George IV’s Diamond Diadem to go on show at Buckingham Palace

George IV’s extravagant coronation attire, including the Diamond Diadem crown, is going on show at Buckingham Palace.

A new exhibition exploring the 19th century king’s life and passions opens at the Queen’s Gallery in London on Friday.

Items commissioned and worn by the monarch for the coronation of 1821 are being brought back together for the first time since the flamboyant occasion.

George IV
Portrait of George IV in his coronation attire by Sir Thomas Lawrence (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

The coronation cost more than £240,000 – the equivalent of over £25 million in today’s money.

By the time George IV, who acted as regent for George III, came to the throne in 1820, aged 57, he was intensely disliked by a nation tired of his extravagant lifestyle.

The king oversaw the design of his robes, including a crimson velvet surcoat and a stole made from cloth of silver, gold thread and silk, embroidered with the national flowers of the United Kingdom.

George IV's Surcoat
George IV’s surcoat (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

Visitors will be able to see the surcoat, stole and a jewelled sword and scabbard as part of the exhibition.

The Diamond Diadem, set with 1,333 diamonds, including a four-carat pale yellow brilliant, was designed for the ceremony by jewellers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.

George IV paraded the crown on top of a large velvet “Spanish” hat surmounted by ostrich feathers, with a curled wig beneath, during the walking procession to Westminster Abbey.

Regularly worn by queens regnant and consorts ever since, the Queen used to wear the circlet to and from the State Opening of Parliament.

But for the 2019 State Opening, she kept the diadem on throughout, rather than switching to the heavy Imperial State Crown to read the Queen’s Speech.

State Opening of Parliament 2019
The Queen wearing the George IV diadem at the State Opening of Parliament this year (Victoria Jones/PA)

Sir Thomas Lawrence’s coronation portrait, which will also form part of the display, depicts George IV in his ceremonial clothing with the Imperial State Crown, traditionally remade for the coronation of each new monarch, placed on a table to his right.

This crown was set with more than 12,300 diamonds which had been hired for the occasion and the king wanted to keep the crown after the ceremony, but Parliament refused to support the cost.

Instead he commissioned his own gilt-bronze cast of the Imperial State Crown, which will be on public display for the first time.

The cast of the Imperial state crown
George IV’s cast of the Imperial State Crown (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

George IV: Art & Spectacle also features items from the lavish 4,000-piece Grand Service.

The dining and buffet silver-gilt collection of dishes, plates, centrepieces and candelabra was first commissioned by George when he was the Prince of Wales.

The Grand Service is so large and so magnificent that it has never been replaced and is still used today for state visits when the Queen entertains foreign leaders at banquets in the palace ballroom.

George IV: Art & Spectacle
A Royal Collection staff member dusts an item from the lavish Grand Service (Jonathan Brady/PA)

George became known for his extravagant acquisition of art including Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder And His Wife, and the exhibition will include more than 300 works from the Royal Collection.

His spending and extramarital affairs made him a prime target for the satirists of the day.

But he also acquired many pieces that poked fun at his misdemeanours.

The Golden Apple,
Thomas Rowlandson’s etching making fun of the affairs of George IV, then the Prince of Wales, 1785 (Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019/PA)

Visitors will be able to see the etching The Golden Apple, or the Modern Paris by Thomas Rowlandson, which shows the king as a prince, choosing which of three women to lavish his attentions on.

George IV: Art & Spectacle, which marks the 200th anniversary in 2020 of George’s accession to the throne, is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from Friday November 15 until May 3 2020.

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