08 April 2021

Her Majesty's Hidden Tiaras

We've just spent more than a week surveying 95 incredible jewels worn by Queen Elizabeth II. But there are tons of pieces that haven't been brought out of the vaults in years—and in some cases, in decades! Today, we've got a look at the Queen's tiaras that haven't been worn in public in more than a decade, plus three tiaras that were brought back to the spotlight by a trio of British royal brides.

The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) wears the Strathmore Rose Tiara for an official portrait, ca. 1926

This delicate floral tiara, also made in the nineteenth century, was a wedding present given to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (better known to us as the Queen Mother) by her father, the Earl of Strathmore, in 1923. She loved to wear the tiara across her forehead in trendy 1920s style, but it's not been worn by any other member of the family, and it's still in the vaults today. Our most recent glimpse of the tiara came in 2012, when it was photographed for The Queen's Diamonds.

The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) wears the Cartier Bracelet Bandeau for a Guildhall reception in London, 1933

In the 1920s, the Duke of York (later King George VI) bought his new wife a set of Art Deco bracelets from Cartier. Each of the five bracelets in the set features a different gemstone: one with sapphires, one with emeralds, one with rubies, and two with diamonds. The bandeau is made up of three of those bracelets worn together on a frame. The Queen Mother wore it during the 1920s and 1930s, but it hasn't been worn in tiara form since then. The Queen, however, wears the individual bracelets on a fairly regular basis today. The bracelets are also pictured in Angela Kelly's Dressing the Queen.

The Duchess of Cornwall wears the Delhi Durbar Tiara for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace during the Norwegian state visit, October 2005 (MATT DUNHAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Queen Mary also commissioned this massive tiara (and accompanying diamond and emerald jewels) for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. King George V thought it was her "best" tiara, but it's only been worn twice since her era. The Queen Mother (then Queen Elizabeth) wore it in South Africa in 1947. She bequeathed it to the Queen, who has since loaned it to the Duchess of Cornwall. She has worn it publicly on only one occasion: a state banquet during the Norwegian state visit in 2005. Since then, our only glimpses of the tiara came in 2012, when it was both exhibited at Buckingham Palace and photographed for The Queen's Diamonds.

The Queen wears the Oriental Circlet for a state banquet in Malta, November 2005 (Ian Jones/Daily Telegraph/PA Images/Alamy)

Designed by Prince Albert, this Eastern-inspired tiara was originally set with opals. Queen Alexandra, who was superstitious, removed them. The tiara is an heirloom of the crown, but it was worn (superbly!) for years by the Queen Mother. It's only been worn once by the Queen since her mother's death: for a state banquet in Malta in 2005. Since then, our only views of the tiara have come from exhibitions, including the "Victoria and Albert: Art and Love" exhibition at Buckingham Palace in the summer of 2010.

Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) wears the Teck Crescent Tiara for a performance by the Comedie Francaise at the Savoy Hotel in London, March 1939 (Sueddeutsche Zeitung Photo/Alamy)

This diamond tiara of roses and crescents was constructed from diamond elements that belonged to Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, who was a daughter of King George III. She left the diamonds to her niece and goddaughter, the Duchess of Teck, and it eventually ended up in the collection of the duchess's daughter, Queen Mary. It was worn occasionally by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in the 1930s, but we haven't seen it worn in public since. Thanks to The Queen's Diamonds, we know that the Queen now owns the tiara, and that she has loaned it to the Duchess of Cornwall, who has yet to wear it publicly. Our most recent glimpse of the jewel comes from its photographs in The Queen's Diamonds.

Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom wears the Persian Turquoises for a banquet at the Portuguese embassy in London, April 1993 (Jim James/PA Images/Alamy)

We know that one of Princess Margaret's tiaras—the Lotus Flower Tiara—was returned to the Queen's collection following her death in 2002. I strongly suspect that several others with royal provenance also remain in the royal vaults today. One of these may be the Persian Turquoise Tiara, King George V's 1923 wedding gift to the Duchess of York (the Queen Mother). Princess Margaret is the last person photographed wearing these royal turquoises, which were not included in the public auction of her possessions in 2006.

Princess Margaret wears the tiara during the celebrations for the inauguration of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, 6 Sep 1948 (Dutch National Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

Another tiara worn by Princess Margaret, this diamond tiara with a lozenge-pattern design comes from the collection of Queen Mary. She wore it with a series of pearl toppers. This tiara hasn't been seen in public since the 1960s, and I'm hopeful that it remains in the royal vaults today.

Princess Margaret wears Queen Mary's Russian Bandeau with its sapphire center ornament for a banquet in Port of Spain during her visit to Trinidad and Tobago, April 1958 (Keystone Press/Alamy)

Queen Mary bought several pieces of jewelry from the exiled Romanovs, and this sparkling sunray bandeau may have been one of them. The piece can be worn with various center stones, including a luminous sapphire. It's not been seen since Princess Margaret last wore it in the 1960s, and many of us are crossing our fingers that it's still in the vaults!

The Duchess of Cambridge wears the Cartier Halo Tiara, the Duchess of Sussex wears Queen Mary's Diamond Bandeau, and Princess Eugenie wears the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images, Jonathan Brady - WPA Pool/Getty Images, ANDREW MATTHEWS/AFP via Getty Images)

Over the last decade, three of the Queen's hidden tiaras have emerged from the royal vaults, thanks to a trio of royal weddings. In 2011, the Duchess of Cambridge wore the Cartier Halo Tiara, which hadn't been seen since the 1970s. The Duchess of Sussex chose Queen Mary's Diamond Bandeau for her 2018 wedding; that tiara hadn't been spotted in public since the 1940s. And in 2018, Princess Eugenie wore the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik, which had been inherited by the Queen Mother in 1942 but never worn in public by a royal woman before.