15 February 2021

The British Royal Family's Favorite Wedding Tiara

Benjamin Wheeler/Press Association

Our posts this month so far have been focused on love—specifically sparkly royal engagement rings—and we're continuing the theme this week with a closer look at some important royal wedding tiaras. Today, we've got the story of the tiara that has been chosen most often by Windsor family brides: Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara.

Royal Collection

The tiara is more than a century old. Made in 1919 using gold, silver, and diamonds recycled from her own wedding tiara, Queen Mary's Fringe Tiara is a classic and elegant example of the fringe design. Reimagining her wedding tiara was an especially bold move when you consider that the jewel had been one of her wedding presents from Queen Victoria. But she'd rarely worn the tiara after her wedding day, and she would end up getting much more use from the new, more modern fringe.

Left: Queen Mary wears Queen Adelaide's Fringe as a tiara; Right: Queen Mary wears her own diamond fringe tiara

Queen Mary commissioned the piece as a more modern and more wearable version of Queen Adelaide's Diamond Fringe Tiara (which is now set, presumably semi-permanently, as a necklace). In the photographs above, she wears Queen Adelaide's Fringe (sometimes called the Hanoverian Fringe) on the left, and her newer, more modern fringe tiara on the right. With Queen Adelaide's Fringe on the left, she's also wearing the Love Trophy Collar and Prince Albert's Brooch. With her own fringe on the right, she wears the Cullinan V and the Cullinan VI and VIII Brooches together as a mini-stomacher.

AFP via Getty Images

In December 1936, Queen Mary's daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York, became Queen Elizabeth. After the accession, Queen Mary handed over several important pieces of royal jewelry to the new queen consort. One of those pieces was her diamond fringe tiara. Queen Elizabeth wore the tiara, along with the Coronation Diamonds and her own diamond riviere, for portraits taken around the time of her coronation in 1937.

AFP via Getty Images

In November 1947, Queen Elizabeth loaned the tiara to her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to wear on her wedding day. Of course, many of us have heard the most famous anecdote about the tiara and this royal wedding: the jewel's frame famously snapped in half shortly before the future Queen Elizabeth II was due to walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey. The tiara was hastily repaired, but you can tell in some photographs of the princess from the day that there's a slight extra space between some of the fringes, thanks to the quick fix.

After the royal wedding—and presumably also after a more permanent repair of its frame—the tiara returned to Queen Elizabeth's jewelry box. Above, she wears it for the royal film premiere of The Mudlark, which featured Irene Dunne as Queen Victoria, in October 1950. The piece remained with her after the death of her husband, King George VI, in 1952, as well as during her long widowhood, when the world came to know her best as the Queen Mother.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In November 1973, the Queen Mother loaned the tiara for a royal bride for the second time. Princess Anne chose the tiara to wear at Westminster Abbey for her wedding to Captain Mark Phillips. Though the Associated Press described the young princess as a woman who "prefers jeans to jewels," the tiara was a glittering part of her medieval-inspired ensemble on the wedding day. The tiara anchored a veil that was also lent by the Queen Mum, and which had also been worn by Queen Elizabeth II.

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

When the Queen Mother died in 2002, the tiara was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II, who still owns it today. It's not become a fixture in her tiara rotation, but we have gotten to see it a few times in public since. In 2007, the tiara was displayed, along with the Hanoverian pearls, in an exhibit of the Queen's wedding gown. The display coincided with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh's diamond wedding anniversary.

Embed from Getty Images

In November 2009, the Queen wore the tiara for a banquet in Port of Spain, Trinidad, during a tour of the Caribbean. On that occasion, she paired it with diamond and ruby jewels, including the Baring Ruby Necklace and Queen Mary's Ruby Cluster Earrings. It was the first time she had worn the tiara in public since her wedding day more than sixty years earlier.

Julian Calder for Governor-General of New Zealand/Wikimedia Commons

In 2011, the Queen, as Queen of New Zealand, posed in the tiara for a new official government portrait. She created a mirrored jewelry look by pairing the tiara with another fringe from her collection: the City of London Fringe Necklace, which had been one of her wedding presents in 1947. (To answer a frequent question: no, the necklace cannot also be worn as a tiara, because it is threaded on silk.) She also wore one of Queen Mary's Chain-Link Bracelets, and, very appropriately, the New Zealand Silver Fern Brooch. The new portrait, taken by Julian Calder, was published on February 7, 2012, as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The same year, the tiara was photographed in wonderful close-up detail for The Queen's Diamonds.

Benjamin Wheeler/Press Association

Almost a decade later, the tiara was worn again for a British royal wedding. This time, Princess Beatrice of York, the Queen's second granddaughter, became the third royal bride to don the tiara on her wedding day. (Really, the fourth, if you count Queen Mary, who wore the same diamonds set in another tiara!) She married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi at the Royal Chapel of All Saints on the grounds of Royal Lodge, the former home of the Queen Mother and the current residence of Beatrice's father.

Benjamin Wheeler/Press Association

Princess Beatrice wore Queen Mary's tiara with a vintage Norman Hartnell gown that belonged to the Queen, underscoring her love for vintage fashion. The loans also, of course, emphasize the Queen's love for her granddaughter—and the sentimental importance of the tiara to the women of the Windsor family. (It was a favorite jewelry moment of ours last year, too!)