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A Look at the Duchess’s Borrowed Brooches

Hello and welcome to a post filled with shimmering, glittering goodies, as we launch a new series covering the loaned jewelry pieces the Duchess wears. 

I thought it would be fun to start with brooches, which is a manageable group. We begin with the first borrowed brooch we saw the Duchess wear, the Diamond Maple Leaf. Kate wore it with her Reiss dress for Canada Day engagements during the 2011 tour. (It is a little difficult to see on the ivory dress.)

The Duchess wore it again that evening for a concert atop a purple Issa dress and then a week later at the Calgary airport as the couple said goodbye to Canada.  

Featuring diamonds set in platinum, it is a piece the Queen has worn for decades, starting with a 1951 trip to Canada when she was Princess Elizabeth.  The Royal Order of Splendor has more:

This diamond brooch in the shape of Canada’s instantly recognizable maple leaf was given to Queen Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother, by her husband George VI in advance of their wildly successful Canadian tour in 1939. She kept it until the end of her life, when it passed to the current queen like the rest of her jewels. We now see it pop up in Canada and at Canada-centric activities.

Patricia Treble reports in Write Royalty that “It has been loaned more frequently than every other brooch in the Queen’s jewellery box.” We saw the Duchess wearing it again during the 2016 Canada Tour.  Below, the Duchess with Princess Charlotte as the Cambridge family arrived in Victoria, British Columbia.  

Kate wore the brooch two more times during the 2016 tour. The first occasion was a cocktail reception when she paired it with a Preen dress, the second was as the family was leaving to head back to London when it was worn with a Catherine Walker coat.

A few more views of the piece. 

Our next item is the Royal Air Force Cadets Dacre Brooch, first worn by the Duchess when attending events celebrating the Cadets’ 75th Anniversary in February 2016. The Duchess is the Honorary Air Commandant of the Cadets, and she wore the piece with her Alexander McQueen utility coat.

A closer look at the large piece, which The Court Jeweller notes, is set with diamonds and other gemstones. 

More on the item’s history via the Air Cadets

The Dacre Brooch is the highest award any female Air Cadet can achieve. In 1979, Mrs Elizabeth Dacre MBE TD JP presented to the Air Training Corps the dress sword of her late husband, Air Commodore G B Dacre CBE DSO DL RAF to be presented to the “ATC Cadet of the Year.” With the advent of girls in 1982, Mrs Dacre presented the Corps with a diamond brooch mounted on a sash, for presentation to the best female cadet.

The Duchess wore the brooch again for events marking the Royal Air Force’s 100th anniversary in July 2018

The closeups seen above are shot outside; these show it as photographed inside.

One other note about the piece comes via The Court Jeweller

Papers also reported that the brooch had been gifted to Kate, but I’m not sure whether it was offered to her as a personal gift or presented to her to wear during her tenure as the organization’s patron. The brooch was reportedly presented to Kate by the Air Cadets after she was appointed as their newest patron. 

Next, the New Zealand Fern Brooch. Below, you see the Cambridge family as they arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, at the start of the couple’s 2014 tour of New Zealand and Australia. 

Kate wore the brooch again when attending a Palm Sunday service in Dunedin about a week later. 

Below, a look at the piece.

More on its history from Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault

The Queen’s coronation world tour in 1953-1954 was marked with some significant jewel presentations, including this one. The women of Auckland showed their appreciation for the first reigning monarch to visit their country with a bejeweled version of a well-known national symbol: the silver fern. The gift was made possible by fundraising from a committee of women’s organizations in Auckland. Made of platinum set with baguette and brilliant diamonds, it was presented on Christmas Day 1953 and worn for the first time before the trip was over.

Two more views of the Duchess wearing the piece.

Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault also notes that the Duchess was the first to be loaned the piece. 

One of the most frequently worn loaned items we see: the Shamrock Brooch.  The Duchess first wore it for a June 2011 Armed Forces Day event with the Irish Guards.

Prince William is Colonel of the Regiment and it was the Irish Guards uniform he wore on his wedding day. The Duchess wore this piece again when handing out shamrocks to the Irish Guards on St. Patrick’s Day 2012. This was the first of many times Kate took part in the annual tradition.

Below, the Duchess wearing the pin on St. Patrick’s Day 2013 (l) and marking the day just last year.

The brooch is owned by the Irish Guards and loaned to royal women taking part in ceremonial duties with the regiment. It has previously been worn by the late Queen Mother, as well as the Princess Royal, Princess Anne. Below, Kate wearing the brooch atop Catherine Walker coats on St.Patrick’s Day 2015 (l) and also on St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

As you can see, the brooch features three textured leaves and a single emerald in the center.

Another occasion when the Duchess wore it for an event other than St. Patrick’s Day, a June 2016 garden party in Northern Ireland

Our final item is the Pearl and Diamond Leaf Brooch.  We first saw the Duchess wearing the piece for ceremonies in Belgium commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.  Below, the Duchess wearing it with a Catherine Walker coatdress.

Her Majesty’s Jewel Vault notes, “Its provenance is so far unknown and its appearances are scarce; The Queen most notably wore it during a State Visit to South Korea in 1999.”

The brooch “features a trio of pearls placed in the center of a pave-set leaf,” according to The Court Jeweller.  The Duchess also wore the piece again to the November 2018 Festival of Remembrance.  While it was mostly covered by Kate’s poppies, you can see that the stem matches.  

As an aside, we have had several conversations over the years (via comments, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) about the way brooches are affixed to the clothing Kate is wearing, and concerns they might damage the fabric.  For some time, I have thought that delicate fabrics may have an additional layer(s) of material worn on the inside of a garment to help hold the weight of the brooch.  Today I realized there is a photo showing extra fabric affixed to the outside of a coat to help protect the garment. You can see that Emilia Wickstead provided additional material from the green coat worn by the Duchess on St. Patrick’s Day 2012I’m not able to tell if that same patch of fabric was used again in 2013.    

That’s it for the brooches. Next on the agenda, bracelets; we’ll look at them later this week! 

NOTE AUG 25: With thanks to Lindsey for her comment sharing a tip, the Royal Collection Shop offers styles that can make great replicas.  


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Tuesday 1st of September 2020

This dress is... not great. I'm all for airy, feminine casual dresses. But we've seen better versions of this trend. It's such a surprising miss given that Kate has a knack for finding Zara pieces that rise above their mass-produced, accessible-price-point origins. Perhaps the roughest part is that white trim. Maybe this is a touch too harsh, but it really comes across as a remnant of a bargain-bin cast-off. One would think it hard for a cheap white trim and an expensive white trim to look so different. But, for all it's other difficulties, the Erdem from the Chelsea Flower Show stands head-and-shoulders above this in executing the white-trim embellishment. This ensemble's only redemption is Kate's thoroughly modern and sophisticated hairstyle, taming the twee vibe of the dress.


Sunday 30th of August 2020

The maple leaf brooch is so cute and goes with every outfit kate pairs it with.


Friday 28th of August 2020

Wow! What a Wonderful idea to have posts featuring the Duchess of Cambridge wearing her jewelry - more, please! I'm a lover of brooches. Kate has many that are just stunning and she wears them so well! I adore all of the brooches featured here. The RAF brooch is my particular favorite, as well was the Maple leaf and pearl brooches. Honestly, I love them all, and Kate wears them with such amazing outfits.


Thursday 27th of August 2020

Long time observer, never commented before. I love the fact that you are finding new and interesting topics for posts. Thank you!


Thursday 27th of August 2020

Awww, thank you, Misty! It's definitely my pleasure. :)


Thursday 27th of August 2020

Forgive me if someone else has asked, or it's explained somewhere I'm not seeing... but how do we know when the Queen loans vs. has gifted away? Kate wears these few brooches so frequently, is there possibility the Queen has actually given them to Kate to keep?


Thursday 27th of August 2020

That's a terrific question Sarah, and one I'm not really well-equipped to answer. Here's my best effort at explaining: The Queen has access to a vast collection of jewelry but not all of it belongs to her personally; many items are property of the Crown and are to be passed on from sovereign to sovereign. (This is not to say HM doesn't have an enormous personal collection of jewelry. She does.) The Royal Collection owns the Crown Jewels and the Queen "holds them in trust." That is one reason she can't gift items. Another is that some items need to be available to be worn by other royals; the Maple Leaf Brooch is a good example of this. In some cases "lifetime loans' have been made, but I don't believe that happens frequently. It's possible the LOver's Knot tiara is in this category or will be at some point in the future. For much better information, I highly recommend the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor ( and The Court Jeweller ( :)

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