28 March 2018
Update 14 December: In line with government guidance, Kensington Palace will be closed from 16 December.
Opens 30 March 2018
As Kensington Palace’s Victoria Revealed exhibition reopens to visitors, a glittering suite of gems specially commissioned for Victoria by her beloved Albert is set to join the display at her childhood home.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are famed – even among royal collectors - for their love of fine craftsmanship, together commissioning and purchasing some of the nineteenth century’s finest artworks, porcelains and objects d’art to fill their homes. Among the most personal of these treasures were the spectacular gifts the couple exchanged, from the moment of their engagement in 1839 and throughout their 21-year marriage. Now, as part of Victoria Revealed, a dazzling display of gifts given by Albert to Victoria go on show at Kensington Palace for the first time.
Comprising a magnificent diamond and emerald diadem, emerald necklace, earrings and brooch, this parure – or matching suite of jewels – showcases both the exquisite workmanship of nineteenth century goldsmiths, and Prince Albert’s own flair for design. Albert was fascinated by jewellery, and personally designed this dazzling headpiece for his wife. Created by the Queen’s Jeweller, Joseph Kitching, the tiara is set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs an astonishing 15 carats. As a testament to Albert’s own creative talents, the pieces he designed for Victoria now constitute the only known examples of a tiara design by a consort for his Queen. Victoria, clearly delighted with the gift, wrote in her journal of her husband’s ‘wonderful taste’, and her delight at wearing this ‘lovely Diadem of diamonds and emeralds designed by my beloved Albert”.
Presented to Victoria in 1845, the tiara provided both the centrepiece and finishing touch to an existing emerald suite. It was created to complement a necklace formed of 9 oval emerald clusters, each set within a border of cushion-shaped diamonds, its accompanying pendant earrings and an impressive 20ct emerald and diamond brooch, all of which were gifts from Albert, and also go on display at Kensington Palace. Victoria would select these gems for Franz Xavier Winterhalter’s intimate 1846 painting of the royal family, for her son Prince Alfred’s christening (when she paired them with the lace from her wedding dress) and again for a striking Winterhalter portrait of 1859, which depicts the pieces in stunning detail.
Touchingly, Victoria and Albert’s children and grandchildren continued the tradition of giving gifts of jewels to mark significant events, and a number of other glittering royal gifts join the display. The majestic Fife tiara, given to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Louise on her wedding day, is today considered one of the finest works produced by celebrated Parisian jeweller Oscar Massin, and represents the very zenith of tiara design. A gift from Louise’s husband the Duke of Fife, it comprises hundreds of diamonds ranging in weight from one to ten carats, and features a spectacular row of pear shaped ‘swing set’ diamonds, which would have dazzled onlookers when worn.
Another of Louise’s jewels, a remarkable kokoshnik style tiara with graduated pavé-set rays of diamonds in white and yellow gold, takes inspiration from the cockscomb style headdresses of the Romanov court, and reflects the familial web created by Queen Victoria’s descendants throughout Europe; Louise could count the Emperor and Empress of Russia as cousins, while among her aunts were both the Dowager Empress and a Grand Duchess. A gift from her parents the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra), its clever construction means it could be worn as a tiara or converted into a necklace, and it became one of Louise’s favourite pieces of jewellery. As with Queen Victoria’s diamond and emerald parure, the kokosnhik tiara goes on display at Kensington Palace on long-term loan from the estate of the 3rd Duke of Fife. Alongside the Fife tiara - accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to Historic Royal Palaces – these exquisite pieces will form part of the Victoria Revealed exhibition from 30 March.
Notes to Editors
For further information and images please contact Adam Budhram in the Historic Royal Palaces Press Office: [email protected] or telephone: 0203 166 6307.
Victoria Revealed runs at Kensington Palace throughout 2018. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk/Kensington-Palace
Peak: Adult: £19.50 / Concession: £15.50 / Child: £9.70 / Family: £48.80
Off-peak: Adult: £16.00 / Concession: £12.70 / Child: £8.00 / Family £40.60
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Historic Royal Palaces cares for Hillsborough Castle under a separate contract with the Northern Ireland Office. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk