It was thought that Queen Victoria’s wedding coronet was set to leave the UK in the hands of a foreign buyer last year, as the piece went to auction; thankfully, however, the circlet has been saved and is to go on display at the V&A museum.
Last year, we reported on the export ban placed on the item by the UK Government, in the hopes of finding a British buyer to keep the historically important headpiece in its homeland.
A private buyer, William Bollinger, bought the item in the auction house, which was estimated at £5 million. He then donated it to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design.
In a statement, the museum said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of one of Queen Victoria’s most important jewels. The stunning sapphire and diamond coronet was designed by Prince Albert in 1840, the royal couple’s wedding year. The coronet, generously gifted to the V&A by William Bollinger, will go on display as the centre-piece of the Museum’s newly-refreshed William and Judith Bollinger Jewellery Gallery in 2019, the bicentenary year of the birth of both Victoria and Albert.”
The coronet is a diamond and sapphire piece, measuring 11.5cm (4.5in) wide. 11 sapphires are set in gold, with the diamonds in silver. Albert, who was a patron of the arts and something of an architect, designed the circlet tiara himself.
The Queen noted in her famous diaries that Albert “has such good taste and arranges everything for me about my jewellery,” as it was given to her as part of a wedding gift from her fiancé in 1840. Victoria wore the circlet for her 1842 portrait by Winterhalter and even to the first State Opening of Parliament after her husband’s death in 1866.
Following Albert’s tradition, the circlet was then given by George V and Mary to their daughter, Princess Mary, on her marriage to Viscount Lascelles in 1922. A sapphire brooch – worn often by The Queen even today – was made to match the circlet, also forming part of the wedding gift.
The coronet is set to go on display to the public in 2019 as part of a new gallery, named after its generous donors.