Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Prince Regent Rewards Loyalty with Peridots, 1816

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Isabella reporting,

Gemstones are among the most lasting of treasures – what's more "forever" than a diamond? – but they also disappear through history with maddening regularity, stolen, smuggled, and sold, recut and reset beyond recognition.

All of which makes this set of peridot gems set in gold, recently acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum, even more noteworthy. Not only is it a complete set of necklace, pendant, earrings, brooch, and bracelets in the original case from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the most important jewellers of the era, but it's also accompanied by a royal letter that links it irrefutably to history.

In 1814, Princess Charlotte of Wales was a strong-willed 18-year-old determined to resist marrying her father's choice. Her father was George, Prince of Wales and Prince Regent, and he was equally determined that his only child wed William, Prince of Orange. Princess Charlotte dramatically made her point by running off one night, although she returned the following morning. Her father was not amused, and placed her under what amounted to house arrest. Watching over the princess were the Dowager Countess of Rosslyn, and her two nieces, Miss Charlotte Cotes and Miss Lucy Cotes.

In the battle of wills, the princess finally won, and married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saafeld instead in 1816. In gratitude and likely some relief, the Prince Regent rewarded the two Cotes sisters with sets of jewels – this set of peridots, and another of amethysts – to be worn at the wedding. Tragically, the joy of the wedding and the happy marriage between the two young newlyweds would not last; Princess Charlotte died in 1817, giving birth to a stillborn son.

The letter that still accompanies the set is from Princess Elizabeth, the Prince Regent's sister, asking Miss Cotes to accept the jewels as a gift. The original bill from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell for £240 9s (a sizable amount in 1816) also still exists in the Royal Archives.

The peridot set will go on display at the V&A later this summer. See here for more information.


Hels said...

I am very glad the thank-you gift was accompanied by that royal letter. It may be surprising that the jewellery survived intact, but even more surprising that the letter survived intact.

However I wonder how often thank-you gifts went to women (other than royal mistresses). Men have always been thanked with estates, titles, honours, ambassadorships etc etc.

Amylynn said...

My birthstone is peridot as I was born in August. I've always hated the poor stone, lamenting that I wasn't born with a diamond or an emerald. However, this set is gorgeous. I'd be ever so happy to accept this set.

Catherine Curzon said...

A wonderful piece of history; the jewellery is fabulous but as a lover of old documents, it's the letter that has really excited me!

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