In 1856, Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale a brooch for her services in the Crimean war. The brooch wasn’t only decorative, but it was a sign of royal appreciation at a time when suitable decorations for female civilians didn’t yet exist. Known as the Nightingale jewel, and designed with the supervision of Prince Albert, the brooch is engraved with a dedication from Queen Victoria, “To Miss Florence Nightingale, as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion towards the Queen’s brave soldiers, from Victoria R. 1855”. Here’s a letter the Queen wrote to Miss Nightingale that same year:
Windsor Castle, [January] 1856.
Dear Miss Nightingale,—You are, I know, well aware of the high sense I entertain of the Christian devotion which you have displayed during this great and bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you how warm my admiration is for your services, which are fully equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers, whose sufferings you have had the privilege of alleviating in so merciful a manner. I am, however, anxious of marking my feelings in a manner which I trust will be agreeable to you, and therefore send you with this letter a brooch, the form and emblems of which commemorate your great and blessed work, and which, I hope, you will wear as a mark of the high approbation of your Sovereign!*
It will be a very great satisfaction to me, when you return at last to these shores, to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example to our sex. And with every prayer for the preservation of your valuable health, believe me, always, yours sincerely,
* The presentation took place on the 29th of January. The jewel resembled a badge rather than a brooch, bearing a St George’s Cross in red enamel, and the Royal cypher surmounted by a crown in diamonds. The inscription “Blessed are the Merciful” encircled the badge which also bore the word “Crimea.”
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III (of 3), 1854-1861