The sentimental history behind Kate Middleton’s gold shamrock brooch

The Princess of Wales wore the simple gold brooch for her recent St Patrick’s Day engagement

Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Chris Jackson/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Future)

Kate Middleton stunned in a gorgeous teal look for this week's St Patrick's Day celebrations, but did you notice the small sentimental brooch pinned on her lapel? 

While Kate Middleton deviated from traditional St Patrick’s Day fashion for this year's celebrations, stepping out in a bold teal coat as opposed to the traditional green, she did adhere to one sentimental royal custom. The small detail, a gold shamrock brooch pinned to her lapel, may have gone unnoticed by many, but it holds a lot of history for the royal and the wider family, referencing back to many royals before her.

The golden brooch has been spotted on many royals, including the Queen Mother and Princess Anne, but the accessory isn’t thought to belong to the royal family at all. This is because, according to the royal family jewellery website, the Court Jeweller, the brooch actually belongs to the Irish Guards, the group Kate was honouring at her St Patrick’s appearance.

Kate Middleton

(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Pa Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

The Court Jeweller website explains that the Irish Guards brooch "is loaned out to royal ladies who are associated with the regiment." The brooch is officially known as the Irish Guards Brooch and features a single emerald set in the centre of its gold leaves. 

The brooch may not belong to Kate, but it holds sentimental value for the royal. The brooch was donned by the Princess of Wales for her very first official engagement as a royal in 2011, according to jewellery expert Maxwell Stone, who also says the brooch has an estimated worth around $3K thanks to its 18K carat gold. 

Since the first time she wore the shamrock design, Kate has been the only royal to sport it and has proudly worn the brooch on St Patrick’s Day every single year.

Princess Anne

(Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

While something as simple as a brooch may not appear all that exciting, the Irish Guards brooch does have some mystery surrounding its origin. Some historians cite Queen Alexandra, who began the custom of royals handing out of actual shamrocks to the Irish Guard, as the first owner of the brooch. This makes sense as royals today who carry out this custom wear the same brooch. 

However, in the book Up the Micks! An Illustrated History of the Irish Guards by James Wilson, which features a foreword written by Prince William, the brooch is given another origin story. Wilson reports that the brooch was crafted by the iconic jewellers Cartier and then presented to Princess Mary, the Princess Royal and Aunt of Queen Elizabeth II, by the Irish Guards regiment in 1961.

When Princess Mary died, Wilson says the brooch was purchased by the regiment at an auction where the tradition of the Irish Guards loaning the piece out to royal ladies was born. 

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News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.