Kind hearts and coro­nets

The ex­port of a sap­phire-and-di­a­mond coronet of me­dieval form made for Queen Vic­to­ria in 1842 has been tem­po­rar­ily stopped, in the hope that it can be bought for the na­tion. Diana Scaris­brick sets this trea­sure in the con­text of the ro­man­tic en­thu­si­asm fo

Country Life Every Week - - Focus On The Visual Arts -

ONE of the many at­trac­tions of an­tique jew­ellery is its power to evoke the lives and per­son­al­i­ties of the orig­i­nal own­ers. This is par­tic­u­larly true of the sap­phire-and-di­a­mond coronet cre­ated for Queen Vic­to­ria by the jew­eller Joseph Kitch­ing in 1842 (Fig 1). The grant­ing of an ex­port li­cence for this trea­sure has been de­layed, to al­low time for a Bri­tish col­lec­tion to raise £5mil­lion to pur­chase it.

Sur­mounted by tre­foil-shaped royal fleu­rons, the coronet is not only a state­ment of sovereignty, but also an ex­pres­sion of the Queenõs sense of history, an in­ter­est she shared with Prince Al­bert. Of Plan­ta­genet in­spi­ra­tion in de­sign, it was in­tended to en­cir­cle a chignon at the back of the head, in a man­ner sim­i­lar to a pearl coronet worn by Queen Hen­ri­etta Maria in a por­trait by Hen­drik van Steen­wyck of about 1630 (Fig 2).

As a favourite jewel, it ap­pears in F. X. Win­ter­hal­terõs first por­trait of Queen Vic­to­ria, painted in 1842 (Fig 3), and again in a minia­ture by Robert Thorn­ton, which was copied in Ber­lin porce­lain for her Jewel Cab­i­net (Fig 4), made in 1851, where it is part­nered with a fine minia­ture of Al­bert. Epit­o­mis­ing the spirit of English Ro­man­ti­cism, she wears a me­dieval­is­ing gown with slashed sleeves and he is dressed in ar­mour, like a knight in a tour­na­ment.

Dur­ing the youth of the royal cou­ple, this new artis­tic lan­guage emerged to in­flu­ence cos­tume, coif­fures and jew­ellery. Al­though there is no di­rect ev­i­dence that the coronet was de­signed by Prince Al­bert, it em­bod­ies the tastes he shared with the Queen. Ro­man­ti­cism brought a ven­er­a­tion for history and, through its mas­ter nov­el­ist, Sir Walter Scot­tñthe Queenõs Ôbeau idéal of a po­etõñ the lives and char­ac­ters of past times caught the imag­i­na­tion of the young Vic­to­ria.

This led her to mark her Coro­na­tion in 1837 with sou­venirs of his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance. Thus, when the an­cient crown of the Hanove­rian kings was dis­man­tled and the stones used for her new, light crown, she or­dered that the di­a­monds left over should be set into eight rings, which she then pre­sented, duly in­scribed, to each of her train-bear­ers (Fig 5).

Early in her reign, she wore an ar­che­typal his­tori­cist jewel, the fer­ronière, copied from the ban­deau on the fore­head of the sit­ter

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