Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: Queen Victoria’s Insignia of the Order of the Garter, 1840

Lesser George
Agate Cameo by Nathaniel Marchant
Setting of Gold and Diamonds
Early Nineteenth Century
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Created by Nathaniel Marchant (1739-1816), this “Lesser George” insignia of the Order of the Garter is a work of brown on gray agate, gold and diamonds. While Royal Family oral history states that this chivalric badge was once worn by King George IV, it’s important to note that it was not recorded in the inventory of the Royal Collection until the accession of George’s niece, Queen Victoria, in 1837.

The badge clearly predates Victoria’s reign and is thought to be one of two which were made for King George IV while he was either still Prince of Wales or Prince Regent, filling-in for his ailing father, King George III. The more informal of the two, this badge features a lovely cameo of St. George about to vanquish the dragon, signed by Marchant. It’s likely that the setting is later.

The 1837 record of the badge, being its first mention, states only that Queen Victoria asked that this “Lesser George” be removed from Windsor Castle for “the Queen’s use.” That same year, the badge was take to Rundells where it was altered or repaired. Victoria favored this badge and wore it often. She was painted wearing the piece several times—notably by Franz Zaver Winterhalter. 

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