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Magnificent jewels from The Queen’s collection go on display as Buckingham Palace reopens for the summer

Release date: Thursday, 21 July 2022

Dorothy Wilding, HM Queen Elizabeth II, 15 April 1952 The Queen wears the Diamond Diadem and the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace Royal Collection Trust / © All Rights Reserved

Dazzling jewels from The Queen’s personal collection and iconic photographs of Her Majesty will go on display at Buckingham Palace from tomorrow (Friday, 22 July) as part of a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms, open for the first time since 2019.

The special display Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Accession celebrates the start of Her Majesty’s historic reign and centres around 24 official portraits of The Queen taken by the photographer Dorothy Wilding. For the first time, Wilding’s original hand-finished prints are shown alongside items of jewellery worn by Her Majesty for the portrait sittings, some of which have never been on public display before.

Dorothy Wilding began taking photographs of members of the Royal Family in the 1920s and became the first official female royal photographer. The 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth featured in the photographs along with her sister Princess Margaret, and the display at Buckingham Palace will include the embellished cream dress, purple robe and gold coronet worn by the young Princess for at the coronation of her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in 1937.

Ten years later in July 1947, Wilding was called upon to capture the official engagement portraits for Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, and in February 1952 she was commissioned to take the first official photographs of the new Queen Elizabeth, just 20 days after the Accession. The series of photographs that Wilding took during this session and a second session two months later have become some of the most enduring images of the Royal Family, and of 20th-century Britain more generally, as they form the basis for the profiles and silhouettes of Her Majesty that we see on stamps and coins to this day.

One of Her Majesty’s most recognisable jewels is The Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara. The diamond tiara was a wedding present from her grandmother Queen Mary, along with the Dorset Bow Brooch and a pair of diamond bangles. The bangles, on display for the first time, are thought to have been made in India, where traditionally one would be worn on each wrist to signify matrimony.

Another wedding gift was the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace, given to Princess Elizabeth by The Nizam (ruler) of Hyderabad and set with approximately 300 diamonds. The Queen wore the necklace for her second sitting with Dorothy Wilding in April 1952, and it was these photographs that were chosen to form the basis of Her Majesty’s image on postage stamps from 1953 until 1971. In these portraits Her Majesty also wears the Diamond Diadem. Set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, the Diamond Diadem was worn by The Queen on the day of her Coronation and has been worn by Her Majesty on her journey to and from the State Opening of Parliament since the first year of her reign.

The Queen’s final sitting with Dorothy Wilding took place in May 1956, shortly before Wilding retired. The Queen is shown wearing the Vladimir Tiara, which is unusual in that it can be worn in a variety of ways, as its pendant emeralds can be removed or substituted for pearls. Her Majesty also chose to wear the spectacular Delhi Durbar necklace for this final sitting. The necklace incorporates nine emeralds as well as an 8.8 carat diamond pendant cut from the Cullinan diamond – the largest diamond ever found. It was made for Queen Mary as part of a suite of jewellery created for the Delhi Durbar in 1911, and was inherited by Her Majesty in 1953. 

On Thursday, 28 July, the special digital event Royal Jewels: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration will see Caroline de Guitaut, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art and curator of the special display, in conversation with Carol Woolton, Contributing Jewellery Editor at British Vogue, as they discuss the history and craftsmanship behind Her Majesty’s most dazzling pieces of jewellery.

Related exhibition
Platinum Jubilee: The Queen's Accession

A display at Buckingham Palace celebrating The Queen's Accession in 1952

Online lecture
Royal Jewels: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration
  • Online
  • This event is in the past