Another day, another bejeweled surprise from the Duchess of Cambridge! Kate arrived at the annual Diplomatic Reception this evening wearing one of her late mother-in-law's signature jewels: Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara.
The tiara is a century old, making it one of the oldest royal jewels Kate has worn so far. Queen Mary commissioned the tiara from Garrard, and she sacrificed a tiara from her own jewelry collection, the Ladies of England Tiara, to make it. She also borrowed the upright pearls that originally sat atop the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara and installed them at the top of this piece, but they were later removed.
Queen Mary got the idea for the tiara from a piece of jewelry that had belonged to her aunt, Grand Duchess Augusta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara was originally worn by Mary's grandmother, Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge. She loved the piece, even wearing it to Queen Victoria's coronation. It was inherited by Grand Duchess Augusta, who reportedly passed it on to her daughter, Jutta. Above, Augusta wears the Cambridge tiara.
The tiara Garrard made for Queen Mary is a copy of the Cambridge tiara, which was eventually sold. You'll often see Queen Mary's tiara (which Diana wears above) actually called the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, but they're two separate pieces. In The Queen's Diamonds, Hugh Roberts makes it clear that the family refers to the piece as Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara. (Here's the provenance for the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara; here's the provenance for Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara.)
The lover's knot motif was a popular one in the nineteenth century. Other royals and nobles also had lover's knot tiaras, including the Bavarian royals and the Yusapov family.
When Queen Mary died in 1953, she left her lover's knot tiara to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen wore the tiara a few times in her younger years, but in 1981, she passed it along to her new daughter-in-law, Diana.
Diana made the tiara one of her signature pieces; in fact, it was one of only two tiaras she was ever photographed wearing. (The other was, of course, the Spencer Tiara, which belonged to her father and now her brother.)
After Diana's divorce and death, the tiara was returned to the Queen. And now, although many expected Kate to steer clear of a jewel so strongly associated with her husband's famous mother, it has become the third tiara worn publicly by the Duchess of Cambridge. Intriguingly, the tiara often mistaken for a previous Cambridge duchess's tiara has now finally landed atop another Cambridge duchess's head!