In this the 200th anniversary of the births of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the V&A museum has put Queen Victoria’s famous coronet on display after it was saved from being sold overseas.
One of Queen Victoria’s most treasured jewels, it was designed for her by Prince Albert in 1840 – the royal couple’s wedding year. Albert played a key role in arranging Victoria’s jewels, and he based the coronet’s design on the Saxon Rautenkranz, or circlet of rue, which runs diagonally across the coat of arms of Saxony.
Made by the royal jeweler Joseph Kitching, the coronet has 23 hinged sections so it is supple enough to be worn as a closed coronet or as an open tiara.
In 1842, Victoria wore the newly completed coronet in a famous portrait by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, which carried the image of the young queen around the world through replicas, copies and engravings.
Over twenty years later, Victoria wore the coronet instead of her crown in 1866 when she felt able to open Parliament for the first time since Albert’s death in 1861, with her crown carried on a cushion
After Victoria’s death, the coronet was inherited by her granddaughter Princess Mary, and it remained in the family, the Earls of Harewood until around 2011 when it was sold to an anonymous buyer. The coronet was again put up for sale, and sold to an anonymous overseas buyer in 2016 for an estimated £5 million, but a government export ban permitted a year to find a British buyer instead.
The Irish-American investors, William & Judith, and Douglas and James Bollinger purchased the coronet and gifted it to the V&A in 2017. They had previous funded the refurbishment of the jewellery room in the museum.
It has gone on display in the jewellery room, which has had its display re-laid, as well as the new case added for the coronet.
The laying of the foundation stone for the V&A museum in 1899 was Victoria’s last public appearance before her death in 1901.