A few months ago I did an interesting post regarding the History of Wedding Rings throughout the centuries, for more information please click on the link. That was followed by a post focusing on the British Royal engagement and wedding rings of four Queens starting with Queen Victoria to the beloved Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Duchess of Windsor, click on the link to see British Royal Family Wedding Rings (Part One)
In this post I will continue with the British Royal engagement and wedding rings starting with the current Queen Elizabeth II to the most recent Royal bride, Catherine Middleton.
Princess Elizabeth’s engagement ring – (the current Queen Elizabeth II)
In 1939 Princess Elizabeth took notice of her cousin Prince Phillip of Greece and Denmark while on a visit to the Naval Academy with her parents, he was an 18 years old naval cadet and she was the 13 year old heir presumptive to the throne of England. For the young Princess Elizabeth there was to be no other man that she wished to marry and she patiently waited until finally in 1947 Prince Phillip proposed and she gladly accepted. King George VI consented to the marriage with the stipulation that the engagement would not be officially announced until their return from a State Visit to South Africa because the Princess would have then reached the age of 21 years old.
Since Prince Phillip was considered a poor European royal he could not really afford an extravagant engagement ring. The story goes that Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew of Greece, had shunned royal life after their exile during the Greco-Turkish War. Since that time she had joined an order of the Greek Orthodox Church and as a result she no longer possessed her royal jewelry. So, to solve the problem of selecting an engagement ring that would be worthy of Princess Elizabeth and her royal status, Prince Phillip used the diamonds from one of his mother’s tiaras and designed a platinum ring with a 3 carat diamond in the center and additional diamonds on either side.
Princess Elizabeth’s engagement ring
In November 1947, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were married at Westminster Abbey. Shortly thereafter Prince Phillip was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh. Then in 1952, with the death of her father King George VI, the Princess ascended to the throne and she became Queen Elizabeth II. Currently Queen Elizabeth has become the longest reign British Monarch in history and celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. In 2017 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip will be celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary making them the longest married Royal couple in English history.
Princess Diana’s engagement ring (the Princess of Wales)
Perhaps one of the most iconic British Royal engagement rings in recent times has been Princess Diana’s stunning sapphire and diamond ring. What makes the ring unusual was that prior to this time most royal brides received a custom ring usually designed by the Royal Jewelers sometimes under the direction of the groom and made specifically for the bride. In this case, when Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana Spencer in February 1981 he did not have an engagement ring prepared to give her. A selection of rings from Garrard Jewelers was brought to Buckingham Palace for Lady Diana to pick her own engagement ring.
The ring that Lady Diana picked was a large oval blue Ceylon sapphire that was surrounded by 14 diamonds and set in 18 karat white gold. What makes the choice interesting is that the ring was part of Garrard’s jewelry line and at the time anyone could have purchased the ring for the cost of $60,000. Special Note: Although most modern brides of the time preferred diamonds it was not unusual for a British Royal bride to select a colored stone and in fact Prince Charles grandmother, the beloved Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, had received a sapphire and diamond engagement ring back in 1923.
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981. The Prince and Princess of Wales had two children; Prince William in 1982 and Prince Henry “Harry” in 1984. The couple divided their time between Kensington Palace in London and Highgrove House near Tetbury located in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England.
Princess Diana’s wedding ring (left) and
Prince Charles Prince of Wales signet ring (right)
Prince Charles did not wear an official wedding ring but he did wear a signet ring on the pinky finger of his left hand. The ring bears the mark of the Prince of Wales crest which is three distinct feathers above a crown. It is unsure as to whether he received the ring as part of his investiture in 1969. Special Note: After his divorce from Princess Diana in 1996 Prince Charles stopped wearing the ring while Princess Diana continued to wear her engagement ring until her tragic death in 1997. Prince Charles began wearing his signet ring again after his former wife’s death and he finally removed the ring just before the official engagement announcement to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005.
For more detailed information about Princess Diana’s jewelry collection which featured many more sapphire and diamond pieces to match her engagement ring, please check back to this blog in the coming months for a fantastic post about her jewelry.
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall engagement ring
Much has been reported on the long relationship of Prince Charles and Camilla Shand and here is the brief story. The Prince and Camilla had first met in the early 1970s but Camilla eventually married Anthony Parker Bowles in 1973. In the following years the Prince was considered the world’s most eligible bachelor until 1981 when he married Princess Diana. Then a few years later, both the Prince and Camilla had divorced their first spouses, Camilla and her husband in 1995 while the Prince and Princess of Wales divorced in 1996. After Princess Diana died in 1997, Prince Charles was very adamant about his rekindled relationship with Camilla and it took several years of PR rehabilitation for the couple for the public to accept the situation. Finally in 2005 the determined couple announced their engagement.
Prince Charles gave Camilla a diamond ring which had originally belonged to his beloved grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who had passed away in 2002. It was not the Queen Mother’s engagement ring which was a sapphire ring as mentioned in a previous post. The ring was given to her by Queen Mary in 1926 on the birth of her first daughter, Princess Elizabeth (the current Queen Elizabeth II). Camilla’s engagement ring is designed in an art deco style and features a center emerald-cut diamond with three diamond baguettes on both sides.
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall’s engagement ring
As required by the Royal Marriage Act, Queen Elizabeth granted her consent to the marriage. Because both Prince Charles and Camilla were previously married and divorced, the couple had a civil wedding ceremony held the Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005. Afterwards the couple greeted the crowds and then moved onto St. George’s Chapel for a blessing service performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a wedding reception followed the service at Windsor Castle.
Catherine Middleton’s engagement ring – (the current Duchess of Cambridge)
After the tragic death of Princess Diana, her sons were able to select from their mother’s possessions special mementos. Prince William chose his mother’s 18-karat yellow gold Cartier Tank Francaise watch; it was a sentimental choice because his mother had received the watch from her father, the Earl of Spencer. Prince Harry chose one of his mother’s most precious items of jewelry, her engagement ring.
Princess Diana wearing the Cartier tank watch and engagement ring
Prince William met Catherine Middleton in 2001 when both attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The Prince was second in line to the British throne and Catherine was the eldest of three children of Michael and Carole Middleton. The couple began dating in 2003 and had broken up briefly in 2007 before getting back together.
Then in October 2010 the couple took a ten day trip to Kenya, Africa in part as a celebration for Prince William completing and passing his RAF helicopter search and rescue course. Unbeknownst to Catherine, the Prince was carrying his mother’s engagement ring in his backpack and was about to propose to her. Once the Prince had made this decision to marry Catherine, he had asked his brother for his mother’s ring and Prince Harry graciously complied. Catherine said yes to the proposal and she was surprised when Prince William pulled out Princess Diana’s engagement ring to place on her finger. Special Note: Since Princess Diana had worn the ring several additional prongs had been added to secure the large sapphire and the ring was also resized to fit Catherine’s finger.
The couple kept the engagement a secret until Clarence House made the announcement in November 2010. In an interview that day Prince William explained that it meant a lot to him to give the ring to Catherine and he also felt it was his way of “including” his mother into the wedding. The public reaction was that some people felt that it was a wonderful and sentimental gesture that the Prince chose to honor his mother in a special way. Others felt that the ring was somehow an unhappy symbol of his parent’s disastrous marriage. Regardless of the public opinion, Prince William and Catherine were very happy and excited for the wedding.
Catherine Middleton wearing her sapphire and diamond engagement ring
Since their wedding the couples have had two children, Prince George born in 2013 and Princess Charlotte in 2015. The couple divides their time between their home in Kensington Palace in London and their country home, Anmer Hall near Sandringham in Norfolk. (Additional note: Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge had a third child, Prince Louis was born 2018)
A Special British Royal Wedding Tradition
As mentioned in the previous post on Royal Engagement & Wedding Rings (Part One), at the time of Prince Albert (the future King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) engagement, the people of Wales gave the Royal couple a large nugget of Welsh gold from which Lady Elizabeth’s wedding ring would be made. In the years that followed, the same piece of Welsh gold had been traditionally used to make the wedding rings for several other British Royal brides; including the couple’s two daughters – Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) in 1947 and Princess Margaret in 1960, also for Princess Diana who married Prince Charles (their grandson) in 1981, then Camilla Parker-Bowles when she married Prince Charles in 2005 and most recently for Catherine Middleton who married Prince William (their great-grandson) in 2011.
The Duchess of Cambridge wearing her engagement and wedding rings
Shown in the photo above the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing her sapphire and diamond engagement ring and her wedding ring made from the Welsh gold nugget. She is also shown in the photo wearing a third ring that was given to her by her husband after the birth of their second child, Princess Charlotte. The ring is set with diamonds encircling the band in a style known as an eternity ring