When did you last buy yourself a piece of jewellery? My Most Tenacious Girlfriend, whose birthday it is today, has recently bought herself a rather splendid ring, despite having a mortgage and three children. Whose piggy bank, I asked, had she raided? She confessed that she had used what she called her “running-away money”, because after eight years of marriage she has decided that she isn’t going to run away after all.
I have known for a while that MTG’s husband must be up to scratch, because two years ago MTG changed her name to his, a mere six years after they had tied the knot. She said at the time that she felt he had passed his probation. I, on the other hand, did not subject Mr M to a probationary period when we married in 1988. With my usual irrational exuberance, I’d redone my passport and bank accounts before the ink was dry on the marriage licence. I very much hope that my first marriage will be my last, but you never know, so I have given the matter some thought and made up my mind to keep the name, even if we end up dividing everything else.
MTG is not the only person to have had surname issues upon marriage. They were also contentious for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1947, before their official engagement, he changed his surname to Mountbatten from Battenberg – of the house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg – to be more acceptable to his wife’s family, but even after they were married and Elizabeth was crowned, she was advised to keep the name Windsor for their children.
However, this was not the end of the surname story, because, in 1960, the Queen issued “an Order in Council” declaring that the surname of male-line descendants not styled as Royal Highness, or titled as Prince or Princess, was to be Mountbatten-Windsor.
What a saga. Apparently Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s paternal grandmother, had complained to the then prime minister, Winston Churchill, when she feared the Windsor name might disappear. However, in my opinion she made up for stirring the surname pot by leaving most of her jewellery to the present Queen. I particularly covet Queen Alexandra’s wedding earrings, the Duchess of Gloucester’s pendant earrings and the lovers’ knot tiara, which together I suspect would cost more than the running-away money of all my girlfriends combined.
If I seem to have a detailed knowledge of these jewels, that is because my Royal Girlfriend gave me Hugh Roberts’ book The Queen’s Diamonds. Most of the jewels featured are on display at Buckingham Palace until October 7.
This year, the Queen and I even added a piece of jewellery from the same jeweller to our collections, on the same day. This was something of a first for me (and I am sure for her). They were both by the Icelandic-born goldsmith Kristjan Eyjolfsson, now working in the UK and whom the Royal Horticultural Society had commissioned to make gifts for all the Chelsea Flower Show Charity Preview gala dinner ticket-holders. I received a silver and pearl pin based on the Magnolia x soulangeana flower (no, me neither), while Her Majesty was presented with a rather more valuable brooch. Hers was in honour of her diamond jubilee, a gesture that the RHS didn’t have to fork out for because Eyjolfsson donated it. (What good manners. Like me, he is married to an Australian – great taste.)
The annual ballot for tickets for the gala preview has already come round and I see that successful ticket-buyers can order the Eyjolfsson 2013 limited edition. It costs £150, in aid of charity, and will be couriered to you in advance.
MTG, £150 was never going to get you very far even if you’d decided to hang on to your running-away fund. So if I’m successful in the ballot, I will gift mine to you for your birthday next year.