Seven years ago, Prince William proposed to the love of his life, Kate Middleton, in a rustic cabin at the foot of Mt. Kenya. When it was time to propose, The Prince pulled something out of a knapsack. He’d traveled around Africa with it for weeks, nervous as hell, because “I knew if this thing disappeared, I’d be in a lot of trouble.” After all, it was a 12-carat sapphire-and–diamond cluster ring valued at more than $500,000, and he was about to propose with it to his Uni sweetheart.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring is described as stunning, gorgeous, and the used-and-abused iconic. There are thousands of different knockoffs and replicas available for purchase on the Internet alone (some are more than $1,000, several fall in the $10,000 range, and there’s even one going for more than $1 million). Yet, despite its place in royal lore, most only know part of its backstory, if they know anything at all.
Fans of Kate Middleton’s sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring could likely spot the signature piece from miles away (literally). But many may not know that its fascinating backstory dates to 1840.
According to a new story from Vogue, the family heirloom was inspired by a brooch Prince Albert had made for his bride-to-be, Queen Victoria. In 1840, Prince Albert commissioned the esteemed British jeweler House of Garrard, founded in 1735 to make the bar pin. Victoria became so enamored by the work of art that she donned it on her wedding day, a mesmerizing blue-and-opaque twinkle reflecting off of her beautiful gown. The brooch became a royal family heirloom, and Queen Elizabeth has frequently sported the brooch over the years.
In 2010, Princess Diana’s ring became a sentimental expression of love for then 28-year-old Prince William and his then fiancée, Kate Middleton. “It’s my mother’s engagement ring, and it’s very special to me, as Kate is very special to me now as well. It was only right the two were put together,” William said on a British news station, ITV.
Allegedly, two of Diana’s most prized possessions—her engagement ring and her gold Cartier watch—were given to her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Each boy chose one—however, an anonymous source said it wasn’t William who picked the ring. It was Harry.
So, if the tabloids are to be believed, how did it get in William’s possession? Apparently, when Harry saw how much his older brother loved Kate Middleton, he made a touching sacrifice and offered to take the watch instead. The Duchess wasn’t just special to William—Harry has described her as “like a sister.”