How did Elizabeth Taylor end up owning the Prince of Wales brooch, something that could’ve belonged to Princess Catherine today?

The Duchess of Windsor most likely took the official Prince of Wales brooch with her after Edward’s abdication

Elizabeth Taylor owned the Prince of Wales brooch, but how?
(Image credit: Bettmann/Contributor/Getty)

The Prince of Wales brooch, thought to be a significant piece, would naturally be worn by the likes of Kate Middleton, the current Princess of Wales and wife of Prince William, today. But an oversight on the part of Lord Mountbatten meant that the rare piece of jewelry left the royal vaults when Edward abdicated for Wallis Simpson. And, in a story worthy of a Hollywood telling itself, it somehow ended up in the possession of none other than Elizabeth Taylor.

In Kate Andersen Brower’s authorized biography of Elizabeth Taylor, titled The Grit and Glamour of an Icon, she details how an original, authentic royal jewel came into the possession of the legendary actress.

The book explains that Elizabeth first “met the Duke and Duchess of Windsor when she was eighteen years old and married to Nicky Hilton.” However, it wasn’t until Elizabeth became public enemy number one after her affair with Richard Burton first broke, offending people all over the world – including the Pope.

While most people shunned Richard and Elizabeth for living an apparently sinful life, the couple bonded with Wallis and Edward – another couple no stranger to public condemnation.

Edward and Wallis found unlikely allies in Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

(Image credit: Bettmann via Getty Images)

The book describes Elizabeth’s take on the (in)famous royal pair.

“’They really did love each other, and his respect for her was so beautiful’ Elizabeth said. ‘He called her Duchess, and if you didn’t call her Duchess I think you would have been on your way out… I never called her Wallis, I always called her Duchess.’”

Now, onto the shiny things. Wallis was apparently so jealous (in a good natured way) of Elizabeth’s notorious jewelry collection that she only wore her largest sapphire and not her diamond when she was around Elizabeth.

The book then describes a pin that caught Elizabeth’s eye.

“Elizabeth noticed a magnificent pin Simpson was wearing that was the insignia of the Prince of Wales, with three feathers and a gold crown made of diamonds set in platinum. When Elizabeth asked if it was the royal insignia, Simpson said, ‘Yes, and when Monty [Lord Mountbatten] came over, he took all royal pieces back, but he missed this one.’”

The Prince of Wales brooch once owned by Elizabeth Taylor and Wallis Simpson

(Image credit: Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images)

Elizabeth found it charming that Wallis would hold onto a jewel that clearly meant a lot to her husband, who had to walk away from the throne for their love.

Years later, when Wallis had died, the pin was up for auction in a charity.

Elizabeth Taylor bought the Prince of Wales brooch after Wallis Simpson's death

(Image credit: Elizabeth Taylor/Facebook)

Elizabeth decided she had to have it, as the book states, she thought “The Duchess wants me to have that.”

Elizabeth would go on to pay a staggering $565,000 for it.

While hard to track, it’s thought the pin was then bought in a private auction after Elizabeth Taylor’s passing, with the owner not made public.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Prince of Wales brooch, with Malcolm Forbes

(Image credit: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Either way, a royal piece that should’ve been taken back from Lord Mountbatten wasn’t.

The notable absence of the Prince of Wales brooch from the royal vaults could be why the likes of Diana and Catherine – the former and current Princess of Wales – have opted to wear the Prince of Wales Feathers brooch instead.

The Prince of Wales feather pendant brooch was originally a wedding gift to Princess Alexandra of Denmark from the Ladies of North Wales when she married the Prince of Wales (who would later become King Edward VII) in 1863.

Princess Diana wore something like Wallis Simpson's Prince of Wales brooch, with the Prince of Wales Feathers worn as part of a necklace

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Including an oval of 18 brilliant-cut diamonds accented with tiny emeralds, the brooch includes the Prince of Wales ostrich feathers and a scroll inscribed with the Prince of Wales’ motto “Ich Dien” (German for “I serve“).

After Queen Alexandra’s death in 1925, the brooch ended up with the Queen Mother. In 1981, she gifted Diana the brooch to celebrate her engagement to Prince Charles.

The first time the late Princess of Wales wore it was suspended from a diamond tennis necklace – part of the Saudi Sapphire Suite – during a visit to the Royal Opera House in 1982.

Catherine, the current Princess of Wales first wore the pin earlier this year, in what many thought was a sign of her settling into the role previously held by her late mother-in-law.

Jack Slater
Freelance writer

Jack Slater is not the Last Action Hero, but that's what comes up first when you Google him. Preferring a much more sedentary life, Jack gets his thrills by covering news, entertainment, celebrity, film and culture for woman&home, and other digital publications.

Having written for various print and online publications—ranging from national syndicates to niche magazines—Jack has written about nearly everything there is to write about, covering LGBTQ+ news, celebrity features, TV and film scoops, reviewing the latest theatre shows lighting up London’s West End and the most pressing of SEO based stories.