Mrs Greville’s Jewels
Dame Margaret Helen McEwan Anderson Greville was a well-known figure in British Society until her death in 1942. She was born in 1863 and was heiress to the multi-million pound McEwan brewery fortune. In 1891 she married the Honorable Ronald Henry Fulke Greville and became a much sought-after and admired hostess at their home, Polesden Lacey, which had originally belonged to her father. It was here at this quiet estate that TRH The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) honeymooned. The friendship between Mrs Greville and the royal couple continued, and Princess Margaret Rose was named in her honor.
The Hon. Mrs. Greville was also a friend of two other Queen Consorts, Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra; in fact, Mrs. Greville played an interesting role in history when she introduced Mrs. George Keppel to her friend’s husband, King Edward VII, beginning a famous “friendship” between Mrs. Keppel and the King. Mrs. Keppel’s granddaughter Rosalind Cubitt—mother of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall—was Mrs. Greville’s goddaughter. However, upon her death in 1942 Mrs. Greville would become better known for the amazing collection of jewels she left “To Her Majesty The Queen, with my loving thoughts”.
There are about ten known pieces in the legacy which Mrs. Greville left to Queen Elizabeth. The best-known of these is the Boucheron honeycomb tiara (seen here in its original form), consisting of diamonds set in platinum in a contemporary honeycomb/lozenge design. The tiara was created for Mrs Greville by the French jeweller Boucheron in 1921. It was to became Queen Elizabeth’s signature piece after the King’s death (here), and she wore it consistently throughout her life, well into old age (here).
Although the tiara was already spectacular when Her Majesty received it in 1942, she improved it in 1953 by having Cartier add height to the top tier in the form of groups of brilliants with one large marquise-cut diamond in the center. Since the Queen Mother’s death, the Queen has not worn this tiara (unlike the Queen Mother’s other signature tiara, the Oriental Circlet); instead, the Queen has loaned it to the Duchess of Cornwall (here), who has worn it at most of her tiara events.
The second prominent piece of the collection is the lavish five-strand Greville Collier necklace. It is an opulent art deco piece which can be worn with either two, three, or all five strands. This page shows the Queen Mother wearing the necklace in the three- and five-strand versions. Like the Boucheron tiara, this necklace was not worn by the Queen after her mother’s death but instead has been passed to the Duchess of Cornwall. Camilla wore the five-strand version of the necklace, along with the Greville Boucheron tiara and Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Family Order, on an official visit to Uganda in 2007 (as shown here).
The collection also includes a pair of large diamond pendant earrings, Also seen on this page are the equally impressive twin ruby clip brooches in the shape flowers and leaves set in platinum, worn here by Her Majesty at the Christmas Day Service in Sandringham 2009.
Another ruby piece left by Mrs. Greville to Queen Elizabeth was given to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift by her parents in 1947. The ruby and diamond bandeau necklace, viewed here at the Royal Collection website, was ordered by Mrs. Greville in 1907 from Boucheron. This necklace has not been seen for many years; the Queen wore it early in her reign but has not done so recently. An additional wedding gift to Princess Elizabeth from the King and Queen was a pair of diamond earrings that were also part of the inheritance from Mrs. Greville; both pieces are seen in this photograph of some of the jewelry wedding gifts; the necklace is prominent and is pictured to the left of the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara (a gift from Queen Mary) with the Boucheron diamond earrings pictured below. The earrings, also seen here, were ordered from Cartier in 1918 and completed in 1922. Upon receiving them, Princess Elizabeth had to have her ears pierced to wear the pieces and when it was learned she had done so, ear piercing became a necessity for ladies everywhere. The earrings, known as the Greville chandelier earrings, were designed to incorporate most if not all of the commonly used cuts of diamond.
Mrs Greville also left an emerald demi-parure to Queen Elizabeth. The eighteenth-century necklace is said to have belonged to Queen Marie Antionette and consists of large emeralds set with diamonds in yellow gold; it has not often been seen, but the Queen Mother wore it in 1968, with the Boucheron Tiara, to the wedding of Princess Benedikte of Denmark to Prince Richard zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (here). Other emerald pieces include two brooches, one of which was worn by the Duchess of Cornwall here and here in March of 2006. It is a substantial brooch set with a large square-cut emerald surrounded by diamonds with a diamond chain drop of 15 round stones with one large pear-shaped diamond drop. It was a particular favorite of the Queen Mother’s.
It is often thrilling when a “new” piece emerges from the Royal Vaults that is unfamiliar to royal jewel lovers. This occurred in 2005 when Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, wore a large diamond tiara with an art deco design to the Chinese Banquet at Buckingham Palace. It has been suggested that this tiara is also part of the large jewel collection inherited from Mrs. Greville, but there is not any “proof” to strongly and irrefutably support this theory (beyond the observation that the tiara was not seen in the royal family before 1942). The tiara had previously been displayed in 1961 with a large plume from which two large, cushion-cut diamonds were suspended (here). This tiara can be seen at the 15-second mark in this British Pathe video, where it was described as “The Queen Mother’s Diamond Tiara.”
Queen Elizabeth also inherited multiple strands of pearls and an interesting card-shaped diamond ring. It has been speculated that the engagement ring given to the Duchess of Cornwall, being a platinum-set diamond ring and known to have belonged to the Queen Mother, might also have come from the Greville collection.
Mrs. Greville died in 1942 and the Queen Mother wore these pieces in tribute to her friend (and also because she loved jewels) and passed certain pieces to her daughter, the then Princess Elizabeth. Upon the Queen Mother’s death in 2002 the rest of the jewels passed to the Queen, who has loaned several of them to the Duchess of Cornwall. They are a glittering testament to a long-gone era once dominated by the formidably bejeweled Queen Mary and then the more restrained wartime Queen Elizabeth. Mrs. Greville left a legacy to the House of Windsor that helped to establish HM The Queen Mother’s place in jewelry history and continues as an enduring reminder of the friendship between the two women.
Collage by Kelly Lacroix, used with permission.
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