An Irish-American financier worth £450 million has rescued Queen Victoria’s coronet for the nation. In August 2016, we reported that the sapphire and diamond tiara was at risk of being lost to the UK forever after it was sold by a London dealer to an overseas buyer.
After a temporary export bar was put in place by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the race was on to find a UK buyer to match the £5 million plus £1 million VAT price tag. Hedge fund manager William Bollinger and his wife Judith answered the call.
It is not known how much the Bollingers paid for the piece but London’s Victoria & Albert Museum announced that the couple had “generously gifted” it to the Museum. The crown will form the centrepiece of the V&A’s Jewellery Gallery from 2019 when it reopens after refurbishments in the bicentenary year of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s birth.
The Jewellery Gallery was named the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery in recognition of an earlier endowment made by the couple, which funded a four-year renovation completed in 2008.
Designed by Prince Albert to match a brooch he gave Queen Victoria the day before their 1840 wedding, the coronet was made by goldsmith Joseph Kitching for £415. It is based on the Saxon Rautenkranz (circlet of rue), which appears in Prince Albert’s coat of arms. Queen Victoria chose to wear the coronet at the state opening of Parliament in 1866, the first she felt able to attend since Prince Albert’s death in 1861.
V&A Director, Tristram Hunt, said the coronet represented “both the passion of the young royal couple, and a powerful symbol of the widowed queen… It will instantly become part of the identity of the museum itself”.