Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Thistle Badge of the Prince of Wales

Thistle Badge
Blue-Grey and White Onyx,
Diamonds, Gold, Silver, Enamel
Miniature on Ivory
Originally made for King James II
The Royal Collection

The onyx cameo of St. Andrew set into this badge dates to the early Eighteenth Century and was originally carved as a garter badge for King James II. Over the centuries, the badge was altered considerably. Its present condition owes to a redesign from around 1764 when the reverse of the cameo was layered with an enamel design of a thistle. In 1772, a locket was embedded into the enamel. The locket housed a portrait miniature of Princess Louise.

There’s some debate about the origin of the opulent diamond mounting. Some records indicate that this garter jewel was set in a frame of large diamonds as early as 1703 with its presentation to King James II. However, other records show that the diamond mounting was added with the enamel backing in the mid-Eighteenth Century. It could be that the badge has had several settings though the cut and quality of the diamonds suggests creation in the Eighteenth Century.

In 1807, the Cardinal of York, bequeathed the Thistle Badge to the Prince of Wales. Later, the Thistle Badge (having become symbolic of Scotland) was displayed by King William IV as part of the “Honours of Scotland.”

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