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Headdress from the orange blossom parure 1846

Gold, porcelain, enamel, velvet | 5.5 x 22.0 x 22.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 65305

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  • Headdress in the form of a wreath of orange blossoms with gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges. Black plaited velvet band, and silk ribbon.

    Within the language of flowers, one remarkably consistent usage was the symbolic meaning of ‘Chastity’ attached to orange blossom (Citrus x aurantium). Queen Victoria elected to wear orange blossom – her only floral adornment – at her marriage to Prince Albert on 10 February 1840. The Times described her dress of ‘rich white satin, trimmed with orange-flower-blossoms… Her Majesty wore no diamonds on her head, nothing but a simple wreath of orange blossom’.

    Queen Victoria’s choice of floral emblem and white silk wedding dress became the standard wedding attire for generations of Victorian brides, and spawned a fashion for orange-blossom jewellery. The most elaborate example of its kind was the suite of orange-blossom jewellery in enamel, gold and porcelain presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert at intervals between 1839 and 1846.

    One of the first gifts Prince Albert sent his fiancée was a gold and porcelain brooch. It takes the form of a sprig of orange blossom, a flower traditionally associated with betrothal. 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 jewellery, 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).

    Text adaped from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010 and Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, London, 2015.



    Provenance

    Given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on their wedding anniversary, 10 February 1846. Worn at each subsequent wedding anniversary until Albert's death. This was one 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.

  • Medium and techniques

    Gold, porcelain, enamel, velvet

    Measurements

    5.5 x 22.0 x 22.0 cm (whole object)