If you want to know exactly what was in Queen Elizabeth’s will, then get out your crampons, your lock pick and your willingness to commit a plethora of serious crimes given that it’s kept in a locked safe in a secret location in London.
This is all thanks to Prince Francis of Teck who, in 1910, decided to leave a motza to his mistress, a detail his sister Queen Mary fancied keeping out of the prurient hands of the public. She got the courts to step in and for the century plus since then, wills belonging to members of the royal family are kept under lock and key and are never made publicly available, unlike every single other such same document in the United Kingdom.
Bottom line: Who got what from Queen Elizabeth remains a Big Foot-sized mystery, except over the weekend we got a serious new clue.
Kate, the Princess of Wales just might have been the recipient of a much larger bequest than anyone had clocked.
This weekend saw the royal family out in sombre force to mark Remembrance Day, first attending the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance and then on Sunday, the National Service of Remembrance at The Cenotaph. (The black wash cycles inside royal laundries today must be going full bore.)
For the Festival of Remembrance outing, Kate recycled an Emilia Wickstead frock she first donned during the mourning period for Her late Majesty in 2022, again accessorising it with one of the indomitable monarch’s signature three-string pearl necklaces. (The ‘touching tribute’ headlines write themselves.)
But still, it was sweet given that three-strand pearls are a tad old-fashioned for a gal who now boasts a brace of Zara blazers at home with the odd bit of businesslike Alexander McQueen thrown in too.
So far, so Woman’s Home Journal. Cumquat marmalade recipe anyone?
However, the princess’ ensemble for Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph was another matter entirely. Out, again came another already-run from her wardrobe, in this case a Catherine Walker military-style coat she first wore in 2019, but it was her ginormous earrings where things really got interesting.
If any other human being on the planet wore jewellery that big, you would automatically assume they were made from the very best plastic and cubic zirconia a factory in Guangzhou could rustle up.
But this is Kate we are talking about thus these are not, in fact, a Lovisa special but as one particularly eagle-eyed royal watcher on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, worked out, they had belonged to the late Queen, though had not been in circulation for decades.
Specifically, for all you jewellery-o-philes and diamond-curios sorts, the earrings are mabe pearls nestled in a pavé-set diamond leaf setting and are part of a set that included a brooch the late Queen regularly wore.
The earrings have not been seen in public in 20 years, since 2003, which to give you a frame of reference, was before Prince William’s relationship with real looker and art history student Kate Middleton had been made public. (Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex had only just finished secondary school and the iPhone was but a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.)
Thus, for all intents and purposes, the world had forgotten about these pearl and diamond earrings, which are probably worth about as much as a one-bedroom flat within spitting distance of Sydney Harbour.
Now we know that these earrings were not lost down the back of a Louis Quatorze sofa in a private sitting room during an Antiques Roadshow binge, but would seem to have been left to Kate.
The question that these new shots of Kate at the Cenotaph raises is, just how much jewellery did the Princess of Wales come into when Queen Elizabeth passed away?
As the Court Jeweller website has pointed out (the absolute go-to source for anything royal and sparkly) there are plenty of stonking bits and bobs of royal jewellery that have not seen the light of day for decades.
Take Queen Mary’s Sapphire Bandeau or Queen Mary’s Love Trophy Collar or Queen Alexandra’s Dagmar necklace, none of which have been since the advent of colour television and Ice Magic.
Quite how many of these or countless other bits of priceless jewellery might now be nestled in a cupboard of Kate’s stuffed in with pairs of H&M hoop earrings and the world’s largest collection of useless clutch bags?
Getting to grips with the full extent of the Windsors’ haul of jewels is tough given it is steeped in plenty of controversy, from gems ‘given’ to the royal family by colonial nations to figuring out why some pieces are included in the Royal Collection, the body that looks after significant pieces in trust for the nation, and other are privately held.
For example, earlier this year, the Palace refused to explain why more than $153 million worth of jewels, that were presented to them as official gifts, had not been added to the Royal Collection register.
But, back to Kate and these headline-making earrings. What they represent is transparently clear – that the late Queen held her granddaughter-in-law in high esteem; that the venerable icon of the 20th century global geopolitical landscape thought Kate had come good as an HRH and rewarded her as such.
It’s worth noting here that her granddaughters, Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, have in the last year, been seen wearing any jewellery that might have belonged to their Granny. (Though Her late Majesty did lend Bea her favourite Fringe Tiara for her 2020 wedding and a Norman Hartnell dress to boot.)
Nor has the late Queen’s other granddaughter-in-law Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex been spied wearing any pieces from the Windsor hoard.
In 2018, Her late Majesty presented the former Suits star with a pair of diamond and pearl earrings during their joint trip to Merseyside to open a bridge. (Seriously. Royal-ing is not for those easily bored or unwilling to make small talk about bitumen.)
The duchess then wore the earrings in 2022 for the Westminster Hall service for the reception of the late Queen’s coffin and then for Her lat Majesty’s State funeral.
But in the 14 months since then, Meghan has not been seen wearing anything that belonged to the world’s most famous corgi advocate.
Maybe part of the reason lies in what pieces might have been owned by the Royal Collection and what was personally owned by Queen Elizabeth along with the fact that Kate will, one day, be a Queen too.
Still, you know the expression, ‘say it with flowers’? I wonder, when it came to Her late Majesty, if her motto was ‘say it with pearls’?
Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.