater in order to “observe her and hope to secure her likeness” {Royal Collection}.

The story goes that when she saw the artist sketching her in the audience, Her Majesty turned her face toward him to give him a better view {Royal Collection}. The results, as you can see, are stunning.


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2. “Hanoverian Pearls, The.” The Sydney Morning Herald Coronation Supplement, Wednesday, May 12, 1937. Accessed January 22, 2013.,1932343.
3. Hedley, Olwen. Queen CharlotteMichigan: J. Murray, 1975.
4. Hill, Constance. Fanny Burney at the Court of Queen CharlotteToronto: Bell & Cockburn, 1913.
5. Laura Purcell Blog. “A Royal Wedding.” Published March 9, 2012.
6. North, Michael and David Ormrod. Markets for Art, 1400-1800SevillaSpain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.
7. O’Connell, Sheila. London 1753London: The British Museum Press, 2003.
8. Papendiek, Charlotte Louise Henrietta. Mrs. Papendiek’s Journals, Vol. 1London: 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.


  1. Very beautiful! I love the the artists determination and her quite way of agreeing to his work.

  2. Queen Charlotte is not only beautiful but charming. Great descriptions, by the way.

    1. She was one of the first queens I researched, and I'm completely smitten by her charming ways. Thank you.


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