May 24 marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth, and Aug. 26 will be the 200th anniversary of the birth of her husband, Prince Albert. The couple’s love was legendary, and together they became the “grandparents of Europe,” since their nine children married into royal families in the UK and across the continent. In 1840, Albert gave Victoria a gorgeous coronet beset with sapphires and diamonds, and that dazzling headpiece is now on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum of art and design in London – and it’s making people cry!
“They love it… people are just reduced, in some cases, to the odd tear,” V&A curator Richard Edgcumbe told the UK Press Association. He said many visitors to the exhibit have also been asking to touch the delicate piece.
The coronet is part of the museum’s new jewellery gallery, which also includes Beyoncé’s Papillon ring, and a collection of Art Deco vanity cases once owned by Freddie Mercury’s sister, Kashmira Bulsara. According to Town & Country, the headpiece was created by goldsmith Joseph Kitching, who made it for $725 in 1840 (about $72,000 today with inflation). It was immortalized in an 1842 portrait of the young Victoria painted by German artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
Prince Albert died in 1861, sending Victoria into a deep mourning process and prompting her to wear black for the rest of her life. She went into self-imposed isolation, only emerging occasionally – one such occasion was the opening of the UK Parliament in 1866. On her head at the time wasn’t her coronation crown, but the coronet Albert had given her. It was later worn by the current Queen’s aunt, Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, who was the daughter of George V and who was also Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter.
“It’s not big – it’s delicate, but beautiful,” Richard told the Press Association. “It’s the widow as well as the young queen.” The museum’s director, Tristram Hunt, also told the news agency the coronet is “one of the greatest jewels to survive from the early decades of her reign.” It really is gorgeous!
Jewellery held great meaning for Victoria, and Albert certainly presented her with a lot of it. Among the other items he gave her include 12 eagle turquoise broochs he designed himself in 1840, which were intended to represent true love, according to National Geographic. When Albert died, Victoria had a lock of his hair placed in a glass, heart-shaped pendant, which she hardly ever took off, according to Sotheby’s. The item is currently just one of her many jewels on display at London’s Kensington Palace.