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Prince Albert, Prince Consort, consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-61)

Collar of the Order of the Star of India c. 1861

Silver-gilt, onyx cameo, enamel, pearls, diamonds and rubies | 133.0 cm (collar (insignia)) | RCIN 441295

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  • At the end of the Indian Rebellion and the transfer of government in India to the British Crown, Queen Victoria suggested to Lord Canning (the first Viceroy) the creation of a new Order as a means of cementing the newly established political power of the British Crown in India:

    These results the Queen looks for in the foundation of a high order of Chivalry. The Statutes might be similar to those of the Garter, the Thistle & the St Patrick. The number of its members to be few, perhaps 20 or 24 … The members to be invested by the Viceroy in person & thus do personal homage to him … The day for the investiture to be the anniversary of the Assumption of the Gov of India by the Crown of England.

    Lord Canning replied that there would be difficulties in such a proposal, not least because equivalent honours in India had previously been associated with a grant of land, which would be difficult to emulate or maintain. The suggestion was initially dropped but reappeared later in the year, and by January 1860 Prince Albert was working on the Order, its name, insignia and the design of its robes, as well as the membership of the first group of knights. In all its stages, with protracted discussions, primarily over the Order’s name and membership, his ambitions were to establish a distinction suitable for all groups and creeds in Indian society and a means of emphasising the importance of the peace which the government, in the person of the Queen, aimed to re-establish after the rebellion.

    In May 1860 the Prince described his thoughts for both the name and the description of the insignia, also providing sketches of his ideas for the insignia:

    The ‘Eastern star’ will perhaps on [the] whole be the best denomination. The Center of the badge of the Order might then be the Queen’s image surmounted by a star & surrounded by an appropriate motto & the star of the Order might be the star surrounded by flames on a glory … The Badge to be worn suspended from a Collar which might be composed of stars, Lions and Unicorns or the sunflower, or Lotus & ordinarily from a Ribbon. The presiding Idea would be contained in the Angel’s salutation ‘Glory to God, peace on earth & goodwill towards men’ - Not a bad motto for the Queen’s Govt. in India

    The Order was finally established in June 1861, with the first investitures held - in India and at Windsor - on 1 November 1861. The Queen described the Windsor ceremony in her Journal for that day:

    Afterwards dressed in the Kirtle & robes of the Indian Order of ‘The Star of India’, very light blue satin and white. The collar & star are beautiful, entirely my beloved Albert’s design, & he gave himself the greatest trouble about it. The name & the difficulties to find the right one were immense. Went over to the Throne Room for the Investiture. Albert and Bertie had already received the order before. Everything went off well & I was much pleased to decorate the good Maharajah [Dalip Singh]. Ld Canning [1st Viceroy of India] will invest the Native Princes. This very day is the 2nd anniversary of my assumption of the Govt of India

    This was one of the last state occasions attended by both the Queen and the Prince before his death some six weeks later. It was perhaps that point which stayed with the Queen, who wrote in her Journal the following November ‘Anniversary of the 1st Investiture of the Star of India. How splendid my beloved Albert looked on that occasion in his light blue satin cloak!’ (1 November 1862).

    The collar and star were made for the ceremony and are of a smaller design, to be ensuite with the Queen’s collars and stars made for her in 1837, but no invoice survives for them in her accounts. The Queen’s mantle and kirtle of the Order, which she wore at the investiture, are the only examples of her mantles to remain in the Royal Collection.

    Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010
    Provenance

    Designed by Prince Albert and supplied for Queen Victoria for the first investiture of the Order, 1 November, 1861

  • Medium and techniques

    Silver-gilt, onyx cameo, enamel, pearls, diamonds and rubies

    Measurements

    133.0 cm (collar (insignia))

    8 x 4.5 cm (whole object)

    4.6 x 3.4 cm (whole object)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Order of the Star of India. Queen Victoria's small collar and badge.