One of the first gifts Prince Albert sent his fiancée was a gold and porcelain brooch, in the form of a sprig of orange blossom, a flower traditionally associated with betrothal. It was sent from Wiesbaden, where the Prince had stopped to meet his father during his journey back to Coburg after receiving the Queen’s proposal at Windsor. The brooch bears French hallmarks, and was undoubtedly imported into Wiesbaden, which was renowned as a retail centre throughout Europe.
Orange blossom had long been associated with betrothal (and a symbol of chastity) in both England and Germany. At the wedding the Queen wore sprays of real orange blossom in her hair and on her bodice. Prince Albert continued to give the Queen orange blossom jewelry, another brooch and matching earrings in December 1845 and this headdress in Febraury 1846 (on their anniversary), eventually creating this beautiful set, parts of which she always wore on their wedding anniversary.
The headdress incorporates four small green enamel oranges, intended to represent the four eldest children - Victoria, Albert Edward, Alice and Alfred. The Queen wrote in her journal, ‘it is such a lovely wreath & such a dear kind thought of Albert’s’ (10 February 1846).
These were part of a group of jewels placed in the ‘Albert Room’ at Windsor Castle after the Queen’s death in 1901. This was the room in which Prince Albert had died in 1861 and the Queen left instructions for a specific list of personal jewellery to be placed there and not passed on in the family.
“Celtic Hymn” from Northern Skies, for cello and piano by James MacMillan
Performed by Ifetayo Ali-Landing, age 10