26 November 2012

Queen Mary's Stomacher

Queen Mary's Stomacher
This stomacher (a piece of jewelry designed to be worn on the front of the bodice) is composed of three brooches of graduated size. Made of diamonds set in gold and white gold, each brooch includes three pear-shaped pendants and two brilliant pendants; the smallest brooch includes an extra pendant as an elaborate end to the piece. This was made in 1920 for Queen Mary using two pieces already in her collection: the Kapurthala Stomacher, given to her by the Maharajah of Karpurthala, and a diamond crescent from the town of Swansea, both of which she received as wedding presents in 1893.
Queen Mary wearing the Karputhala stomacher
Redesigning existing pieces was something Queen Mary did often, and this is an example of how good she was this sort of repurposing; she took a rather dense and spiky piece and turned it into a light, airy, and intricate stomacher. She gave the redesigned jewel to her granddaughter Princess Elizabeth as a wedding gift in 1947.
Wearing the full stomacher (left) and just the bottom brooch (center and right)
Unfortunately, by the time she handed this down, the fashions that allowed Mary to wear stomachers with such panache had long gone out of style. Perhaps because of the difficulty of the stomacher design and size, these pieces are rarely used in public. The individual brooches are far larger than the Queen's preferred brooch size; she has worn the smallest brooch on its own, though when placed on the shoulder as she usually uses her brooches, the pendant hangs at an awkward angle. We didn't see her use the full stomacher as intended in public until 2002, when she wore it to a dinner celebrating her Golden Jubilee with other monarchs in attendance.

Photos:Royal Collection/Leslie Field/Corbis