Catherine’s jewellery: the Irish Guards brooch

A piece historically connected to the Irish Guards

For decades, female members of the Royal Family have worn a special brooch when carrying out engagements to do with the Irish Guards.

So, what’s the history behind the brooch? What’s special about the piece?

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The golden brooch is in the shape of a shamrock, the symbol of Ireland. It is set with a tiny emerald in the centre, joining the three leaves, which feature horizontal line detailing.

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Unlike other items of jewellery which are owned by members of the Royal Family, this brooch isn’t. Its owners are actually the Irish Guards, who loan out the brooch to members of the Royal Family associated with the Guards.

The origins of the brooch are relatively unknown. However, according to Up the Micks! An Illustrated History of the Irish Guards by James Wilson, the piece was designed by Cartier and gifted to Princess Mary (sister of George VI) by the Irish Guards in 1961.

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Following Princess Mary’s death, Wilson explains, the brooch was purchased by the Guards at an auction of her personal jewellery. It was then worn by the Queen Mother.

The Irish Guards form part of the Household Regiment, with a guard group for each nation of the UK. Their uniform is distinguishable by the blue plume in their bearskins and the two groups of four buttons on the tunic.

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The Princess Royal wore the brooch after the Queen Mother passed on a number of occasions until 2011, when The Princess of Wales started wearing the brooch. Catherine first wore the brooch during a presentation of service medals at the Victoria Barracks in June 2011.

Catherine now exclusively wears the brooch as Colonel of the Irish Guards, an appointment she has held since The King announced the new military colonels in December 2022.

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