The Queen is said to have the largest and most valuable collection of tiaras in the world, but it's interesting to note Her Majesty only elected to lend a piece from the collection to one of her daughters-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, on her wedding day.
The then Lady Diana Spencer had use of a family heirloom: the Spencer Tiara. The piece is now in the possession of Diana's brother Earl Spencer.
For Sarah Ferguson's wedding to Prince Andrew, the Queen bought her a modern diamond tiara and necklace from Garrards. As a new bride, the Duchess of York reportedly ran around showing off the jewels and shouting, "Clock the rocks"...
For Sophie, however, the monarch's favourite daughter-in-law who married Prince Edward in 1999, a tiara from Her Majesty's collection was altered with pieces said to date from Queen Victoria's time. Royal commentators have drawn lines between the wedding tiaras and the marriages associated with them. While neither the Waleses or Yorks had happy endings, Edward and Sophie's marriage has endured the test of time and the Countess has become a valuable asset to the Royal family.
|British Monarchy /PA|
My own interest in royal jewels began in the weeks leading up to the royal wedding as articles began to fill column inches with headlines including, "Which Tiara Will Kate Middleton Wear?" and quite a few claiming Kate would forego the traditional headwear in favour of a more low-key look - wearing flowers in her hair. Kate's hairdresser at the time, James Pryce, revealed Kate was originally considering to wear flowers in hair but the plan changed a couple of months before the wedding. Indeed, the Queen Mother, formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon opted for flowers on her big day.
Prince William and his grandmother are said to enjoy a wonderful relationship, and Her Majesty has been enormously supportive of him throughout the years and very much so in the lead up to the wedding. Of course she was going to lend his bride a tiara with royal history - a visible token of the confidence she has in Kate, and I'm sure quite some consideration went into choosing the perfect piece for the royal wedding. I, for one, was very pleased to see Kate arrive at Westminster Abbey wearing the elegant Halo tiara.
The Cartier Halo Tiara was made by Cartier in 1936 and purchased by the Duke of York (later King George VI) for the Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother). It is a striking piece composed of stylised petals, paved with 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 149 baguette-cut diamonds. The name derives from its halo shape.
|The Royal Collection|
Indeed, it has been described as a "Starter Tiara" for royal ladies over the years. Apparently it wasn't a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and she soon passed it on to her daughter Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) as an 18th birthday gift, however, she never wore it publicly.
It was quickly lent out to other royal ladies; most noticeably Princess Margaret wore it several times as an early tiara, as did Princess Anne in the early 1970s.
|Photos 1 & 2 Princess Margaret; Photos 3 & 4 Princess Anne|
A photo of the tiara from Cartier's archive.
By the time, Kate wore it for her wedding it had not been publicly seen in decades, meaning while it is a strong family piece, it doesn't hold a strong history and it isn't instantly associated with any one member of the Royal family. Kate teamed the piece with diamond oak leaf earrings echoing the Middleton family coat of arms. Michael and Carole Middleton commissioned them from Robinson Pelham and they worked beautifully with the Halo tiara. I would love to see both pieces worn together again in the future.
We didn't see the Duchess of Cambridge in a tiara again until December 2013, when she and Prince William made an unexpected appearance at their first joint white-tie function at the annual Diplomatic Reception. Hosted by the Queen at the Palace Ballroom, Buckingham Palace, it is considered one of the most glittering events on the royal calendar. Sadly, photos are not usually released from the event and we had to make do with arrival pictures.
A white-tie event calls for a tiara, and royal watchers were delighted to see Her Majesty lent Kate the Papyrus tiara, also known as the Lotus Flower tiara.
The dainty tiara which goes by many names was much like the Halo tiara, seen on the Queen Mother, then the Duchess of York during her early years. It was made from one of her wedding gifts in 1923 - a necklace of a Greek key pattern with pendant diamonds and pearls given by her husband.
|Order of Splendor|
Garrard jewellers dismantled it and created the Papyrus tiara instead. As you can see, it is a very delicate design of fanned motifs crowned by floating diamond arches and studded with two pearls at the base and a central top pearl.
Geoffrey C. Munn, author of Tiaras - A History of Splendour, described it this way:
'One of the prettiest of Queen Elizabeth’s tiaras…was Egyptian in inspiration, arranged as a band of stylized lotus flowers and overreaching arches, with the graduated pinnacles surmounted by a single pearl.'
The then Duchess of York wore it in a fashionable bandeau style during the late 1920s. In 1959 she gave it to her daughter Princess Margaret who wore it for numerous occasions. Margaret lent it to Serena Stanhope for her wedding to her son Viscount Linley in 1993. After Princess Margaret passed away the tiara went back to the main collection and was not seen again until Kate wore it.
|The Queen Mother/Princess Margaret/Serena Stanhope|
The Duchess accessorised with a dazzling pair of chandelier diamond earrings lent to her by the Queen. She also wore them in Los Angeles in 2011.
Many asked why didn't Kate wear the Halo tiara for the event? It was actually part of a Cartier exhibit in Paris at the time. So it remains to been seen which of the tiaras will be Kate's 'go-to' for the time being, though I'm hoping for the Papyrus. What about you?
Interesting points to note on both occasions Kate wore a tiara - they were both early tiaras for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, and Kate teamed both with a demi-chignon hairstyle and an Alexander McQueen gown.
Definitive expert Geoffrey Munn offers this advice on when a tiara should be worn and how it should fit:
“It was the event and not the status of the wearer that signals whether or not tiaras will be worn. In the past, full evening dress (white tie and medals) was the starting pistol for tiaras.
However, even in 1900 people needed the reassurance supplied on the invitation, Tiaras will be worn, was shown to the bottom left of the invitation. The strictest protocol proscribed tiaras for girls and unmarried women. They were also proscribed in public places of entertainment like hotels and hired ballrooms.
It should be placed “with the surface of the jewel work in the same plane as your face, so that the full impact of the jewel work is made on the other guests. Worn on the back of the head in the manner of an Alice band is hopeless, as the scintillation of the stones is lost to the ceiling void.”
We expect to see Kate attend very, very few white-tie occasions over the next few years and wear either the Halo or Papyrus tiaras for such events. Indeed, this will change when Prince William becomes first-in-line to the throne and we'll more than likely see Kate wearing a more substantial tiara with dazzling jewels from the collection. Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, described an 18ft tall wardrobe containing an enormous safe with drawer upon drawer of jewels which looked like "an Aladdin's cave".
“It was a royal Aladdin’s cave: a private collection of tiaras, necklaces, brooches, earrings, bracelets and gems that had been passed down from monarch to monarch.”
Possible tiaras we may see the Duchess wear down the line, when she is Princess of Wales (presumably the title she will take) and Queen Consort include Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara - originally a necklace inherited by Queen Victoria which was later remodelled into a tiara and worn by Queen Mary. It was worn by the Queen Mother too, and made an unforgettable appearance as the Queen's wedding tiara.
|Order of Splendor|
The Strathmore Rose Tiara is another piece worn by the Queen Mother, who received it as a gift from her father for her wedding in 1923. The diamond tiara features a garland of roses mounted in silver and gold. It's a beautiful, yet understated tiara and it's exactly the type of piece I could see Kate gravitating towards.
Finally, the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara has often been suggested as a possibility for the Duchess. The day before Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, Her Majesty gave Diana a red leather box and inside lay the tiara. Perhaps one of the most famous tiaras of all the time, it is synonymous with the late Princess Diana, who found it quite heavy and headache inducing. Because of its history I would be surprised if Kate wore it, however, William gave Kate his mother's engagement ring, so it remains a possibility down the line. If not Kate, it would be quite a piece for Princess Charlotte of Cambridge someday...
When will we see Kate wear a tiara again? That remains to be seen, though I am very much hoping the Cambridges will attend the state dinner in October during President Xi Jinping of China's state visit. Prince William issued the invitation in Beijing in March and it would seem very fitting for William and Kate to attend. Watch this space. :)