While King Charles III walked behind the coffin of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, alongside his siblings and his sons at her state funeral, Camilla, the Queen Consort, arrived by car with the Princess of Wales.
The two veiled royals, swathed in black as a mark of respect for the late monarch, each chose symbolic jewelry with which to pay tribute to the powerful woman who reigned for 70 years. But while Kate Middleton borrowed pearls from Her Majesty’s collection, Camilla chose a more intriguing piece from the family’s archive: the Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch.
The heart-shaped pin—featuring the number 60 in Slavonic numerals wrought in diamonds, surrounded by a cabochon sapphire at the top and two large sapphire drops at the bottom—was a gift to Queen Victoria from her grandchildren who were descendants of the late Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine. In 1897, the exquisite piece was displayed at the Imperial Institute in London, alongside Queen Victoria’s other Diamond Jubilee gifts, and valued at £20,000 (over $22,000 US).
The Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch was not sighted again until Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall joined the royal family in 2005. She pinned it to the lapels of her coats on state visits to Philadelphia in 2007, Japan in 2008, and Canada in 2009. But the most fitting moment, considering its symbolism, was during Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, when Charles and Camilla toured Scandinavia.
Pearls might typically be the gemstone of choice for royals in mourning, owing to their understated quality, but the Queen Consort’s nod to Her Majesty came via the shape of the token—an open heart—rather than the color. The sapphires looked anything but showy against the inky black of her coat and spoke of a deep respect not just for the Queen, but the institution she represented.
“The Queen was famous for speaking through her brooches and now the Queen Consort takes on that mantle,” notes Rachel Garrahan, British Vogue’s jewelry and watch director. “Breaking with royal mourning tradition of wearing only diamonds and pearls, she made a very personal tribute to the Queen. The Hesse Diamond Jubilee Brooch was unseen for more than a century when Camilla started wearing it and is believed to have been passed down from the Queen Mother, whose jewelry she wears regularly. It is one of Camilla’s oldest pieces and its royal story links to her past and the monarchy’s future.”
This post was originally published on British Vogue.