The mystery of Mrs Greville's jewellery

Polesden Lacey's honeycomb diamond tiara on a red cushion

On the 25th April 1891 Margaret Helen Anderson, a young woman from Scotland, married Captain Ronald Greville. He was heir to a baronetcy and a member of the Marlborough house set, the social circle around the future King Edward VII. The future Dame Margaret Greville was the last owner of Polesden Lacey.

As you might expect, Mrs Greville was given some beautiful, in some cases spectacular, fine jewellery on her Wedding Day. 

A beautiful diamond tiara and a large diamond spray arranged as leaves, to be worn on a dress, were gifted to Mrs Greville by her father William McEwan. Diamond stars for her wedding veil and a diamond and ruby heart were given to her by her new husband. She was given an antique diamond and turquoise cross, as a necklace, from her mother in law and an emerald bracelet from her father in law.

Powerful provenance 

Now able to enjoy purchasing what she wanted and ‘able to keep up’ with royalty and aristocrats at Court and with ‘old families’ in society, Mrs Greville began to take a huge interest in jewellery. She was a patron of Boucheron in Paris and Cartier in London, Paris and New York. She also bought unset jewels on her world travels.

One stunning piece of jewellery owned by Mrs Greville was a necklace previously owned by Marie Antoinette. The suggestion has been made that she was sold the necklace by a Russian Princess, who managed to leave Russia prior to 1917. Another necklace in Mrs Greville's possession was reportedly previously owned by Empress Josephine.

" shrewd, so kind, so amusingly unkind, so sharp, such fun, so naughty"
- Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, writing after Mrs Greville’s death

The Greville bequest

When Mrs Greville died in 1942, she bequeathed "with my loving thoughts" all of her 'real' jewellery to the Queen Mother, whom she adored as the daughter she'd never had. The jewellery was given in a black tin box. To this day, we still don't know everything that was contained in that black tin box.

Mrs Greville's jewels are still popular with the Royal Family today. The Duchess of Cornwall often wears the Greville diamond tiara and The Duchess of Cambridge has worn Mrs Greville's Boucheron ruby and diamond necklace (1907), which was given to the Queen by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1947 when she married Prince Philip.

Maggie Greville on the south terrace at Polesden Lacey
A black and white photo of Maggie Greville sitting on the south terrace at Polesden Lacey
Maggie Greville on the south terrace at Polesden Lacey

As time goes on, we see new pieces of Mrs Greville’s jewellery worn by members of the royal family. Princess Eugenie wore her Kokoshnik emerald and diamond tiara (1921 Boucheron) at her wedding in 2018 - this was the first time this piece had been seen since Mrs Greville died.

We have recently discovered an image of Mrs Greville wearing the Kokoshnik tiara and a stunning emerald necklace which has not been seen before. 

Visit the house at Polesden Lacey to learn about Mrs Greville and the bequest ,and see a replica of the Greville tiara in the Saloon.

Written using research provided by Pam Burbidge, a volunteer researcher at Polesden Lacey. 

Don't miss a thing