Saturday, March 9, 2013

British Royal Jewels: Queen Victoria's Orange Blossom Parure

This parure is not by any means among the grandest or most important jewels in the royal collection, but it is definitely one of the most symbolic and sentimental ones. One of the very first jewellery gifts Prince Albert gave his then fiancĂ©e was a gold and porcelain brooch in the form of a sprig of orange blossom.
The Orange Blossom Parure
It was a thoughtful gift because orange blossom is a symbol of chastity and has traditionally been been associated with betrothal in both England and Germany. Perhaps for that reason, Queen Victoria wore sprays of real orange blossom in her hair and on her bodice on the day of her wedding.
Queen Victoria wore sprays of real orange blossom in her hair
Prince Albert continued to give Victoria orange blossom jewellery, eventually creating this beautiful parure consisting of another brooch and matching earrings (presented in December 1845), and a headdress (presented on their wedding anniversary in February 1846). The Queen was delighted with those gifts and wrote in her journal: "My beloved one gave me such an unexpected present, a wreath... made to match the brooch and earrings... It is entirely his own design and beautifully carried out. The leaves are of frosted gold, the orange blossoms of white porcelain  and 4 little green enamel oranges, meant to represent our 4 children.". Victoria loved the set and always wore parts of it on their wedding anniversary. 
The Orange Blossom Hairpiece
The headpiece is in the form of a wreath of orange blossoms with gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges, all set on a black plaited velvet band and silk ribbon. It incorporates four small green enamel oranges that represented the four children the royal couple had at the time – Victoria, Albert Edward, Alice and Alfred. The Queen was delighted with the git and wrote in her journal: “It is such a lovely wreath and such a dear kind thought of Albert's”. 
The Orange Blossom Earrings
The brooches are in the form of a sprig of orange blossom with gold leaves and white porcelain flowers. Although almost identical, they were given at different times. The first, as already mentioned, actually started the parure: Prince Albert sent it from Wiesbaden, where he had stopped to meet his father on his way back to Coburg after receiving the Queen's proposal. It is stored in a green leather box mounted with plaque, engraved with inscription: “Sent to me by dear Albert from Wiesbaden. Novr. 1839”. Albert gave the second brooch, along with a pair of matching earrings, in December of 1845. 
The original Orange Blossom Brooch given by Prince Albert to Victoria before their marriage
In her will, Queen Victoria named certain jewels that were to be placed in the “Albert Room” at Windsor Castle after her death. The “Albert Room” was the place where Prince Albert had died in 1861, and the Queen specifically instructed those jewels should remain in the room and not passed on in the family. 
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert re-enacted their wedding with the help of the new art of photography.
Unlike her wedding day, Queen Victoria appears to be wearing the Orange Blossom headpiece and not real orange blossom 
That means we will not see any member of the Royal Family wear any part of this beautiful parure for as long as they honour Queen Victoria’s wishes – which, knowing how traditional British Royals are, means pretty much for as long as the Monarchy exists. 

Credit: Royal Collection, Victoria & Albert: Art & Love.

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