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In the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen

Tommaso Saulini (1793-1864)

Badge of the Order of Victoria and Albert (first class) c. 1863

Sardonyx: white on brown; gold, silver, enamel, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, white pastes | 8.9 x 4.3 cm (whole object) | RCIN 441445

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To mark the confirmation of their eldest daughter, the Princess Royal, in 1856, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert presented her with a cameo showing their jugate heads derived from the 1851 Great Exhibition medal by William Wyon. The cameo was surrounded by diamonds and surmounted by a crown, to be worn as an order pinned to a white moiré ribbon. This gift was repeated upon the occasion of Princess Alice’s confirmation three years later. The badges supplied by Garrards were furnished with cameos cut by Tommaso Saulini, apparently commissioned through John Gibson, the Rome-based sculptor of whom the Queen and Prince were patrons. While no evidence has yet been found to confirm it, the likelihood is that the design of the badges was the Prince’s. Both he and the Queen were closely involved and interested in the practicalities of their manufacture.

The movement of the cameos from Rome was not easy: they were delivered via the diplomatic bag of the French Ambassador in Rome to the British Ambassador in Paris, from where they were despatched to London. Not all the cameos were well received, one being thought too generalised and another (probably the stone for Princess Helena) was ‘… not considered as like as the first two …’. The stone for Princess Helena’s badge was ordered before her father’s death, and is most likely that supplied by Saulini which appears in the Queen’s accounts for the quarter ending September 1861. The badge was given to the Princess by her widowed mother, following the confirmation service at Whippingham Church on the Isle of Wight: ‘When we got back we went to dear Albert’s room, where I gave Lenchen our presents. Amongst others she got our Order which I have established as a Family Order called the “Victoria & Albert”’. The Queen had turned the family gift into an Order in memory of her late husband, with its date of foundation her twenty-second wedding anniversary, 10 February 1861. The return of this badge to the Sovereign after the Princess’s death was assured by a covenant dated 7 February 1865.

The following year the Queen wore her own badge of the Order for the first time, at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales: ‘& for the 1st time since Dec ’61! [I wore] the ribbon, star & badge of the Order of the Garter, the latter being one my beloved one had worn, also the “Victoria & Albert” Order on which I had dearest Albert’s head put above mine’. This reordering of the Queen and Prince’s heads was unique in the Order’s insignia.

The Queen bequeathed the badge to her daughter, Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg (1857-1944), who replaced the diamonds with pastes and subsequently gave it to Queen Mary.

Signed to the right of Prince Albert's head T. SAULINI F

Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010