rundell bridge and rundell

Cast of George IV’s Crown, by Rundell Bridges & Rundell.

A gilt bronze cast of the crown of George IV. The crown is surmounted by a monde and cross pattée above four half arches springing from four crosses, cast with oak leaves and acorns, interspersed with fleurs de lis and a circlet of foliage; with a purple velvet and ermine cap. The crown has a circular gilt-wood base with a glass dome and blue velvet cover Within the monde of the model is a parchment note giving details of its creation. It was cast from George IV’s Imperial State Crown or Diamond Crown, supplied by Rundell’s for the coronation of 1821.The crown contained an extraordinary 12,314 diamonds. Although the frame of the original survives among the Crown Jewels, the stones were hired only for the coronation ceremony and were later removed from it. This model therefore gives the full impression of how it would have appeared.

William IV’s sovereign’s ring (left) and Queen Adelaide’s consort’s ring (right) - Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell, 1831.

Traditionally a new sovereign’s ring was slipped onto the finger of every British monarch during his/her coronation and became that monarch’s personal property; William IV’s ring has been used in every coronation since Edward VII’s in 1901 and has joined the rest of the imperial state regalia in the Tower of London.

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The Marchioness of Londonderry’s Jewels

One of society’s greatest amusements was the impersonation of historical characters at costume balls. Frances Anne Vane-Tempest-Stewart, wife of the third Marquess of Londonderry, had the jewels, the style and the audacity to turn such an opportunity into a personal triumph. It was at a costume ball at the Hanover Square Rooms in 1835 that the young Benjamin Disraeli first met her, ‘dressed as Cleopatra in a dress literally embroidered with emeralds and diamonds from top to toe. It looked like armour and she like a rhinocerous!’ A great heiress in her own right, Frances Anne inherited the Antrim rubies and emeralds from her mother, the Countess of Antrim, and with the fortune left by her father, Sir Harry Vane-Tempest, she could afford to buy whatever she wished. On the birth of her eldest son in Vienna in 1821 where her husband was ambassador, she acquired - for 10,000 pounds - the famous Gouttes de Perles, or tear drops, from the widow of a banker, Countess de Fries, and had them made into a regal set of necklace, diadem, comb and earrings (second picture). She also bought a matchless set of large turquoises - her birthstone - from Count Ferdinand Palffy who had spent a lifetime collecting them and believed them to be unique (third picture). While in Vienna she was introduced to the Emperor Alexander of Russia. He told her that in 1818 he had seen her portrait in the studio of Sir Thomas Lawrence and had ‘felt a sort of foreboding that the person whose picture was before him was fated to have an influence over his destiny and cause him much disquiet’. His intuition proved correct. Having lived like a hermit for the previous ten years, he was seized with a romantic passion and continually sought her company. Immensely flattered by the Emperor’s attentions, she nonetheless did not lose her head: ‘Indeed when memory recalls this too highly gifted and all perfect being at my feet kneeling before me and covering my hands as he was wont with kisses so far from wondering at my weakness I can only rejoice and wonder what we came out of the ordeal free of guilt’. He gave her gemstones from his vast empire to remember him by: an intense pink topaz, a yellow diamond, and the large Siberian amethysts which clasp the sleeves of the red velvet dress she wears in a portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence with her small son Viscount Seaham. Later she had the amethysts - of which she was extremely proud - set in a diamond chain which she sometimes wore as a tiara on her head, but more like the ribbon of an order (fourth picture). After the death of her sister-in-law Emily - widow of the eminent statesman, the second Marquess - in 1829, Frances Anne could wear the Down diamonds from India, brought into the family by Mary Cowan, mother of the first Marquess. With this inheritance came all the diamonds which Viscount Castlereagh (later the second Marquess), then Foreign Secretary, had received from the allied monarchs. Some were mounted in his Garter insignia and ceremonial sword but others were worn by his wife, as is clear from a letter he wrote from the Foreign Office enclosing a miniature of the King of Naples and Sicily:

Dearest Em,
 I send you an ugly face and some pretty diamonds which will become you rather better than his Sicilian Majestys.

Marchioness Frances was painted by A. Dubois-Drahonnet dressed for the coronation of King William IV in 1831 (top picture), and many of the jewels she wore then, particularly the belt of Down diamonds, were seen at the Queen’s Drawing Room when the Lady’s Magazine described her:

most beautiful white blond lace dress, of the most costly description, and the richest manufacture, over a white satin slip; a zone (belt) entirely composed of brilliants. Headress, a beautiful and brilliant garland of diamonds with a comb ornamented with large pearls; an esclavage necklace composed of immense pear-shaped pearls and diamonds which is said to be unrivalled in Europe for its beauty and value. Her Ladyship also wore a bouquet of costly brilliants at her left breast and three rows of pearls suspended from the left epaulette by a lozenge of brilliants terminating on the right side towards the waist. Headress: an immense tiara of diamonds surmounted by moveable pieces with a plume of fifteen rich ostrich feathers. The most conspicuous part of this attire was the zone or cincture of brilliants, full two inces in width and consisting of one entire mass of brilliants and divided by the invisible setting of each.

All her life she outshone everybody; after the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838 Benjamin Disraeli reported to his sister, ‘Fanny blazed among the peereses and looked like an Empress’. Marchioness Frances took her jewels on her travels. Staying in St. Petersburg in 1837 she had the pleasure of showing them to the Empress while one of the grandduchesses made sketches of the pieces her mother liked best. The Empress’s favourite was the enamelled gold cross entwined with flowers and set with cabochon rubies and emeralds which had been a wedding present from the Prince Regent (bottom picture). It is an early example of the Gothic revival in English jewellery for not only are the gemstones unfaceted but the back is enamelled with tracery may well have come from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell for in 1819 - the date of the marriage with the future third Marquess - they invoiced the Prince for ‘a fine antique cross composed of oriental stones, enamel etc’. As a souvenir of this enjoyable afternoon with the imperial family the Empress presented a miniature of herself in national costume, framed in diamonds and mounted in a turquoise bracelet.

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George IV State Diadem,  Rundell Bridge & Rundell, 1820

From its frequent appearance on postage stamps and coins, this exceptionally beautiful head ornament, incorporating the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland, is probably the most familiar piece of Her Majesty The Queen’s jewellery. Set with 1,333 diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant in the centre of the front cross, the diadem has been regularly worn (and slightly modified) by queens regnant and consort from Queen Adelaide onwards. This feminine association belies its origin, since it was made for George IV’s use at his famously extravagant coronation in 1821. On that occasion, he wore it over a large velvet ‘Spanish’ hat at the ceremonies in Westminster Hall and during the walking procession to Westminster Abbey.