One of the more unusual floral tiaras in any royal collection, the Queen Mother’s Strathmore Rose Tiara is a piece that remains in the Windsor vaults but hasn’t been seen in public in years. Part of the reason for the tiara’s disappearing act may actually be connected not only with its large flowers but also with its early twentieth-century roots.
The tiara takes its name from the Queen Mother’s family. Before her royal marriage, she was Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. When she married the Duke of York in 1923, she wasn’t yet destined to be queen, but her parents decided a new duchess needed a new tiara regardless.
They gave her this floral piece, which was bought from Catchpole & Williams, a dealer based in London. In The Queen’s Diamonds, Sir Hugh Roberts notes that although the piece was purchased in the 1920s, it was made in England in the late nineteenth century. He also reveals that the flowers, which can be removed and worn as brooches, could originally be swapped-out for five collet-set sapphires.
The new Duchess of York wore the tiara for several official portraits taken during the early years of her marriage, pairing it with trendy 1920s fashions and jewelry.
Like many other ’20s tiaras, this one was initially worn low across the forehead. Some have argued that we’ve not seen the tiara for so long because, well, almost no one wears a tiara that way anymore. But images do exist of the Queen Mum wearing the piece atop her head, so it can be worn that way. The piece has two separate frames, one for bandeau-wearing and a traditional “top of the head” frame. The Queen Mother was pictured wearing it both ways, but she had a clear preference for the bandeau setting.
Others think the tiara may have simply fallen into disrepair in the many years since it’s had a public outing. This is a persistent theory—I almost expect someone to bring it up in the comments on this very post!—but it is almost certainly false. Both of the most recent sightings of the tiara—during the 2002 Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition and in The Queen’s Diamonds—showed it to be in good shape. I think it’s simply a matter of the Queen Mother’s evolving taste. The Queen Mum only wore the tiara in her younger days; later, she preferred more substantial sparklers.
Queen Elizabeth II inherited the tiara from her mother in 2002, but she never wore it publicly during her lifetime. For years it was mentioned as a possible wedding tiara for various royal brides, but it didn’t come out of the vaults again until 2023. The Princess of Wales selected it for the South Korean state banquet at Buckingham Palace that November, wearing it a hundred years after the Queen Mother first received it as a sentimental wedding present from her beloved father.