Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t just one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history, she was also one of the richest. Over the years of her personal reign and through the accumulation of centuries of hereditary artifacts, the British royal family vaults are filled with treasures ranging from the ridiculous to the extravagant to the bizarre. Dive in and find out.
Cartier Halo Scroll Tiara
This tiara has an understated beauty compared to many in the Queen’s collection, but it also has a big history. Not only did Queen Elizabeth receive this on her 18th birthday from her father, but it’s also a huge favorite with many of the women in the royal family. It’s the one Kate Middleton wore on her wedding day. Yeah, that one. Even so, there’s a more famous tiara.
Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara
The Lover’s Knot is an absolute stunner of a crown jewel. Like so many pieces in the Queen’s current collection, it originally belonged to Queen Mary of Teck—but most famously, Princess Diana got the Gothic Revival bauble as a wedding present when she married Prince Charles. In fact, the tiara is practically synonymous with Diana’s girlish yet elegant style. Nonetheless, Kate Middleton has also taken a shine to it, wearing it in 2018 at a state banquet.
But lest you think Elizabeth just owns jewelry, she also owns much more bizarre possessions…
The Swans In The Thames
No, it’s not an urban legend: Queen Elizabeth really does own all the swans in the Thames. More than that, she owns all the “unclaimed and mute” swans throughout England and Wales, it’s just that she only exercises her ownership of the birds on Thames. She really is an animal lover. But when it comes to Elizabeth’s items, there is one in particular with a bone-chilling claim to fame.
Princess Diana’s Death Necklace
Most of Queen Elizabeth’s possessions have long histories, but this jewel has perhaps the most tragic story. The so-called “Swan Lake” necklace, which is worth 12 million and made of 178 pearls, got its name because Princess Diana wore it to a showing of the ballet Swan Lake. Sadly, it was the last royal jewel she wore before her violent end. And it gets sketchier.
Multiple Exemptions From The Law
That’s right, the Queen is an outlaw, because she is literally above the law in some cases. For example, she doesn’t actually need a driver’s license or a passport, and she has a whole lot of diplomatic immunity. She doesn’t even pay taxes in the same sense as the rest of us commoners. And as this next story proves, she gets people to bail her out of some very sticky situations.
A Really, Really Old Necklace
There are lots of old things in Queen Elizabeth’s possessions, but one of the most famous items is a pearl necklace that belonged to Queen Anne, the last Stuart ruler. This necklace is often worn with its companion, the “Queen Caroline Necklace.” But Elizabeth once treated them horribly. After getting them as a wedding present, Elizabeth soon realized in the chaos of her big day that she had forgotten them at the church. All hell broke loose.
Her private secretary had to commandeer the King of Norway’s limousine and then, when he hit traffic, run back to the venue and convince the guards to let him in so he could get them back to Elizabeth in time for an official portrait. Phew. And these arent’ the only irreplaceable pieces Elizabeth owns.
Earrings Of Special Purpose
Did you know that Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the female royal heirs have earrings just for their coronation? Because they do. Sensibly named the “Coronation Earrings,” the pear-shaped drops have been worn at coronations since 1901, and were originally made for Queen Victoria from a Garter badge. You know what they say around the royal family: Reduce, reuse, recycle. And there’s another thing they say about the royal family…
A Strange Breed Of Dog
The royal family grew up loving Corgis, but Queen Elizabeth recently made a shocking announcement. She’s not going to get anymore Corgis. Still, that doesn’t mean she didn’t have dogs after. In fact, she had two Daschund/Corgi mixes named Vulcan and Candy, and they were adorable. From the adorable, we go to the bittersweet.
Despite their cutsey names, “Granny’s Chips” are brooches that mean serious business. Made out of two stones cut from the enormous Cullinan diamond, the cushion and pear-shaped stones are actually named for Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother, not Queen Elizabeth herself; Queen Mary loved wearing them, one above the other. The story gets more tear-jerking.
In 1958, while on a trip to the Netherlands, Queen Elizabeth went to the Asscher Diamond Company, the place where the Cullinan diamond had been cut half a century before. While there, she took off the brooch and showed it to Louis Asscher, the brother of the original diamond-cutter, to examine them. Asscher, infirm and elderly, had tears in his eyes over the interaction.
Modern royal history has had some other tense moments thanks to Queen Elizabeth’s diamonds.
Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau
With all the controversy and hubbub surrounding Meghan Markle after her wedding, you’d be forgiven for forgetting just how fantastic that wedding was—especially because Markle borrowed “Queen Mary’s Diamond Bandeau” from Queen Elizabeth’s personal collection. With hundreds of diamonds in a beautiful platinum setting, it’s no wonder it’s worth nearly 3 million dollars.
Yet while the Queen was nice enough to lend Meghan the bandeau, she obviously has a different favorite relative, at least if her other lendings are anything to go by.
Meghan Markle’s Competition
Meghan Markle’s borrowed bandeau tiara on her wedding day made audiences gasp all around the world, but few people know there’s an even better bandeau that Queen Elizabeth owns—and she gave it to another member of the family to wear. The gorgeous Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara made its first public appearance at Princess Eugenie’s 2018 wedding. And that wasn’t the only granddaughter the Queen has helped out.
Princess Beatrice’s Wedding Dress
In the summer of 2020, Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice had an exquisite (if scaled down) wedding, and her beautiful vintage Norman Hartnell gown made international headlines. But there was a secret in the dress. It actually belongs to Queen Elizabeth, who first wore the gown in 1962 to the Lawrence of Arabia premiere. And the dress has another connection to the queen.
Her Jaw-Dropping Coronation Dress
As it happens, Princess Beatrice wasn’t just following in grandma’s footsteps by wearing an old dress of hers; she was continuing a tradition in the royal family of wearing Norman Hartnell to important court events. Queen Elizabeth also wore a resplendent Hartnell dress to her own coronation, a silk ball gown with all-over embroidery in various metallics.
Having royal courtiers dress you is the height of luxury, but beware: Not all of Elizabeth’s life is glamorous.
This one is probably a no-brainer, considering Buckingham Palace is one of the Queen’s main places of residence and sits at the heart of London. But it does have a dark history. Over the years, the palace has been the victim of many security breaches, with one man, dubbed “The boy Jones,” sneaking in several times, and Michael Fagan even slipping into the queen’s bedroom in 1982.
Lotus Flower Tiara
Also called the “Oriental Circlet,” this tiara gets its name from the fantastic lotus flowers that decorate the crown. But even though these lotus flowers are gasp-worthy, they look even better next to the juicy rubies that are embedded in the center of them. As one of the more expensive pieces, clocking in at around 8 million, this is a far rarer sighting from the royal family; Queen Elizabeth has worn it just once.
When it comes to her very favorite possessions, however, this next one might be it.
Queen Victoria’s Private Thoughts
The thing about being a hereditary monarch is that the Queen has access to some of the most private items of the great men and women who came before her. But one item might be the most personal. Queen Elizabeth owns her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria’s sketchbook, among a bunch of other of Victoria’s personal items. Still, if you want to talk very personal, look no further than the next point.
Her Incredible Wedding Dress
On November 20, 1947, Queen Elizabeth—then just a princess—married Philip Mountbatten, and she did it in yet another Norman Hartnell gown. Behind the scenes, however, it was far from a fairy tale. Scads of women worked at Hartnell’s studio for weeks on end to make the gown’s delicate and carefully-wrought embroidery. And all that hard work almost fell to pieces in an instant…
Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara
Queen Elizabeth II wore “Queen Mary’s Fringe Tiara” on her wedding day to Prince Philip, but she might have known it was a bad omen. Although the Fringe Tiara is a favorite among older royals, not everyone has always liked the jewel; one courtier called it “an ugly spiked tiara.” And that’s just the beginning of its scandalous history.
On her big day, just moments before Elizabeth walked down the aisle, the tiara snapped and the court jeweler had to rush to fix it. Oh, but that surprise is nothing to this next jaw-dropper.
Yes, you read that right: Queen Elizabeth owns a McDonald’s. It might not be the most British of restaurants, but she owns it nonetheless. Located in Oxfordshire a fair way away from Buckingham Palace, the McDonald’s sits on Crown Land, technically making it Elizabeth’s. The more important point, however, is what the Queen would order if she walked in.
The Copycat Tiara
Alexandra of Denmark was the consort to King Edward VII, and when her 25th wedding anniversary was coming around, she knew she wanted a tiara—but her inspiration was a little suspect. Alexandra had long wanted a “kokoshnik” style tiara, after the shape of a traditional Russian headdress, because her sister Tsarina Maria Feodorovna had one.
Well, whatever Alexandra wanted, she got, and Lady Salisbury gifted her with the Alexandra Kokoshnik Tiara, still a favorite with Queen Elizabeth today. But what about Kate Middleton—ahem, the Duchess of Cambridge?
One Of The Most Expensive Necklaces In The World
A Kate Middleton favorite, the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace is one hefty Cartier creation, hitting something like 121 million dollars, and looking every bit worth it. Of the many, many diamonds in the cascading necklace are no fewer than 13 emerald-cut beauties and one enormous pear-cut diamond in the middle. As we all know, though, money can’t buy happiness, and some of the things Elizabeth owns are imbued with a deep sadness.
A Tragic Christmas Getaway
There’s only one place the royal family ever goes for Christmas, and that’s the sprawling Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Yet it has housed some incredibly tragic moments. For one, both Queen Elizabeth’s father and grandfather, George VI and George V, died on the grounds of the estate. Even so, the royal family has occupied it since Elizabethan times (you know, the other Queen Elizabeth).
In any case, Elizabeth doesn’t seem to mind going to Sandringham. But she does seem to mind this next item.
The Tiara Queen Elizabeth Doesn’t Like
Now, there’s no telling for sure if Queen Elizabeth doesn’t like the so-called “Meander Tiara,” but there are a couple of hints she might not. For one, she’s never worn it in public. For another, her mother-in-law gave it to her. Still, worry not: Princess Anne loves the tiara’s classical Greek key pattern, and has worn it several times, even lending it to her daughter Zara Philips for her wedding day.
A Tyrant’s Armor
Obviously, Queen Elizabeth has a lot of items from Victorian times, but her possessions go back farther than that. She even owns armor that once belonged to the notorious King Henry VIII, an ancestor she probably wishes she didn’t have. And there’s one juicy detail. The armor has physical evidence of how large the king grew in his old age; it contains a 2-inch plate wedged in to make more room for the king’s growing waist.
Royals are so extra. And speaking of extra…
An Extra Birthday
Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926, and she takes full advantage of it with private celebrations—but that’s not the only day she celebrates her birthday. She also has a second birthday in the summer, so that there can be official and public celebrations with a better chance of good, calm weather. Now I want two birthdays.
For all this talk of fancy things, we’ve been studiously avoiding talking about one person. Well, no more.
Camilla’s Favorite Necklace
Although Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s jewelry choices get the most press, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall isn’t shy about borrowing some of the Queen’s jewels too. She’s gone out most particularly with the “Greville Festoon Necklace,” a ridiculously large bauble that shines in diamond-encrusted swoops. The necklace’s main stone is an ungodly five carats.
A Tiara With A Colonial History
The Delhi Durbar Tiara is magnificent. After all, it’s a massive column of intricately swooped scrolls with one honking big emerald (and later a diamond) in the center and top. Then again, it needed to command attention. It had unpleasant beginnings. Queen Mary and King George V had it made especially so Mary could wear it to her colonial coronation in Delhi Durbar as the Empress of India. Not a popular position.
Queen Elizabeth’s weekend retreat is Windsor Castle, located near London in Berkshire. But even though it’s the largest inhabited castle in the world, this comes with a whole host of problems. Windsor is almost continually in disrepair, and in 1992, an enormous fire raged through the castle’s Upper Ward, causing extensive damage.
With news like that, sometimes even Queen Elizabeth needs a pick-me-up. But while for you or me that means a cappuccino, for Elizabeth it means, well…you’ll see.
The Crown Of A Different Color
Queen Elizabeth generally goes for crowns made solely of diamonds or, if she’s feeling special, pearls. So when she asked royal jewelers Garrard & Co. to make a tiara out of dark red ruby stones from her private collection, you know it was going to be breathtaking. And it is: Garrard came back with the Burmese Ruby Tiara, a red and white confection with 96 red gemstones in it.
Okay, this next one surprised even me.
If you’ve ever been to Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus, you’ve actually been stepping on Queen Elizabeth II’s turf. That’s because she owns the world-famous Regent Street (or most of it, anyway) in London’s West End. Okay, to be fair, it’s a part of the “Crown Estate,” but that still boils down to Queen Elizabeth anyway, so let’s not split hairs.
And now we come to a very rare piece, and one of my absolute favorites.
A Family Affair Jewel
Among certain circles, the “Strathmore Rose” tiara is one of the most legendary jewels in the royal family’s collection. An incredible art-nouveau piece, it used to be a favorite of the Queen Mother; after all, her father gave her the jewel for her wedding. It has made very few appearances since the Queen Mother passed but remains one of the more heartfelt pieces in the vault.
Want less heartfelt, more bombastic? This next piece will do you a solid.
If Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, could pick one item from Queen Elizabeth’s extensive collection, I’m going to bet it’s the Greville Tiara, otherwise known as the “Honeycomb Tiara” for its distinct lattice pattern. Showy and big, Camilla loved it so much that Queen Elizabeth gave it to her as a long-term loan; it was a regular in the Queen Mother’s rotation too.
Of course, the loan probably doesn’t mean much to Elizabeth, since she has more jewels than she knows what to do with. In fact, sometimes she’s physically unable to wear them. Let me explain.
The Earrings Queen Elizabeth Almost Never Wore
Here’s another bizarre royal fact: Queen Elizabeth didn’t have her ears pierced into well into adulthood. So when her parents gave her the Greville Chandelier Earrings, she couldn’t actually wear the chandelier stunners. When she did finally pierce them and showed off the earrings, women all over Britain clamored to have their ears pierced, too.
A favorite of the royal family since the days when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert took romantic getaways there, Balmoral Castle is where the royal family lets loose. And it does have a surprising feature. While it might be called a castle, it’s actually very normal-looking by royal standards and has been called a “rather ordinary” country house. I’d hardly call this next item ordinary, though.
Her Own ATM
Buckingham Palace might have some security issues to worry about, but there’s one priceless luxury in its basement: It houses a private ATM just for Queen Elizabeth’s own personal use. I really don’t think she needs the cash, though. Case in point below.
Front Row Seats To Wimbledon
The Queen is apparently a fan of Scottish tennis player Andy Murray, because in 2010 she showed up to Wimbledon in order to watch him play in her first outing to the tournament in 30 years. And she certainly came in style: She owns the Royal Box, which gets a great view from its position at the south of the court. As one commenter put it, attending the Royal Box is “one of the most special experiences in sport.”
A Matching Set Of Jewels
In royal speak, a “parure” is a set of jewels made to go together—and one of the newest and most dazzling of these is Queen Elizabeth’s Brazilian parure. It was given by the Brazilian government and shows off Liz’s love of color and fun with Aquamarine jewels. She loved the set so much, in fact, that she created the ridiculous and amazing Aquamarine Tiara to match.
A Cursed Tower
Queen Elizabeth and the royal family have any manner of heirlooms with long histories. But one of her possessions is the most cursed of all. That’s because the Queen owns the infamous Tower of London, which has seen the capture and violent ends of many a rebel—including King Henry VIII’s tragic wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
An Art Thief’s Dream
Surely one of the most impressive of the monarch’s holdings is The Royal Collection, whose thousands of artworks are nothing to sniff at. Actually, scratch that—there are millions of items in the collection, including scads of masterpieces like Rembrandt and Raphael around every corner, many of them in the Queen’s residences.
But if the Queen really needed money, she wouldn’t sell those pieces. She has a much different plan for that.
It’s no joke to say that the royal family members are “horse people,” and it’s not just Princess Anne who loves the fast, four-legged creatures. Queen Elizabeth breeds and trains racehorses that have a proven track record on the, well, track. But that’s not all: Although it’s a labor of love, these horses have also won Elizabeth millions of dollars. Again, not that she needs it.
High-End Luxury Cars
The Queen is something of a car connoisseur and has a whole fleet of cars worth millions of dollars. The most remarkable is perhaps her Bentley limousine, which is great for state events. But the queen has a surprising favorite. She might be able to have practically any car she wanted, but Elizabeth much prefers her humbler Range Rover for everyday tasks.
The Romanovs’ Lost Treasures
Around the time of Elizabeth’s ancestor King Edward VII, the royal family took a page from the Romanovs’ book and started buying up Faberge eggs and accessories. While some of the Romanov treasures are now lost, Elizabeth’s family kept a close eye on theirs, and the Queen still owns an extensive Faberge collection. And as we’ll soon see, it’s not the only Russian-inspired treasure she has.
One Of The Most Beautiful Abbeys In The World
By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Queen Elizabeth owns Westminster Abbey, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Besides being absolutely stunning, holding the tombs of some of the most influential people in British history, and sitting right in the middle of London, the Abbey has also been the site of every coronation since 1066.
An Iconic London Park
Hyde Park is frequented by tourists and locals alike, and it’s no wonder. The green space in the famous park is to die for—and Elizabeth owns it, too. Oh, and don’t forget Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill, Kensington Garden, the Green Park…I could go on.
A Music Award
Unbelievably enough, Queen Elizabeth made her very own gold record. And no, she hasn’t taken to a career in music, it’s just that for her Golden Jubilee (that’s 50 years on the throne) in 2002, the family put on a concert called “Party at the Palace.” When the music studio later released the album, it went gold in the first week. Prince Harry was probably impressed….but he would NOT be impressed with the disgusting thing that’s up next.
A Bunch Of Bats
Sure, Queen Elizabeth likes corgis and horses, but she’s also the “proud” owner of …a colony of bats. The bats settled into her home in Balmoral and didn’t seem to want to leave. Well, the Queen soon got used to them and reportedly tries to catch them with a butterfly net if they get too out of hand while she’s staying at the castle.
A Very Special Wedding Dress
Another treasure from Queen Victoria probably takes the cake: Elizabeth has her ancestor’s wedding dress. Made of cream and white silk, satin, and lace, the dress has another claim to fame. Because Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert was so popular with the people, she helped jumpstart a trend of white wedding dresses, one that has obviously continued today. And there’s more where that came from.
One Of The Most Stunning Tiaras In The World
Queen Victoria’s Emerald Tiara is truly one of the most eye-catching jewels in the entire royal vault—but it has a heartbreaking backstory. Queen Victoria’s consort Albert gave it to her, and it’s one of the only diadems a consort gave to his queen. Victoria loved it so much, she was painted in it and wore it often as a reminder of his love.
A Holy Relic
Although the so-called “Lily Font” isn’t an official holy relic, it might as well be. Originally owned by (who else) Queen Victoria and used for the baptism of her first child, Princess Victoria, the Lily Font has continued to be useful for the royal family today. As in, they still use it to baptize most of the members of the royal family whenever they get the chance. Hm.
The Second Coming Of The Titanic
British Sea Power used to be a huge deal, so it makes sense that Queen Elizabeth has her own yacht, the HMY Brittania. Although it’s currently out of commission, the old girl first sailed in 1953, had the capacity to turn into a hospital if needed, and could even help the Queen and Prince Philip survive a nuclear attack if necessary. That’s pretty metal. The next item is…quite the opposite.
An Intensely Nerdy Collection
When we think of Queen Elizabeth, we (quite rightfully) think of Crown Jewels and expensive dresses. And sure, those are fun, and the bread and butter of any list on Queen Elizabeth’s possessions—only, did you know she has a very expensive and very nerdy collection of stamps, too? Thanks to her grandfather George V’s own mania for stamps, it’s actually the largest collection on Earth.
A Ton Of Dolphins
The fact that the Queen owns all the swans in the Thames is well-known, but how about the fact that she owns all the dolphins in the United Kingdom? Actually, thanks to a decree dating from King Edward II’s time, she also owns all the whales and sturgeons that happen to make it to British shores, not to mention porpoises, too. Lucky girl.
The Bloody Crown
The “Grand Duchess Vladimir” tiara has one bloody history. Originally a wedding gift to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, the Russian Revolution nearly destroyed it. Somehow, someone managed to hide it in Vladimir Palace in St. Petersburg during the chaos and keep it safe. And that’s just the start of this jewel’s fascinating story.
Later, British secret agent Albert Stopford secreted into England, where the Queen can now choose to wear it with juicy pearl drops or vibrant emeralds in the setting.
Princess Diana’s Iconic Necklace
Stop. Think about Princess Diana. Do you picture her in pearls? If so, you’re might be picturing the incredible “Diamond and Pearl Choker” with four strands of exquisite pearls. It was one of the first pieces of royal jewelry Diana ever wore, and it’s still very much associated with her to this day. Ever the brave woman, Camilla is currently doing her best to muscle Diana out of the picture.
The Duchess of Cambridge asked to borrow the set and recently wore them to Prince Philip’s funeral as well as a host of other state events.
A Huge Collection Of Handbags
Queen Elizabeth’s favorite handbags come from British designer Launer, and she owns about 200 of them total, many of them in the Royale and Traviata style. But she also uses the bags to send secret signals. If her staff sees her put a bag on a table, that means she wants to leave a meeting in five minutes. But if she puts the bag on the floor, watch out—that means she wants someone to save her from her conversation immediately.