11 February 2013

The Cambridge Emeralds and the Delhi Durbar Parure

Thanks to her grandmother Queen Mary, the Queen possesses an extensive and impressive parure of emeralds and diamonds. It includes emeralds given to Mary at the Delhi Durbar, the Indian celebration marking the start of George V's reign as King and Emperor (with Mary by his side as Queen and Empress) as well as the celebrated Cambridge emeralds.
The Cambridge emeralds have an interesting - and slightly juicy - past. They get their name from the Duchess of Cambridge - not the one we know today but Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, Queen Mary's grandmother. Augusta and her husband Prince Adolphus, the Duke of Cambridge and one of the sons of King George III, entered a lottery for charity on a stop in Frankfurt and won. Their prize was a box of cabochon emeralds (which according to some may once have belonged to Indian royalty). There are conflicting sources on the exact number of emeralds in the prize, but between 30 and 40 is probably most accurate.
Princess Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck, wearing some of the emeralds
Augusta fashioned some of the emeralds into a pair of drop earrings and a pendant necklace. The emeralds were given to and inherited by her daughter, Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck (Queen Mary's mother). Mary Adelaide occasionally wore some of the emeralds with a stomacher she had acquired from Garrard. On her death, the Cambridge emeralds passed to her son Prince Francis of Teck. Frank, as he was known, had a penchant for gambling and a penchant for Ellen Constance, the Countess of Kilmorey, a former mistress of King Edward VII. Frank died suddenly in 1910, at which time it was discovered he had bequeathed the precious family emeralds to none other than his married mistress.

Naturally, Frank's sister Queen Mary did not approve. She had Frank's will sealed, presumably to avoid a scandal just before she and her husband were to be crowned. (This became standard practice for royal wills from then on.) And she set about getting those emeralds back - because not only was she a magpie, she was a true lover of the family history and meaning behind her jewels. And family heirlooms leaving the family by way of the mistress, one can imagine, would just not do.

The tactics used by Mary to obtain jewels and other precious objects are often exaggerated (and sometimes not...) and sure enough, stories of social exile and so on for Ellen Constance can be found when it comes to Mary obtaining the Cambridge emeralds. It seems to me stories either go for the gossip or gloss over the awkwardness of the situation, simply stating that Mary "acquired" the emeralds. At any rate, Mary paid the Countess £10,000, a considerable sum which amounts to somewhere around £800,000 or more today. And she ended up with her emeralds.
Video: the Delhi Durbar
With the Cambridge emeralds in hand, Mary set about creating a parure for use at the Delhi Durbar. These pieces were added to with a few gifts given from Indian groups. Mary wore the whole parure at the Delhi Durbar, and continued to wear it for the rest of her life. She did alter some pieces as time went on, as she was prone to do. The whole parure is now with the Queen, almost all of it having been inherited on Queen Mary's death in 1953.
Queen Mary in her Delhi Durbar portrait, covered in the emerald parure
This mini-series covers the pieces that are most frequently worn with the parure, many of which were made specifically for the Delhi Durbar. This is not the entire collection of Windsor emeralds, nor does it encompass every piece that may have been paired with the Delhi Durbar pieces at one time or another. The jewels are linked below.
The Queen usually wears a toned down version of the parure (when compared to her grandmother)
One final note: There's a lot of conflicting information about this collection of emeralds; even "official" descriptions from the Royal Collection have been known to change. I'll do my best with accuracy as always, but just know that the Cambridge emeralds are a murky subject to start with.

The emerald pendants are Cambridge emeralds. This is the tiara the Queen would use today to cap the parure, and was used with the emeralds by Queen Mary in her later years.

The Delhi Durbar Tiara
This is the original tiara belonging to the parure, and was initially topped with Cambridge emeralds. Those emeralds today hang from the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara, though at one point in time they were also used as uprights on a diamond bandeau tiara inherited by the Duchess of Kent (which can be seen by clicking here). The Delhi Durbar Tiara is in the Queen's collection, but was last worn by the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Delhi Durbar Earrings
Made for the Delhi Durbar, the pair contains one Cambridge emerald.

The Art Deco Emerald Choker
A remade version of a necklace given to Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar, the choker was worn by her with the rest of the parure and later loaned to Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Delhi Durbar Necklace
Containing 9 Cambridge emeralds, this necklace was made for the Delhi Durbar.

This was given to Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar and was often worn by her as part of the full parure. The Queen wears it separately today.

The Delhi Durbar Stomacher and Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch
The stomacher created for the Durbar includes seven Cambridge emeralds, plus two of the brooches made with chips from the Cullinan diamond. The Queen uses the removable emerald brooch.

The Round Cambridge Emerald Brooch
One of the pieces that existed prior to the Delhi Durbar Parure creation, this pendant brooch has two Cambridge emeralds.

The Delhi Durbar Bracelet
With three Cambridge emeralds and diamonds, this is frequently the bracelet chosen by the Queen to accompany the parure and was one of the emerald bracelets Queen Mary wore with it.

Photos: Getty Images/Royal Collection