11 January 2014

Saturday Sparkler: The Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara

The Queen Mother wears the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara [1]
It takes a lady with serious tiara hair to pull off one of the biggest sparklers in Britain: the Boucheron Honeycomb Tiara, which was a favorite of the late Queen Mother and is now worn by her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall.

The tiara was originally not a royal piece at all. It was made in the 1920s by Boucheron for the Hon. Mrs. Greville, a society hostess who was a friend of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. (In fact, the Windsors apparently call this the "Greville tiara" [2].) When Mrs. Greville died in 1942, she left a boatload of jewels to Queen Elizabeth, including this tiara. (Other jewels left to the royal family by Mrs. Greville include a pair of diamond chandelier earrings [3] and an elaborate ruby and diamond necklace [4].) The tiara originally lacked the diamond clusters that sit atop the piece -- those were one of the Queen Mum's later additions, made possible by Cartier [5].

Elizabeth's term as the nation's queen consort was relatively short; she was widowed at 51, and she lived for another half century afterwards. Even though her daughter was now queen, the Queen Mother continued to conduct a large number of royal engagements, and she still had reason to wear some of her elaborate jewels. She wore the Boucheron tiara up until her death in 2002, when the sparkler was inherited by the current queen. 

Elizabeth II has never worn this particular tiara in public, however. In 2005, when Camilla Parker Bowles married Prince Charles, the queen gave her three tiaras as long-term loans, and the Boucheron tiara was among the collection [6]. It is now frequently sported by the Duchess of Cornwall at white-tie events, including state banquets and the state opening of parliament. Camilla garnered major public attention when she wore the tiara at a pre-inauguration reception for the new king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, in the spring of 2013. Like the Queen Mum before her, Camilla has made the Boucheron tiara something of a signature diadem, wearing it more times than all of her other tiaras combined [7].

1. Detail of Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (1986) by Richard Stone; the artist has placed the portrait in the public domain, and it is available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.

2. See Sir Hugh Roberts, The Queen's Diamonds (2012).
3. See the earrings at the Royal Collection website.
4. See the necklace at the Royal Collection website.
5. In older books on British royal jewels, including Suzy Menkes's book, you'll sometimes read that this tiara was an entirely new creation, ordered by the Queen Mother and made with South African diamonds. This information is incorrect; see Hugh Roberts's book for a full and correct provenance on the piece.
6. The other two tiaras loaned to Camilla by the queen are the Delhi Durbar Tiara and the Teck Crescent Tiara.
7 A version of this post originally appeared at A Tiara a Day in January 2013.