Jewellery

The significance of Kate Middleton’s Cartier shamrock brooch

The Princess of Wales wore the storied gold Cartier shamrock brooch at this year's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The piece has been worn in years past by Princess Anne and the Queen Mother

20 March 2023

By Joshua Hendren

Princess Catherine took the salute as the Colonel of the Irish Guards for the first time at this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Aldershot, England.

Proving that the ever-elegant royal has more than settled into her new capacity as Princess of Wales, Kate stunned in a bespoke Catherine Walker coatdress with matching Gianvito Rossi pumps and a Jane Taylor London hat, topped off with a gold Cartier shamrock brooch that has a lengthy royal history.

Kate Middleton wears the Shamrock brooch at  the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day Parade wearing the gold Shamrock brooch (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The brooch is spun in the shape of a shamrock, which is the symbol of Ireland, and set with tiny circular emerald at the centre, joining the three golden leaves.

What is so unique about the piece is that it reportedly isn’t owned by someone in the royal family. Rather, the brooch belongs to the Irish Guards and is loaned out to royal ladies who are associated with the regiment.

Kate Middleton wears the Shamrock brooch at the St. Patrick's Day Parade
Catherine, Princess of Wales attends the 2023 St. Patrick’s Day Parade wearing the gold Shamrock brooch (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Despite being worn by numerous royal figures throughout history, the origin of the gold shamrock remains somewhat unclear. Some reports cite Queen Alexandra as the first owner of the brooch, but according to Up the Micks! An Illustrated History of the Irish Guards, a book written by James Wilson, which features a foreword by the Duke of Cambridge, the piece was designed by Cartier and then gifted to Princess Mary, Princess Royal, by the regiment in 1961. 

When Princess Mary died, the brooch was purchased by the regiment at an auction of her personal jewellery, Wilson reveals. It was then worn by the Queen Mother.

Princess Anne at the St Patrick's Day Parade in 2009
Princess Anne, The Princess Royal visits the 1st Battalion Irish Guards on St Patrick’s Day Parade in 2009 wearing the gold Shamrock brooch (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Following the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, Princess Anne was seen wearing the pin at events related to the Irish Guard, such as the 2009 St Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Queen Mother arrives at the Irish Guards Centenary service of thanksgiving and commemoration in 2000
The Queen Mother arrives at the Irish Guards Centenary service of thanksgiving and commemoration in 2000 wearing the gold Shamrock brooch (Photo by John Stillwell/Getty Images)

As for the Princess of Wales, she was first photographed wearing the shamrock brooch at the Victoria Barracks in June of 2011, during a presentation of service medals. 

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