06 February 2014

More Royal Jewels for Kate?

The Duchess of Cambridge on a visit to Malaysia in 2012 [1]
This week, a story published in the Mail on Sunday trumpeted that the Duchess of Cambridge was undergoing a royally-sanctioned makeover ahead of her upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand. As is generally true with stories about Kate's clothing, the piece quickly gained traction and was picked up by other press outlets, including Vanity Fair.

The Duchess of Cambridge [2]
Playing on the long-established tabloid trope that Queen Elizabeth II is unhappy with her granddaughter-in-law's appearance, the story crowed that the monarch had ordered longer hemlines and more jewelry for Kate for the Aussie tour. Conveniently, that also gave the paper a chance yet again to publish photos of the duchess's skirt flying up at inopportune moments -- just to illustrate the story, I'm sure. It also gave their royal correspondent, Katie Nicholl, yet another chance to suggest that Kate's clothes are too short, too tight, not royal enough, just plain wrong, etc., etc.

I'm not going to get into a debate here about Kate's clothing and whether or not it's right for a royal woman to wear -- this isn't a fashion blog, after all. But I will say that I'm pretty sure that a woman who is the monarch of sixteen countries probably doesn't have lots of spare time to bust out a ruler and measure Kate's skirts like she's a high school student violating the dress code. Anyway. The part of Nicholl's article that's more pertinent to us is this bit:
Those jewels from the Delhi Durbar Parure – a collection of Indian gems gifted to the Royals in 1911 – had been passed from Royal hand to Royal hand by Queen Mary to The Queen Mother and then to the Queen who gave them to Diana as a wedding gift. They are also, appropriately, known as the Cambridge emeralds. Now, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the Duchess of Cambridge – who wears her late mother-in-law’s sapphire engagement ring – will be packing precisely these kinds of jewels in April when she sets out in the footsteps of Diana on a tour Down Under.
Diana, Princess of Wales [3]
Because this story is from the Mail on Sunday, you knew already that there would be Diana comparisons involved. Here they're made in terms of jewelry, especially that famous emerald choker that Diana wore as a bandeau in the 1980s (see the image at left). Although Kate has already worn some of the heirloom pieces from the Windsor collection -- we talked about those here -- Nicholl argues that Kate's been told to pull a Diana and wear more jewels. She says that Kate "will be encouraged to wear the tiaras favoured by the Queen and Queen Mother."

The main problem here is not the idea that Kate should wear more jewelry -- goodness knows that I'm always in favor of people wearing more jewelry! It's that the wrong royal is being used for the comparison. Although the media loves to make comparisons between Diana and her daughter-in-law, she's not the example we should be following to try to predict what Kate will wear in 2014. Rather than looking to the tour wardrobe of the late Diana, Princess of Wales to try to decide what jewelry Kate might wear on a present-day tour, we should all be focusing instead on the jewels worn abroad by the Duchess of Cornwall.

As much as we all love tiaras, and while Diana and Fergie both wore them during royal tours in the 1980s, Camilla doesn't wear them to dinners during royal tours today. (In fact, I think she's only ever worn a tiara abroad twice: at the inauguration of Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, and at a banquet in Uganda in 2007 where the queen was also present.) If the wife of the heir isn't wearing tiaras while on royal tours, I'm afraid we probably can't expect the wife of the heir's heir to wear them, either. Even if there are dinners involved with the tour this April, I think we can expect Kate's attire to be more suited for a less formal black-tie event than for a white-tie event where tiaras are worn.

Dressing the Queen [3]
Nicholl also says that Angela Kelly, the woman in charge of the daily upkeep to Elizabeth II's jewelry, has been asked to step in and select Kate's jewels for the tour. Kelly is one of the most trusted members of the queen's staff, and she wrote a delightful book, Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe, that details exactly how much planning goes into prepping the queen's wardrobe. She's clearly a busy woman -- one whose duties this spring will include preparing Elizabeth II for a state visit to France in June to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and a visit to Italy and the Vatican that will coincide with William and Kate's oceanic tour in April. Coordinating the wardrobe of the head of state for such important occasions as a somber military anniversary and a first meeting with a fellow head of state, Pope Francis, will take up a considerable amount of Kelly's time.

Kelly's involvement here would seem too good to be true -- and indeed, according to Judy Wade of Hello!, apparently it is:

I'd imagine that we'll see Kate wearing jewelry in Australia and New Zealand much the same way that she did for her Canadian and South Seas tours: her usual low-key pieces, possibly mixed in with the occasional small royal heirloom piece. Of all of Nicholl's claims, I'd say that her suggestion that Kate might borrow a brooch from HM for the tour could be the closest to fact, as Kate borrowed a brooch and a pair of earrings from the queen for the 2011 tour. Nicholl suggests either the Queen Mum's ruby hibiscus brooch or Elizabeth II's own golden wattle brooch as good candidates. But in terms of tiaras or jewels at the level of Diana's Cambridge emeralds for this tour? Unfortunately, I'm not holding my breath!

1. Cropped still from a YouTube video; source here.
2. Photograph available via Wikimedia Commons; source here.
3. Cropped and edited still from a YouTube video; source here.
4. Promotional book cover image via Amazon; source here.