Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Diadem

Much has been written about the Machin Plaster cast and its end use. Today we all look at Machin definitive stamps and see a beautiful work of art incorporating the image of Queen Elizabeth II, in fact we are so used to seeing it we do not glance twice and look at the other masterpiece that actually sits on her Royal Head.

The truth is, if Arnold Machin had not changed his original plaster cast design (from a tiara) we would not see this actual image of the Queens portrait and its appearance on today's postage stamps. I am so pleased he did change the design.

Without the change we would not now have any Machin collectors as such or this Machin Blog for that matter.

Due to Arnold Machin, this exceptionally beautiful head ornament, incorporating the national emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland, is probably now the most familiar piece of Her Majesty The Queen's jewellery known to the general public, and we can say in fairness it is all down to the Machin Stamp, produced billions of times and also seen by more people than you could throw a stick at.

A little about the Diadem and its history.

It is 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. Pictures of Queen Victoria are well documented, many showing her wearing the jewels.

It is said that " it was originally made for George IV' (eldest son of George III and Queen Charlotte) for use at his famously extravagant coronation in 1821.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".

The diadem was made by Royal Jewelers Rundells, and the work was completed by May of 1820 . The design, probably by Rundells' chief designer Philip Liebart, reflects something of the discarded plan for George IV's Imperial State Crown, which was drawn up by Liebart in the same period and was to have included the national emblems in place of the traditional fleurs-de-lis.

The picture above left shows The George IV State Diadem, here worn by Queen Alexandra (centre). This image shows Queen Alexandra, consort of Edward VII, with her daughters Louise and Victoria.

Today the crown jewels are kept in the Tower of London, the diadem is only worn by Her Majesty The Queen when travelling to and from the State Opening of Parliament.

Thanks go to Rory Matthews, webmaster of the website The Royal Collection.


GBStamps said...

Would that be Rory Matthews, son of Jeffery Matthews?


GBStamps said...

It was not Machin's idea to change from the tiara to the diadem. That was a request of the Stamp Advisory Committee (or whatever it was called back then).

And we are all obligated to remember that it was John Hedgecoe who took further photos of the Queen wearing the diadem, and Machin used these photos to create his new casts.


Adrian said...

Gorgeous, isn't it?! I went down to London especially, to see it in the "Royal Treasures - A Golden Jubilee Celebration" exhibition, way back in 2002/3, fervently hoping she wouldn't be wearing it that day!