25 April 2016

The Queen’s Oban Brooch and the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 1999

Scottish Parliament via CC BY 2.0
On July 1, 1999, The Queen opened the new Scottish Parliament. The importance of the historic occasion was felt in every detail, including The Queen’s choice of outfit. Her team made the decision to break from her usual couturiers and sought out a Scottish designer.
Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Sandra Murray's thistle-inspired creation was a triumph. The purple coat in a silk-wool blend was worn over a green silk-crepe and lace dress and was paired with a matching plumed hat from Philip Somerville, specially dyed gloves, and bronze shoes and purse. The Queen's jewelry was also a reflection of the importance of the event, as she upgraded to a larger double strand of pearls and the larger version of her pearl and diamond button earrings
 Scottish Parliament via CC BY 2.0
My favorite part of the outfit was the Isle of Skye tartan shawl, draped over her shoulder in the style of a fly plaid. The plaid brooch she used to secure the shawl is one that is primarily - entirely, perhaps - associated with this single event.
The Queen's Oban Brooch
Referred to as "Her Majesty's Oban brooch" in Elizabeth: Reigning in Style by Jane Eastoe, the brooch is a traditional style of Scottish jewelry featuring what is most likely a Cairngorm stone at its center and an engraved surround of silver metal. Cairngorm is a smoky quartz found in the Cairngorms mountain range in Scotland, and decorative items worn with traditional Highland dress - such as this brooch - have long been popular uses. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were fans of the stone, as they were of Highland dress and of all things Scotland. Prince Albert purchased several "Scotch brooches" and "Perth brooches" in the 1840s, according to the Royal Collection. The Queen herself received a gold and Cairngorm brooch as a wedding gift from His Majesty's Medical Household in Scotland.*
A Cairngorm and silver brooch purchased by Prince Albert, 1847/8; the brooch was featured in a special Balmoral Castle episode of Antiques Roadshow, and is in the Royal Collection
BBC screencap
As Princess Elizabeth, The Queen was pictured wearing a brooch such as the one she wore to open the Scottish Parliament as a pin to hold her tartan sash in place at dances. Today, on the very rare occasion we see her with such a sash, she is likely to use a regular diamond brooch to pin it in place. For the 1999 opening of the Scottish Parliament, however, a traditional brooch was a lovely choice to make.

This outfit is currently on display as part of the exhibit Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The exhibition is the largest display yet of The Queen's fashion, and runs at Holyroodhouse from April 21 - October 16, 2016, at Buckingham Palace from July 23 - October 2, and at Windsor Castle from September 17 - January 8, 2017.

The Queen will officially open the new Scottish Parliament session this year on July 2. 

*With thanks to Kristina!